Jasmine tea: types, aroma, brew, benefits and review from Umiteasets

Jasmine Tea is usually scented tea produced by mixing the leaves of the tea plant (Camelia Sinesis) with jasmine flowers.

The Jasmine tea is usually associated with the Chinese culture. I remember as a kid, trying to find Jasmine tea in Brazil, where drinking tea is not so common due to the steady warm temperatures throughout the year, being difficult and thus expensive. My mom would allow us to drink just one cup of the Jasmine tea a week to “save it” for special occasions. With the past of the years, it has become more and more popular and after the popularization of the Chinese restaurants in the Western countries, it became one of the most famous scented teas.

Types of Jasmine tea

Jasmine tea is frequently made out of green tea, although it can be made of black tea, white tea or Pouchong (bao Zhong) as well. The Jasmine tea of Umiteasets has loose, tightly slim and lightly fermented Pouchong leaves mixed with dried jasmine petals – very aromatic and white.

It has a very intense floral aroma, almost perfume-like. A very pleasant aroma, I must say.

Pouchong, is a form of Oolong tea that is barely oxidized, making it very similar to the green tea. Pouchong is usually considered a form of Oolong, but it is sometimes a separate style of tea, or even known as the Chinese green tea by some. However, it is a slightly fermented tea (10-20%), which differs from Green tea, a completely unfermented tea.

Pouchong tea and an overwhelming majority of jasmine tea is grown and produced in Fujian, China, where it originated and where the Umiteasets’ Jasmine tea comes from. There are small productions in Taiwan as well and it is frequently used in scented teas such as rose and jasmine.

How the Jasmine tea is scented

The Jasmine flowers are picked during the day and stored until the evening when they are open and start to release its perfume. It is when the tea is heaped for several hours with the flower heads in a warm room to allow the absorption of the perfume. When this process finishes, the tea is separated from the blossoms, dried and rolled and then again layered with the petals of the flowers to be sold.

Benefits of the Jasmine Tea

Jasmine tea is loaded with powerful plant-based compounds known as polyphenols present in tea leaves. These act as antioxidants and protect the cells against free radical damage and eventual heart disease and cancer. Also the Jasmine blossom may also help with relaxation.

How the Jasmine tea tastes

The leaves of the Jasmine Tea from Umiteasets have an intense green appearance and are handpicked and rolled.

Once it was brewed, the tea leaves have become yellowish and looked much like the green tea, with a light vegetal and floral aroma.

I brewed 3.5 grams of the tea in 200 ml of water at 87ºC for 2 minutes as recommended by the instructions. The infusion produced a pale amber liquor with a powerfully perfumed aroma and a flowery taste.

I noticed a milder flavor than the Oolong tea yet stronger than the green tea. In my opinion it tends to have a less of an edge of bitterness and astringency than the green tea, although with a bit of sharpness, but also some honey-like sweetness followed by a floral, perfume-like aftertaste.

Happy brew!

Gong fu brewing, the Chinese Tea Ceremony

Gong fu brewing is the traditional Chinese method of making tea. Not so widespread as the Japanese tea ceremony, the Chinese tea ceremony is more focused on how to brew tea in the right way and not so much on the ritual as the Japanese one.

It is considered the best way to appreciate a good cup of tea and identify each of its flavours. Although it might take years to master all the principles of the Chinese tea ceremony, by incorporating just some of its basic rules will open a new window for you on how to brew tea. Gong fu means skill, so Gong fu brewing means brewing tea with skills.

This method consists of brewing tea leaves according to traditional guidelines such as a bigger amount of tea, using a shorter time and it is always associated with tea tasting. Thus, this brewing method produces a stronger and less bitter infusion that will reveal all its subtle aromas as fruit or floral notes.

Gong fu brewing requires just a Gaiwan (a lidded bowl with a capacity of 100-150ml) and a drinking cup. Of course there are several other utensils that you may add to your ceremony such as a wooden tray (with water compartment), a wooden tea scoop (to measure the amount of tea you will be using), a pet tea, a tea pitcher or cha hai and small teacups.

