Jasmine tea is a highly aromatic variety of tea which is flavored with jasmine flowers. In addition to providing a rich floral scent, the flowers add a subtle note to the tea which many people find quite enjoyable. Jasmine tea is readily available in Chinese markets, and it can often be obtained from big grocery stores or specialty tea shops as well. Many people may be familiar with jasmine tea because it is a frequent offering at Chinese restaurants.
Depending on the varietal, jasmine tea may be made with green tea or oolong tea. Oolong jasmine is very common, with a rich, mild flavor which also tends to settle the stomach. Many restaurants offer oolong jasmine tea for this very reason. More rarely, black tea is used as a base. The flavor of the black tea tends to overwhelm the jasmine, however, as black tea tends to be very tannic. The tea is often mild enough to consume plain, although some people add small amounts of sugar out of a preference for sweetened teas.
To make jasmine tea, jasmine flowers are harvested at the peak of their blooming and then they are cured with finished teas in conditions with carefully controlled humidity and temperature. As the jasmine flowers dry out, they infuse the tea with their flavor; sometimes multiple passes of curing are used to make an extremely strong jasmine tea. After the curing process is over, the tea is fired again to remove the moisture exuded by the jasmine, and then it can be packaged for sale.
In some cases, jasmine flowers are left in the tea. This function is purely ornamental, as the flowers are essentially odorless and flavorless after the curing process is over. However, they can look quite pretty as they rehydrate in the tea water and unfold. The practice of leaving dried flowers in tea is actually fairly widespread, and many novelty teas and tisanes include dried flowers or flower assortments to liven things up during the brewing process.
The best jasmine tea is looseleaf, since it includes whole leaves, and no offcuttings or stems. Ideally it should be brewed loose in a teapot and strained for service, although many people prefer to use tea balls for their brewing since they are more convenient. Both oolong and green teas should be only briefly steeped, as they can turn bitter with long steeping, and the water should be just below the boiling point for the best flavor and scent.