If you've ever sipped tea in an American Chinese restaurant, there's a good chance it was jasmine tea. Jasmine is one of several Chinese scented or flower teas, and the most renowned. Aromatic and slightly sweet, it is delicious with meals, on its own, and incorporated into desserts.
Why Jasmine Tea Smells Like Jasmine
Produced in China (especially Fujian Province) and Taiwan, jasmine tea is most often made with green tea but can also be made with black, white, or oolong tea and in loose leaf form as well as rolled pearls.
The highest grades of jasmine tea consist of fine quality tea leaves scented with fresh jasmine blossoms. Cheaper grades may be perfumed with jasmine oil, jasmine extract, or artificial flavor. The ideal jasmine tea is clean and fragrant, sweet but not cloying.
To make jasmine tea in the traditional manner, tea makers pluck and process tea leaves in the spring and carefully store them until summer when the jasmine bushes bloom. Jasmine flowers open at night, so the buds are picked in the morning when they are fresh, kept cool, and then layered or piled with the tea leaves as they open and release their fragrance in the evening. Over the course of several hours or weeks, the tea absorbs the jasmine scent and the flowers are usually removed. Tea makers may repeat the scenting process a couple of times for everyday grade jasmine tea and up to seven or nine times for a fine tea such as Yin Hao, Snowflakes, and Dragon Pearls.
→ To see some photos of the process, check out Min River Tea's Step-by-step guide to producing Jasmine Tea.
How To Brew Jasmine Tea
Because jasmine tea can be made with various kinds of tea leaves and in different shapes, there is no single standard for water temperature or steeping time. In general, follow directions from the manufacturer or make it as you would the base tea.
Serve jasmine tea plain, without milk or sweetener. Its smooth, sweet flavor can be a nice accompaniment to savory or spicy foods.
Cooking With Jasmine Tea
Jasmine tea lends itself particularly well to desserts. It can be incorporated into cookies and scones, flavored cream, poached pears, and more.
(Image credits: Emily Ho)