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Opinion | What is the queen of floral teas?

Soothing, light and seriously indulgent, here’s a brew that slowly blooms in your tea cup

The heady scent of jasmine fills the kitchen even before I open the tin. Inside sit little green “pearls", tightly rolled and striking in appearance. I drop four of them into a small pot and pour near-boiling water over them. Over the next 3 minutes or so, they open, stretching out into long green leaves. There are no jasmine blossoms inside, only the aroma and fragrance rising from the pale infusion. It has the soothing lightness I know and expect from green tea.

Floral blends offer a different experience of tea, more sensorial, suited to a relaxing ritual. There are plenty of combinations and you can choose depending on the scents you enjoy— chamomile, rose, geranium, hibiscus, lavender. Not all of them use a green tea base. White tea with geranium, black tea with rose, green tea with chamomile...the combinations are endless. But it is the combination of jasmine and green tea that occupies an exalted place among floral teas. Perhaps that originated with the jasmine flower’s Oriental connection. But perhaps also from the sheer effort that goes into getting this tea right.

Usually, dried or fresh flowers are blended with the tea of choice. Over a week or two, the tea absorbs the flowers’ scent and aroma. It’s something you can even try at home.

There is one jasmine tea that is seriously indulgent—the pearls. To make them, select strands of tea leaves are individually and skillfully hand-rolled into little tight pearls and mixed with fresh jasmine buds. The finest jasmine pearls not only have the best tea leaves but are scented only with the freshest blossoms. It takes up to two days for one round of scenting; then the jasmine is removed and the tea dried again to remove moisture before more fresh jasmine is added. The flowers are replaced up to five times. The tea absorbs the fresh scents, now trapped within the pearls. The shape is important to ensure it will hold the fragrance well.

The best jasmine green tea pearls come fromFujian, China. In India, very few producers make pearls but with jasmine available locally, it’s possible to get some good loose leaf blends. What you should avoid are artificially scented blends—these can be cloying and unpleasant, especially if you are sensitive to smells.

The jasmine tea can be enjoyed alone or socially. As with most orthodox teas, they are good for multiple infusions. Do replace that big breakfast mug with a small, daintier cup that you can keep topping. Jasmine green tea is also widely marketed as an anxiety-relieving tea, which, if true, is a welcome bonus in these times.

TEA TAKES

Fujian jasmine pearls are available from a few online tea brands. I sourced mine from Teacupsfull.com, which also offers a Fujian loose leaf jasmine blend. The Dharmsala Tea Company has an Indian jasmine oolong if that’s your tea of choice.

Tea Nanny is a weekly series steeped in the world of tea. Aravinda Anantharaman is a Bengaluru-based tea blogger and writer who reports on the tea industry.

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