Jasmine teas are usually made using Green tea as a base, to which the flowers are added. The floral aroma of a good quality variety is exquisite and as you drink the pale yellow, almost colourless brew, you can just lose yourself in a timeless bubble. This is quite often the most appealing Chinese tea to those of you who are traditional Indian Black tea drinkers. The taste is a subtle sweetness with a persistent floral aftertaste and the aroma is gorgeous. Loose leaf Jasmine is the best. The leaves are an art form in themselves; the makers will twist, curl, roll or even tie the leaves together in a small bunch. In China, tea drinking is done with all of the senses, not just taste, which is why the producers go to such extraordinary lengths.
The very best Jasmine teas are made using matcha bubble tea leaves that are picked between the middle of March and the end of May and combined with blossom that is picked exclusively during May as that is the time when they are at their most fragrant. Traditional production methods involve layering the leaves and the blossoms so that the flavour and aroma permeates the leaves. Nowadays, the blossoms are usually placed in a stream of hot air to extract the essential taste; the aromatic hot air is then passes through and over the leaves in order to give an intense flavour. The blossoms are then simply added as decoration.
Jasmine tea has been documented for over 800 years and in common with most tea types, has its origins in China. How it was invented is not known, it may have been by accident or design. Unlike most of the other tea types, I have not come across any legends that explain why and how it was created – I am sure there must be some out there!
Since it is normally based on Green tea, Jasmine tea has much the same health benefits as the latter. Green tea is claimed to be good for digestion, your heart and even halitosis! The best documented benefit however, is against cancer. It has high levels of antioxidants such as epigallocatechin gallate (EGCG). This is one of a group of chemicals called flavonoids which are known to destroy the reactive molecules called free radicals (oxidants) that are created in the body. These oxidants are implicated in the formation of cancer and with heart attacks so Jasmine tea is a pleasant way to help your body deal with these. It is not a magic cure-all as some tea sellers would have you believe but when included as part of a healthy lifestyle, it may help. Judging by the research, which really needs to be more extensive and controlled in order to be clinically reliable in my opinion, it is not going to hinder. So for those who are not keen on the sometimes ‘grassy’ taste of green tea, jasmine is a potentially healthy and tastier alternative.
Here in the west, many other flavoured teas have been developed, for example mint tea. These are not authentically Chinese and often disguise the fact that the tea is stale. That is fine if you are not serious about tea however to experience this beverage in its full glory, buy it loose, fresh and unadulterated. It can be difficult to find top quality brands if you live outside of a big city, but that is where the internet comes in. There are many retailers of this wonderful product online, however choose carefully. Pure, loose and organic is the best but not the cheapest. If you do buy the cheapest that you find, you really will be missing out.