Jasmine Tea is not a Green Tea

I first tasted Jasmine tea in a Chinese restaurant. As you enter, there is a teapot filled with hot tea on the table. I always enjoyed the delicate flavor and warmth. Recently, I discovered Jasmine tea is served to welcome guests. It is hard to resist the sweet floral aroma. Over the years, I enjoyed green and white jasmine teas. Surprisingly, my research uncovered many new revelations. Jasmine flowers are not indigenous to China. Jasmine tea is its own class of tea. Tea artisans produce a base tea in spring and early spring, then scent the tea with fresh jasmine blossoms. Traditionally, slightly oxidized tea leaves and tea buds were scented with jasmine blooms. Nowadays, you can find highly oxidized tea scented with jasmine blossoms. How did the Chinese think to use jasmine flowers?

Originally, tea tasted awful. Ancient Chinese recognized the medicinal properties, but it tasted horribly bitter. Tea drinkers added berries, salt, spices and flowers. There are several popular flowers used for scenting in China: magnolia, gardenia, rose, chrysanthemum and osmanthus.However, jasmine flowers have a sweet fragrant aroma and exotic glory. It is believed the jasmine flower bush was brought to China from Persia, during the Period of Disunity (220-589). Numerous jasmine varieties exist, but the Arabian jasmine gives Chinese jasmines teas its rich aroma. Tea masters in Fuijian province worked for several hundred years to develop a precise scenting technique.

Manufacturing jasmine tea is a complex delicate process. For centuries, tea masters in the Fujian province specialized in jasmine flower cultivation and jasmine tea manufacture. Traditional jasmine tea is a special base tea called zao bei. Jasmine tea has two categories: premium traditional jasmine tea and standard-grade jasmine tea.

Premium traditional jasmine tea production begins in the early spring. These leaves have all the nutrients that built up in the plant over the winter. Young small tea leaves are plucked in the early morning and withered in the sun all afternoon. After withering, tea leaves are put in the rolling and drying machines. Heat is blown over the leaves to decrease curling. The moisture level is low, but the leaves are not completely dried.The leaves are flat and slightly oxidized. This is zao bei. The tea is ready for cold storage until July. Cooling the tea, the leaf pores are still open. It freezes in time, waiting for the jasmine aroma. Standard grade jasmine is plucked in the summer.

Spring brings the first flush or bloom of the tea bush, yielding flavorful nutrient rich tea. Summer means copious rainfall in the high mountain ranges. The rain allows the tea bush to bloom, but the flavor is diminished. Leaves are plucked after the first and second rains. Production follows the same procedures as the spring picked teas. The leaves are stored until summer, too. Jasmine flowers bloom in early July.

cool storage until summer.

In July, flower pickers begin harvesting new jasmine buds at noon. Noon is an ideal time to pick new buds, because the dew has evaporated. Perfect flower buds have turned snow white and are a certain length. Picking ends around 4pm, and flower buds are brought to the factory. Flowers are kept in a room around 100F to encourage aroma. Ideally, the flower buds begin to open before the scenting begins. In the evening, room temperature zao bei base tea is mixed into piles with jasmine flower buds.

The zao bei and jasmine buds commingle in a pile for six hours with in internal temperature of about 113F. The increased heat encourages the flower buds to open, releasing perfume, promoting a moisture transfer between the flower and base tea. Workers adjust the tea piles to sync with the ambient temperature in the room. If the base tea overheats, a bitter flavor develops. After about six hours, the tea piles are flattened, allowing the leaves to breathe. Each pile is then reformed for four to six hours of more scenting. After ten to twelve hours, the flowers are sifted out. The tea rests for a day and then fresh flowers starts process again.

High grade jasmine teas are scented over five times. Standard jasmine teas are scented two or three times. At the end of scenting, the tea is fired one last time to seal in the flavor. Premium jasmine tea has a shelf life of about three years. Lower quality jasmine teas stay fresh for about a year and a half.

Fujian Province specializes in Silver Needle Jasmine, Dragon Pearls, and Traditional Jasmine teas.

Brew jasmine tea similar to green tea. Bring filtered or spring water to an almost boil. Use 2-3 teaspoons in an infuser or tea filter for every 8 oz. of water. Brew for 3-5 minutes. Pour in your favorite cup and enjoy. You can brew the same leaves over three times.

 

 

Would you like a cup of tea?

How do you communicate when with a child, when you can’t use their native tongue? How do you motivate the child to twist their tongue differently to speak your native tongue? What if the students decide to band together and mutiny? Sitting at my new desk in my new Japanese school, I struggled to organize my thoughts and calm my anxiety.

