Technically scenting tea is a manufacturing process of naturally altering the aroma and taste of the tea. This is achieved with tea due to it being hygroscopic (this means that the tea will absorb moisture and aromas from its surrounding environment)
Though many think that only the low-grade teas are used for scenting, there are many exquisite high-grade teas that are scented and are highly prized (they are far from being inferior or inexpensive teas.)
Scenting teas are believed to have come from the Chinese tea culture during the Yuan Dynasty (1271-1368). The Mongolian influence of bold aroma and spiced foods forced a change to the delicate subtle flavours of tea served at court to this point. To this day the Chinese have valued their scented teas for centuries and remain popular in modern Chinese culture.
What do you think are the most popular scented teas in the world? If you guessed jasmine tea and lapsang souchong (sometimes referred to as smoked tea and something we will cover in another journal article) you would be correct.
Jasmine Tea - Jasminum sambac
August is a very important month for jasmine tea. The best quality of jasmine flowers is ready to be picked soon after mid-July. The best quality will be processed with spring green tea to make high-quality jasmine green tea.
During the summer months, the jasmine flowers are plucked early in the day (around 10am) and kept cool to prevent them from opening until nightfall. The optimum temperature to encouraging the flowers to open between 32℃ and 36℃, too cold and the flowers close up, too hot and the scent is lost and the flowers start to degrade. When all of the flowers are around 60% open, they are placed on big sieves and shaken by hand to remove the green buds and flower stems. During this process, the flowers will open further. When the flowers are 80% open, they are ready to scent the green tea.
Though typically made with green tea leaves, white, oolong and black tea leaves have also been used to produce this tea. Fujian jasmine teas are the most prized; however, jasmine tea is also produced in the Chinese provinces of Hunan, Jiangsu, Zhejiang, Guangdong, Guangxi, and Jiangxi and in Vietnam.
The green tea is then taken from the final firing and the freshly plucked jasmine flowers are placed over the bed or pile of tea. During the night the jasmine flowers continue to open to around 95-100% open and release their fragrance in the room where the tea and jasmine flower has been placed next to each other, scenting the tea with the flavour (taste + aroma) of jasmine.
It takes from four hours to the entire night for the leaves to absorb the desired amount of aroma from the jasmine flowers. During this process, the tea absorbs additional moisture. Because of this, an additional drying step is required if the tea has been spread onto a flat area, although some produced heap the tea in piles to reduce the amount of access the air has to the tea leaves.
For a stronger aroma and taste, the flowers can be changed out several times with newly plucked flowers and/or mixed in with the tea. (The more scenting that take place the more costly the tea, for the highest grade of jasmine tea this scenting process can be repeated up to nine times!
Our No.281 Jasmine Pearl tea is handcrafted at a third generation family tea farm in the Fujian province, China. Producing this tea is a time-intensive process, as the newly sprouted tea leaves are hand-picked in the spring then each leaf is rolled by hand into a pearl (a good roller can produce 1kg per day) and scented 6 times. Depending on the flowers and tea used we think this is the perfect amount so you can enjoy the tea without the feeling of drinking perfume!