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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.
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.
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.
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.
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.