The shy Japanese secretary asked me: “Would you like a cup of tea, Tiffany-sensei?”. I replied, “Yes, thank you”. She brought me a small delicate porcelain cup filled with green tea leaves floating in hot water. No sugar, No milk. No strainer. No spoon. I had no idea how to drink it. I knew Japanese people loved serving and brewing tea. Tea symbolized refinement and sophistication. The secretary felt honored that I would drink her tea. I had to drink it.

I simply stared at the leaves. My thoughts slowed. I watched the leaves swell with water, releasing vitamins, minerals, and grassy flavors. Japanese tea artisans steam the leaves, maintaining the emerald color and the natural flavors. The water slowly turned a bright emerald hue. I smelled freshly mowed grass. The smell reminded me of the manicured lawns and tree lined streets on my hometown. I felt the comfort and security of home.  I focused on the aroma. When the leaves sank to the bottom, I sipped. It tasted like fresh grass with sweet notes and a slight bitter edge. Not bad. I enjoyed the leaf in its naked glory.

My stress and anxieties melted away. As I sipped my tea, I focused on planning fun, engaging English lessons. Living in the present moment I forgot about the ‘what if’ and ‘how to’. With my mind quiet, I heard my inner power directing me to success. My students enjoyed my lessons. They retained the few English sentences we practiced each week. They showed up early to play English games with me. The spirit of tea guided me to live in the present moment.

 

Life is fast and overwhelming in Tokyo. You have to find your peace amongst the throngs of people, flashing lights, heavy traffic and packed subway cars. You have to learn how to create and manifest inner peace.I believe the peace starts from within yourself. Quieting your mind requires regular practice. Drinking tea facilitates creating a space for peace. Tea brewing rituals are actually a form of meditation. The Japanese call the spirit of tea ‘‘ki’. The spirit represents a void. It is hard to find this void, because of the ‘noise’ in your mind and around you. All your thoughts, people demanding your attention, ambient noise prevents your from finding this void. Create your own personal tea ritual.

Tea brewing is an art, not a science. You decide how much tea, how much water and how long to steep. These factors depend on the size of your tea vessel. Your tea vessel is where you brew your tea either a teapot or a tea cup. Research the best water temperature for your favorite tea.

 As you prepare and brew the tea, completely concentrate on the present moment. Ignore thoughts about the past and future. Ignore negative thoughts. Prepare yourself for the purity and beauty of tea. Focus on the aroma of the leaves. Focus on the heat of the water. Quiet your thoughts. The past and future don’t exist. Absorb everything that is happening in your physical surrounding. Soak in the colors, smells, and quiet. Find your inner peace. Listen to your inner power. Embrace the spirit of tea.

I learned the tea drinking habit accidently. The school secretaries offered me tea every day. Because of politeness, I could not refuse. I am grateful those ladies shared their culture with me. Drinking tea has brought me closer to my inner peace, my inner power and nature. Below is a poem, which describes how I feel about tea.

Happy Sipping!

Thought I cannot flee

From the world of corruption,

I can prepare tea,

with water from the mountain stream

And put my heart to rest.

–by Ueda Akinari (Poem found in Tea of the sages: The Art of Sencha by Patricia Graham. p. 90)

 

 

 

January 2014 Tea Events

green tea leaf reading

Tea leaf reading

 

The Art of Tea Leaf Reading

January 11, 2014

12:00pm to 5:00pm

Fee: $7

Buddhamouse Emporium (134 Yale Ave., Claremont)

Quiet your mind. Focus on a question or situation in your life.  Sip your tea.  Connect to your intuitive mind. Your spirit guides the leaves to form shapes, words and symbols. Giving you a clearer picture of what is going on in your question or situation. The leaves confirm what you know and give insights to next actions.Learn about your past, present and future. Shine a light on confusing relationships or conflicting feelings. Find out about your New Year. Participants leave their sessions feeling enlightened, energized and encouraged.

Make an appointment with Tiffany Williams at: tiffany@boutiqueteas.com. Drop-ins are welcome.

 

Jasmine tea in cup

Jasmine Tea and tea pot

Tea Fundamentals: What is Tea? How do you Brew it?

January 12, 2014

12:30 to 2:00pm

$10

Buddhamouse Emporium (134 Yale Ave., Claremont)

How do you brew tea? What is tea? Do you grow your own teas? These are a few of common questions I answer about tea. Time to get back to basics. This workshop will discuss essential tea basics you need to know. We will also compare and contrast the famous George Orwell essay called ‘A Nice Cup of Tea’ with ancient Chinese and Japanese philosophies.

