If you happened to knock on a door in northern China, it would not be unusual to be greeted with a cup of steaming Jasmine green tea, or as it is known in Chinese, “molihua cha”, or “xian pian”.
It is perhaps less well-known to households of the western world, where the usual offering (excluding, of course, the bottomless cupboards of the tea lovers and fanatics among us), is a standard black, or maybe, if you’re lucky, a regular old green.
Jasmine is green tea with a twist (although black and white tea are sometimes infused with Jasmine), with its own history, and its own delicate flavour and distinctive aroma.
If you’ve never tried it, think inhaling the scent of a blooming flower garden…
In this article we’ll take a look at the history and background of this gorgeous floral tea, before recommending six of the best Jasmine tea brands to try.
How Did This Famous Floral Tea Begin?
While the production of Jasmine tea is not exclusive to China, it does lay claim as the site of its oldest production, the Jasmine plant introduced into China during the Han Dynasty (206 BC to 220 AD), and the tea itself becoming widespread through China in the Qing Dynasty (1644 to 1912 AD).
With its mild climate, abundant rainfall and close proximity to rivers and mountains, the city of Fuzhou, in China, became the perfect place for the production of Jasmine tea: while the Jasmine bushes could flourish close to the rivers, the tea plants required elevation, and so covered the slopes of Fuzhou’s surrounding mountains.
The entire cycle of Jasmine tea production could be completed in this one city (the only city to boast this), and so it came to be known, delightfully, as “The City of Jasmine in China”.
Jasmine tea has now become one of the most famous scented teas in China.
How Does Jasmine Green Tea Differ From Regular Green Tea?
Jasmine tea is basically a scented green tea, its leaves picked from the same tea plant as green or black tea.
Unlike regular green tea, however, as its name suggests Jasmine tea is infused with the blossoms of the Jasmine bush (or Jasminum, in the same family as olive trees), gorgeous little pinwheel flowers which produce a sweet, intoxicating scent.
The process of Jasmine tea production is precise, and quite charming; as the tea leaves are harvested in early spring, they must be stored until late summer, when the fresh Jasmine flowers are in full bloom.
But the flowers of the Jasmine bush can’t be picked at any old time of day – it must be early morning, when the white Jasmine buds are still tightly closed.
Once collected, the Jasmine flowers are then kept cool until nightfall, when they begin to uncurl, and release their sweet fragrance.
And so (this romantic sounding tea living up to its name), the flowers begin their process of “scenting” in the mysterious dead of night.
There are two main methods used to “scent” the tea with Jasmine blossom.
The first requires placing the tea and flowers in alternating layers, and the second involves blending the tea with the Jasmine flowers and storing them overnight.
It takes more than 4 hours for the tea to properly absorb the fragrance and flavor of the Jasmine blossoms, and for top grade Jasmines such as Yin Hao (meaning “silver tip”), this scenting process may be repeated as many as six or seven times.
Types of Jasmine Tea
Before we get into some of the best Jasmine teas on offer, it may be helpful to know a little more about the different kinds and “grades” of Jasmine tea (Jasmine tea is a serious business).
While the most common Jasmine teas are made from green tea leaves, Jasmine blossoms can also be infused with white tea, black tea or oolong tea.
These variations may be simply Jasmine flavored teas, or more elaborate blends, such as “dessert” teas.
If Jasmine tea is the princess of teas (as I like to think of it!), then Jasmine “dragon pearls” tea from the city of Fuan, China, is undoubtedly the queen.
This masterful Jasmine tea is made of tiny hand-rolled “pearls”, and comprised of two sets of buds, and often a green tea leaf.
While the dragon pearl tea may be an expensive option, if you love Jasmine, it’s definitely worth it.
On the other end of the Jasmine green tea spectrum (the queen’s underlings), are the common loose leaf Jasmines, the best of which – the top graders – are made with a large ratio of tea buds to tea leaves, producing a subtler and more delicate flavor than teas made with larger leaves and fewer buds.
High quality Jasmines also infuse with the whole Jasmine blossom, so be suspicious if there’s no sign of flowers in your tea leaves.
The Health Benefits of Jasmine Green Tea
It’s important to note that Jasmine green tea, like black tea, is made from the leaves of the Camellia sinensis plant, and so contains small levels of caffeine.
That is, it’s not a “sleepy” herbal tea in the same way as chamomile or dandelion.
It has been found, however, that like oils such as lavender, which may lower heart rate and produce feelings of relaxation, the Jasmine scent has similar calming and relaxing properties.
So before your steaming cup of Jasmine even touches your lips, your brain will be breathing a sigh of relief.
Other than for your mental health, adding Jasmine to green tea has negligible benefits, but green tea itself is considered to be an extremely healthy tea, rich in polyphenols (which boost digestion and brain health, and help protect against heart disease and type 2 diabetes), as well as antioxidants (which promote fat loss, improved brain function, and potentially lower the risk of heart disease).
That said, like any other caffeinated drink, it’s best to drink Jasmine green tea in moderation.
A Selection of the Best Jasmine Tea
If you’re not a veteran Jasmine tea drinker, it may be tricky to know where to start, and what to try, so we’ve put together a list of some of the best brands of Jasmine green tea out there.