The traditional Chinese cup is very small (from 30 to 70ml) – which allows you to take several cups out of one brewing – and usually made of unglazed clay, the so called purple clay (Zisha) that comes from the Yixing area in China. The small size is related to the fact that the goal of the Chinese Tea Ceremony is tasting the tea (even though you can repeat it several times) and not quenching the thirst.

You can also use a traditional teapot also made of the purple clay that, besides being unglazed, is optimal for high temperatures and is famous for its porous quality that allows tea oils to build up inside it over time. It is important to use the same teapot for the same kind of tea for not mixing aromas.

The Gong fu method has basically 5 steps:

  1. Warm up the teapot: First, warm your Teapot or Gaiwan with boiling water and discard it.
  2. Rinse the tea leaves: fill the teapot/ Gaiwan with tea leaves (check exact quantities check below on “How much tea to use?”) and rinse them with water from 4 to 8 seconds; immediately discard the water
  3. Brew the tea: check below on “Water Temperature” the correct temperature of the water for the type of tea you are using (usually from 80 to 90ºC) and brew the tea between 10 and 15 seconds (First brew)
  4. Serve the tea: Pour the tea into a tea pitcher (so that it gets mixed in the process of pouring) and then serve it into small cups
  5. Additional brews: repeat the steps above for 3-6 times by adding up more water to the leaves (2nd brew from 8-13 seconds; 3rd brew from 6 to 10 seconds; 4th brew from 4 to 10 seconds and 5th brew from 6 to 12 seconds)

What teas to use?

A good tea should yield many brews and each of them will reveal a different note or aspect of it. In theory, you can use this method to brew any kind of superior quality tea, specially the ones with unbroken tea leaves. A superior tea tastes betters and should last up to 5-6 brews with consistent flavour depending on how strong you like your tea.

The basic rule to buy a superior tea is that you pay what you get. You should by the most expensive tea (according to your possibilities of course) from the most knowledgeable person you know. Trying as many different teas as possible is the best way to educate yourself and learn to differentiate a good from a bad tea.

How much tea to use?

Below you will find a general rule according to the type of leave of the tea you have chosen:

  • Rolled leaves (small Balls): 1-1.5 Chinese tea scoops or tablespoon/ 100ml
  • Loose Leaves: 2-2.5 tea scoops or tablespoon / 100ml

What is the right temperature of the water?

Below you will find some general guidelines according to the chosen type of tea:

  • Green and White Teas: 75-80ºC
  • Oolong and Red Teas: 90-95ºC
  • Black, Pu-erh, Tie Guan Yin, Lapsang Souchong and Aged Teas: 95ºC

Who invented tea?

“Who invented tea” is one of the most frequent questions regarding tea when you search for the topic in Google. As you may know, the history of tea is millenial and people have always wondered questions such as “When was tea invented” or “How old is tea” or even “Where does tea come from”. If you have ever had one of these questions, take a sip and dive in this short summary of the history of tea and don’t forget to leave a comment below telling me your opinion about it.;)

Throught the centuries, the habit of drinking tea has been related to several cultures and several legends have been generated around it. What all of them have in common is that tea originates in the East, where it has been known for ages.

Another thing that also differs from place to place is its own name “tea”. For example, in the Fujian province of China, the word tea is pronnounced “tay”, which is where the Dutch, who took tea to Europe for the first time, learned it, and that is why it has become “Tea” in Ireland and England, “Tee” in Germany, “Thé” in France and “Té” in Spanish.

In turn, the Portuguese were already trading tea in Macao, where the local word for tea is “Cha”, and that is why in Portuguese the word for tea is “Chá”.

The discovery of the tea is a very curious history and happened about 5000 years ago: according to legend, the Chinese Emperor Shen-Nung in 2737 B.C. stopped with his army to rest under a tree. The troop began boiling water to preprare their meal and during this process a leaf from a tea bush nearby flew into the cooking water. The mixture was given to the Emperor who felt relaxed and very appreciated it. Tea was born.

