The Chinese have had an obsession with scented teas for almost as long has tea has been a part of their culture. As far back as the Ming dynasty, the prevalence of scented tea has been widespread. In fact, the official book of tea for that time, Cha Pu, even distinguished between Lotus Flower Tea and the rest of the scented teas due to its special nature. But for a time, the rise of scented tea was too much, and finally a social rebellion occurred and the upper classes began to refer to scented tea as servant’s tea, and scented tea was no longer on the pedestal it once occupied. Fortunately, the practice of scenting tea was not forgotten.
These days, jasmine tea seems to be the most commonly found, and for good reason, the best examples are exquisite teas of rare experience. While lower quality jasmine scented teas can be found in abundance, the best come from the Fujian province and is made of first flush green tea that is picked young and steamed (steaming allows the tea to acquire the floral scent) and then stored until the jasmine flowers bloom in late summer.
The tea is combines with the jasmine flowers and the scent allowed to permeate the tea, a process that can be repeated up to five or six times, using a ratio of two parts jasmine to one part tea leaves. The tea leaves are then fired to remove excess moisture.
Top grade jasmine Teas such as Yin Hao (Silver Down) are an incredible treat. Other high quality Jasmine Teas, such as Chung Feng (Spring Wind) and Chung Hao (Spring Down) are wonderful finds as well. A somewhat recent style (by historical standards), Jasmine Pearls, are small rolled balls of jasmine tea that unfurl in one’s cup, as entertaining as they are flavorful.
Other Scented Teas
While not as commonly found as jasmine tea, there are many examples of scented black, oolong, and green teas produced in China. Flowers such as Magnolia, Chloranthus, and even Roses are used to flavor tea. Lychee (Lichee), a common Chinese fruit, is also used to flavor tea, with excellent results.
This is by no means a comprehensive list, and the many flavored teas of China should all be appreciated in their own right. While there are the flavored teas probably most commonly found, take the time to explore the world of scented teas and you will be quite surprised at what you can find.