In his essay, Orwell asserts Indian teas are the best and China teas do not make you ‘wiser’. He also describes how to brew the ‘best’ cup of tea. He has an 11 step process! Let’s see if he is right. Chinese tea scholars developed called Gong Fu tea brewing style. Japanese scholars created a ceremony. You will learn about these ceremonies and the key basics for every day brewing.

In this workshop, you learn how to brew White Jasmine Silver Needles, Organic Assam Black Tea, Organic Japanese Genmaicha, Organic Puerh and Organic Keemun Black tea. You will learn how to perfectly brew white, green, black and puerh teas.

All guests receive a jar of their favorite tea.

 

green tea leaf reading

Tea leaf reading

The Art of Tea Leaf Reading

January 12, 2014

2:30pm to 6:00pm

Fee: $7

Buddhamouse Emporium (134 Yale Ave., Claremont)

Quiet your mind. Focus on a question or situation in your life.  Sip your tea.  Connect to your intuitive mind. Your spirit guides the leaves to form shapes, words and symbols. Giving you a clearer picture of what is going on in your question or situation. The leaves confirm what you know and give insights to next actions.

Learn about your past, present and future. Shine a light on confusing relationships or conflicting feelings. Find out about your New Year. Participants leave their sessions feeling enlightened, energized and encouraged.

Make an appointment with Tiffany Williams at: tiffany@boutiqueteas.com. Drop in are welcome.

My First Cup of Green Tea

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Green tea in Asian tea cup

Sitting at my desk in my new Japanese school, I struggled to organize my thoughts and calm my anxiety. The shy Japanese secretary asked me: “Would you like a cup of tea, Tiffany-sensei?”. I replied, “Yes, thank you”. This would be my first cup of green tea. I grew up with herbal teas and black teas. She brought me a small delicate porcelain cup filled with green tea leaves floating in hot water. No sugar, No milk. No strainer. No spoon. I had no idea how to drink this beverage. I knew Japanese people honored tea. Serving and brewing tea symbolized refinement and sophistication. The secretary felt honored that I would drink her tea. I felt her genuine kindness and desire to share her culture. I had to drink it. I had no idea if I would like it.

 

I simply stared at the leaves. My thoughts slowed. I watched the leaves fill with water, releasing vitamins, minerals, and grassy flavors. Japanese tea artisans steam the leaves, maintaining the emerald color and the natural flavors. The water slowly turned a bright emerald hue. I smelled freshly mowed lawn. The smell reminded me of the manicured lawns and tree lined streets on my hometown. I felt the comfort and security of home.  I focused on the aroma. When the leaves sank to the bottom, I sipped. . It tasted like fresh grass with sweet notes and a slight bitter edge. Not bad. I enjoyed the leaf in its naked glory.

December Events

Christmas Breakfast Black Tea Workshop

Black Breakfast Tea Blending Workshop

Black Breakfast Tea Blending Workshop

Saturday, December 14, 2013 11:00am to 3:00pm

Buddhamouse Emporium (134 Yale Ave., Claremont)

Fee: $15

Custom blend your own black breakfast tea blend. Breakfast teas are a blend of unscented black teas. You will learn tea blending fundamentals and blend your own black tea blend. This blending workshop includes a recipe, tea tasting, and live demonstration on tea blending. Base teas include: Orange Pekoe, Assam Black Teas, Nilgiri black tea and Chinese black teas. Also taste Chinese breakfast, and Irish breakfast tea blends. You may choose to blend the prepared recipe or make your own blend. Blending and tasting take about 45 min. RSVP and let me know when you plan to arrive or drop in anytime between 11am and 3pm.

RSVP: Tiffany@boutiqueteas.com

 

The Art of Tea Leaf Reading with Chakra Stones Workshop

Tea Leaf Reading

Tea Leaf Reading

 

Saturday, December 21, 2013 12:00 to 4:00pm

Buddhamouse Emporium (134 Yale Ave., Claremont)

 

This workshop is about focus and energy. Instead of thinking about a questions, you will chose a theme. Themes can include: work, love, friendship, finance and more. Focusing on one aspect of your life will give you a complete picture of that part of your life. There will be unique tea blends and stones available to help you channel your energy into the tea leaves.

Fee: $7

RSVP: Tiffany@boutiqueteas.com

Tea and Meditation

Saturday, December 28, 2013 11:00 to 12:30pm

Buddhamouse Emporium (134 Yale Ave., Claremont)

 

Embark on an inward journey to a peaceful respite from daily life.Learn a how to quiet your mind and live in the present. Brewing tea provides the opportunity to create a peaceful space around you and in your mind. Understand how savoring a beautifully brewed cup of tea, fragrant and satisfying, is a practice in pure meditation. You will practice Gong-fu tea brewing style and auto-writing.

Fee: $7

RSVP: Tiffany@boutiqueteas.com