文 By: 許玉蓮 Hooi Yoke Lien
Is scented tea a type of tea? Yes. The base tea, after initial processing, is mixed with fresh flowers to take in the floral accent, yielding a kind of tea with a distinctly different style. The key to its irresistible appeal is the use of real flowers, instead of essential oil or floral essence.
Which tea can be used as the base tea? What flowers can be used for the natural scenting? Most teas, such as green tea, oolong tea, puer tea and black tea can be mixed with flowers. The choice of flowers is also very diverse; jasmine, osmanthus , gardenia, rosa, plum blossom, magnolia , roses, cymbidium, orange flower, and in fact, flowers that are edible can be can be used. Jasmine tea is by far the most popular scented tea; it is essentially green tea naturally scented with jasmine blossom.
How is the processing of the scented tea like? First, it is important to note that the tealeaves are porous. They readily absorb water vapour and gases in the air. The tea scenting technique is developed on tealeaves’ absorptive properties and the scent-dispersing nature of flowers. This interaction of absorption and dispersion between tealeaves and flowers results in the perfect combination of the floral scent and tea aroma.
Prepared green tea is used as the base tea. Freshly-picked jasmine flowers, in their half-open state, are stacked with tealeaves. The floral aroma would have penetrated into the tealeaves and become a part of them after a few hours. It is then time to separate the tealeaves from the flowers – the flowers will be discarded while the tealeaves will be oven-dried. This is the ‘floral-scenting’ process. For scented tea of premium quality, a lot more fresh flowers will be used, and there will be more rounds of scenting.
Successful floral-scenting has a lot to do with the proportion between flowers and tea. Excessive use of flowers will overpower the tea aroma and make the floral accent unrefined. Conversely, an inadequate amount of flowers will make the floral accent indistinct, and defeat the purpose of floral-scenting. Pairing different types of tea and flower will yield different scented delights. Besides Jasmine tea, osmanthus oolong tea and puer rose tea are popular choices. The integration and compatibility between teas and flowers have indeed given rise to a myriad of aroma and flavour.