We’ve included both bagged and loose leaf Jasmine tea reviews, depending on what you prefer (some avid drinkers of tea will refuse a bag!), and what mood you’re in – if you want a refreshing Jasmine hit on your way to work, or if you just need to sit down and unwind with a full pot of tea and a really good book…
The Best Jasmine Tea in Tea Bags
Don’t be deceived by the fact that this tea comes in tea bags, for in every other way it’s as authentic and delicious as it gets. Mighty Leaf’s green tea is scented in the traditional way, by alternately layering the Jasmine flower with the dried tea leaves over a period of time to create a strong, lasting aroma. Their elegantly designed (and compostable) tea bags allow whole tea leaves (not sweepings!) the room to unfurl when steeped in hot water.
Mighty Leaf’s tea is the perfect way to begin your Jasmine journey: its Jasmine aroma is intoxicating, and its flavor is fresh and fulsome. Oh, and to top it all off, it’s also good for the earth. Mighty Leaf produces all USDA certified teas, and are also beginning to develop a line of Fairtrade tea products (though the Jasmine is not yet among them. Perhaps soon). Their Jasmine tea comes in a box of 100 tea bags, and despite quality and ethical/environmental standards, are reasonably affordable.
Rishi Jasmine is also certified organic (and also delicious), though you’ll need to be willing to pay a bit extra. Rishi can also boast to being among the first to earn organic certification under the USDA’s Natural Organic Program in November, 2002. Their company has a strong focus on the ethics and sustainability of tea production and direct trade, involved in supporting growers who cultivate ecologically sustainable gardens in remote locations around the world.
Rishi tea is for the serious Jasmine drinker, with a full-bodied taste, and a strong, refreshing aroma.
A minor criticism is the unnecessary over-packaging of the tea bags; for those earth-conscious tea drinkers out there, the Rishi loose leaf Jasmine may be a better option.
Comes in a box of 15 tea bags.
The Best Decaf Jasmine Tea
Being naturally decaffeinated, this tea is a great option for those who’re sensitive to caffeine, or as a sleepy tea before bed. The aroma and flavour is comparable to other caffeinated Jasmine green teas, without the possible negative side-effects. If you find that you want to drink Jasmine tea all day long, then Triple Leaf’s decaf is the way to go. It comes in (very affordable) boxes of twenty bags.
The Best Loose Leaf Jasmine Green Tea
Just as there are coffee snobs, so too are their tea snobs, and for some, (regardless of flavor) the tea bag is akin to the spoonful of instant!…so if you’re determined to watch your green tea leaves and Jasmine blossom sink to the bottom of your favorite tea cup, here are some high quality loose leaf brands you might want to try.
Though Stash tea seems far removed from the tea hills of Mount Taimu, brought to life by two hippies in Portland in the 1970’s, their Jasmine tea certainly holds its own; it has a lovely aroma and fresh taste, with (in our opinion!) just the right mix of blossom and green tea leaves. The fact that you can actually see the little white flowers amongst the dried leaves also makes the experience feel that bit more authentic (sitting in your suburban kitchen, you can almost see the rolling tea hills and abundant Jasmine bushes tumbling beside a flowing river).
As well as making great tea, Stash are also recognised as a “B Corp” certified company, which means they look beyond a solely profit-driven approach, and are dedicated to improving their social and environmental performance, transparency and accountability. So your conscience can rest easy!
Like the Sunflower Jasmine, Stash’s loose leaf tea also comes in an extra-large box, though it’s slightly more expensive.
The Best Authentic Jasmine
Valley of Tea’s loose leaf Yin Hao is also a relatively expensive Jasmine, at $18.76 per 100 grams, but their tea is of the highest quality, directly sourced (by a Belgium company) from one of the world’s most famous tea mountains – China’s legendary Mount Taimu, in the Fujian province. Their Yin Hao is delicate and sweet, with hints of brown sugar, and unlike other bagged Jasmine, can be re-brewed several times without losing flavor or aroma.
Comes in a 100g box of loose leaf tea.
The Best Jasmine Tea for the Dedicated Drinker
Sunflower’s Jasmine green tea is the kind of authentic but affordable Jasmine you might find in your local Chinese restaurant. It is a flavorsome, traditional tasting tea, and comes in a quaint yellow reusable tin box – and as a bonus for the addicted Jasmine drinker, there’s a lot of tea in there (at 454 grams).
Compared to other Jasmines, the flower scent of Sunflower Jasmine is relatively mild, and the tea flavor quite strong. Though like Valley of Teas’ Yin Hao, as a loose leaf, it can be re-brewed around three times before beginning to lose its flavor and aroma of Jasmine.
How to Drink Jasmine Tea
Just quickly before you go!…(so that your Jasmine experience is as good as it can be).
Jasmine tea is best when brewed with filtered water, and hot (not boiling) water.
The tea can be brewed from anywhere between 1-3 minutes, depending on desired taste, but brewing for longer will probably produce an unpleasant bitterness. Use about 1 teaspoon of tea per cup for loose leaf Jasmine.
For fancier Jasmines, such as pearl Jasmine, only a few pearls are required to produce a good level of flavor.
Jasmine tea also goes well with lots of different foods, so experiment!
And finally – don’t gulp it! Jasmine is about aroma. Enjoy it slowly, and savour its soft, delicate aftertaste.
A good quality, properly steeped Jasmine should be light and clean, and its aroma like a freshly blooming garden – at its best, Jasmine should be like a garden in a tea-cup.
A Blossoming Romance
Princesses and queens and fairy-tale cities…is that still tea we’re talking about?
For us, there is a unique sense of romance to this age-old Chinese tea: the delicateness, the infusion of night-blooming flowers, the heady scent, the pull of faraway rivers and mountains.
And of course, the unique, exquisite Jasmine flavor.
We hope you enjoy exploring the world of Jasmine. We hope a romance blossoms.