It is impossible to know whether there is any truth in this story. But tea drinking certainly became established in China many centuries before it had even been heard of in the west. Containers for tea have been found in tombs dating from the Han dynasty (206 BC – 220 AD), inspired by wine ceramic pots, but it was under the Tang dynasty (618-906 AD), that tea became the national drink of China.

It was so popular, that by this time, the first ever book about tea was written in China during the Tang dynasty (c. VIII A.C.) by Lu Yu, known as a patron of the tea, and was called Cha Ching (The Classic of Tea) inspired by the Zen philosophy. Lu Wu was an orphan and had been adopted by a Buddhist monk. Soon he was offered by the Governor studies and access to the city library. He grew up surrounded by poets, writers and religious men.

One very famous quote of Lu Wu is that “Tea symbolizes the harmony and mysterious union of the Universe”.

But they were the Buddhist monks who widely spread its fame and first introduced to Japan, due to their frequent trips to China to study. They used it to help concentrate during meditations sessions and avoid sleepness. As a consequence, tea drinking became a vital part of Japanese culture as well, as seen in the development of the Tea Ceremony culture. The Tea Routes also contributed to the tea divulgation, but this is a topic for the next post.

Sources: Book “Sommelier del Té” from Victoria Bisogno and Website UK Tea Association.

The Benefits of the Matcha Tea

The Matcha tea is originated from China, but it was in Japan that it became famous worldwide.

The matcha green tea was discovered in China during the Tang Dinasty, but they were Buddhist monks who brought matcha tea to Japan. It helped them medidate better, kept them alert and relaxed – but not asleep, and therefore, became very popular in the region, where there were at that time, more than 200 Buddhist monasteries.

Formerly tea leaves were commercialized as pressed cakes to facilitate the transportation along the “Tea Route”. The Tea Route started in the small cities of China where the tea was cultivated and then continued to the capital and then to Japan, Thibet, India and many other countries. The porters carried up to 100 kilos on their backs, along the route, and earned 1 kilo of rice for each 10 kg of tea. (Source: Manual del Sommelier de Té de Victoria Bisogno).

green

The matcha green tea has many benefits and is obtained from the same plant as the green tea (of the Tencha type), the Camelia Sinesis. This tea type is particularly rich in antioxidant compounds due to its traditional way of cultivation. During most of its growth time, it is shaded by natural bamboo fabric as a protection against sun which allows the plant to create high amounts of bioactive compounds, including chlorophyll and l-theanine.

The results of cultivating the plant in shade before harvest are the unique taste and the color of the resource and its infusions. This is why Matcha tea is considered as the most aromatic green tea and a product of the highest quality.

The difference is that the green tea leaves are brewed in water and only part of its components are soluble and therefore ingested. In counterpart, the matcha green tea is composed by grinded green tea leaves so the whole leaves are ingested with their soluble and insoluble components. Therefore, higher levels of chlorophyll and high amounts of oxidants that cleanse the organism are ingested what makes it 10 times more effective in weight loss, fat burning and thermogenesis.

The matcha tea is commonly considered as particularly beneficial to health and its main components are:

  • Antioxidants: the high antioxidant potential of the matcha tea are mostly related to catechins, a kind of polyphenols, which have a beneficial effect on human health, and occur naturally in the leaves of Camelia Sinensis. The Epigallocatechin gallate (EGCG) has a strong antioxidant activity due to their ability to neutralize free radicals and to increase the detoxification activity of enzymes. It may prevent, for example, ischemic heart disease, cancer and the premature aging of the cells of the organism and the brain.
  • Caffeine: typically, a 250ml cup of matcha, which is made with one teaspoon of matcha powder, contains 70 milligrams of caffeine and the same cup of  regular coffee can contain anywhere from 95 to 200 milligrams of caffeine, according to the U.S. National Library of Medicine. In the short term, caffeine can boost the metabolic rate and increase fat burning. (Sources: WomensHealthMag and U.S. National Library Medicine)