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What is Flowering Tea?

Mary McMahon
By
Updated May 16, 2024
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Flowering tea is a tea that is packaged in a tightly furled ball that uncurls when the tea is placed in hot water, revealing a flower or fanciful scene created by the artfully arranged tea leaves. Most flowering teas are made with black, green or oolong tea, and many of them include dried flowers to add color to the floral arrangement when it “blooms” in the teapot. Specialty tea companies carry flowering tea, often in samplers that include a mixture of flavors and arrangements.

Origin

Although some people think that this is an ancient tradition, flowering tea is widely considered to have been developed during the 1980s. It seems to have originated in China, and it became very popular in the West during the early 2000s, about the same time that Asian-style foods and décor also started to become very trendy. Chinese tea companies produce a range of flowering teas, including flowers that are assembled and hand-sewn by artisans.

Preparation

Flowering tea is often referred to as performance tea, blooming tea or decorative tea, which is a reference to the beauty of the flower as it unfurls. Many people prefer to brew flowering tea in glass teapots or teapots that are made from other clear materials so that the flowers can be seen clearly. This tea also can be brewed in large clear or white cups, although most flowering teas are designed to provide multiple servings, so a single cup could end up being too strong. Also, drinking from a cup that has the flower in it could be difficult.

Unfurling Beauty

Most flowering teas develop into fanciful flower shapes when they are brewed, with the tea forming the “leaves,” and dried flowers unfurling inside. It also is possible to create delicate little scenes with tea, if the tea is handled by someone who is skilled with flowering teas. For example, the tea might unfurl to reveal a sailing ship or another decorative object. Seeing what's inside is often part of the excitement and surprise, and many manufacturers leave their flowering tea unlabeled so that people will not know what to expect.

Handling

Flowering tea usually comes individually packaged, ensuring that the balls of tea are not jostled during transport and storage. This tea should be stored in a cool, dry place for the best shelf life. After flowering tea has been brewed, it usually can withstand two to three additional brewings, although the flavor might weaken. Some flowering teas also become bitter when they are steeped repeatedly.

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Mary McMahon
By Mary McMahon

Ever since she began contributing to the site several years ago, Mary has embraced the exciting challenge of being a DelightedCooking researcher and writer. Mary has a liberal arts degree from Goddard College and spends her free time reading, cooking, and exploring the great outdoors.

Discussion Comments
By Mor — On May 14, 2011

@pleonasm - I just watched that clip on YouTube and they got something else wrong. Flowering teas take much longer than that to unfurl. When I bought some (including a special glass teapot so I could watch it properly) it took about three or four minutes to finish blooming into shape.

I guess this is actually a good thing, as it helps you to know when the tea is ready to drink. But it doesn't look as dramatic in real life as they make it look on TV and movies.

It is still beautiful though.

By pleonasm — On May 12, 2011

Flowering tea is really beautiful and a small set of different kinds of flowering teas makes a charming gift.

If you want to see an example of a flowering tea, there is one in the film Marie Antoinette, supposedly sent to her by the Emperor of China. It was jasmine tea, so at least that was correct (many flowering teas are jasmine flavored) but, as the article says, the timing is all wrong. Flowering teas weren't developed until the 1980s and Marie Antoinette was long gone by then.

Mary McMahon
Mary McMahon

Ever since she began contributing to the site several years ago, Mary has embraced the exciting challenge of being a...

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