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Guide to Jasmine Tea Types

Jasmine Silver Needle Chinese Tea in tasting cupIntroduction

Jasmine Tea (Mo Li Hua Cha) is served as the standard tea in Chinese restaurants worldwide, so it is often our first experience of Chinese Tea. Most commercial Jasmines are relatively inexpensive and made with low grade tea and artificially flavoured with Jasmine oils or chemically compounded Jasmine flavours. The best Jasmine Tea is made with high grade Green and White Silver Needle (Yin Zhen) teas suffused with freshly-picked Jasmine flowers. Tasting a well-made Green or White Jasmine Tea can be a revelation.

 

Browse Canton's range of high quality loose leaf jasmine tea

History

Jasmine Mo Li is thought to have been introduced into China from Persia (Iran) around 300 AD and has been used to flavour tea in China for at least the last millennium. The floral fragrance of Jasmine complements the vegetal sweetness and nutty notes of White and Green Tea and is thought to be particularly suitable as an accompaniment to food. Jasmine Tea is especially popular in north China and Beijing, although some say that this is because of the hard drinking water of Beijing municipality.

Growing regions

Jasmine Tea production is widespread in China. Jasmine Tea is made in Hubei, Jiangsu, Anhui, Zhejiang, Fujian, and Sichuan provinces, using a variety of tea types as a base. White, Green, Oolong and even Black Teas can be infused with either Jasmine flowers or, more commonly, with natural or artificial Jasmine oils. Jasmine Tea made with Da Bai (Big White) leaves from Fujian, processed as for White or Green Tea, is generally considered to be the best.

Processing

Spring Green or White Tea is picked as normal and dried and stored after fixing. Jasmine flowers are harvested by night in early June. The tea is steamed lightly to make it pliable and at this stage the tea maker will roll it into balls if making Jasmine Pearls. The tea is then suffused with the fresh Jasmine flowers over several days, the flowers being replenished several times during the suffusing period. Flowers are placed on trays alternating with the trays of tea. Jasmine Teas are rebaked several times during this process so that the tea can slowly absorb the sweet, floral fragrance of the Jasmine petals. Jasmine flowers are sometimes left in the tea for decorative purposes but have no effect on the flavour.

Varieties

There are many varieties and grades of Jasmine Tea: the best are made with higher quality Da Bai leaves, and lower grades are made with Oolongs and low grade machine-picked Green Teas. There are three varieties of Jasmine flowers: single petal, double petal and multi-petal: the single and double petal flowers are preferred. Teas are either rolled into balls to make Jasmine Pearls or left loose.

Jasmine Pearls

Jasmine Pearls are made by mixing rolled Green Tea ‘pearls’ with the flowers of the Jasmine plant (Jasminum Sambac) to create a light, fragrant tea that is most commonly drunk with food in Chinese restaurants. At its best, Jasmine Pearls Tea tastes sweet and floral with no hint of bitterness.

Jasmine Yin Zhen

Jasmine Yin Zhen is produced by suffusing high quality Silver Needle (Yin Zhen) Tea with fresh Jasmine petals. The light sweetness of the Yin Zhen is perfectly complemented by the floral notes from the Jasmine petals. This tea is commonly drunk at mealtimes in Southern China in particular.

Health Benefits

Because it is made with lightly processed teas, Jasmine Tea is one of the healthiest teas you can drink:

  • Green and White Tea is high in polyphenols, which are powerful antioxidants.
  • Chinese medical practitioners claim tea is good for the teeth, hair and skin.
  • A US study at Pace University in 2004 showed that drinking White and Green Tea can boost the natural immune system.
  • Jasmine Tea may help lower cholesterol.
  • In Chinese traditional medicine, Jasmine is used as a relaxant, sedative and even an aphrodisiac.