Jasmine is at the same time the easiest and one of the hardest teas to get right - maybe we should say it's easy to get it wrong. The 2014 harvest has once again provided us with an excellent, so here's our recommendations for getting the most out of your brew.
Jasmine tea typically enjoys a very light brew - that means lower temperature water (85 degrees celsius) and a short steep time (30 seconds). Think back to all of the bad cups of Jasmine tea you've had, and at least half were probably ruined by long steeps in boiling water. We're brewing in a gaiwan this time, but glass teapots or other glassware is totally fine too. If you're steeping in a mug (and can't remove the leaves) then just use less leaves.
I'm pretty pleased with the dry leaves. Normally what we're looking for in a top grade Jasmine are uniform leaves, quite furry (indicating that they are young shoots, not fully matured leaves) and an absence of Jasmine flowers - strangely, many lower grade Jasmine teas include flowers because it's attractive to customers. However, the leftover Jasmine flowers lend a rotted, vegetal taste to the tea if not picked out which isn't pleasant - it's painstaking manual work, hence why cheaper teas avoid this step.
I must have woken up on the pernickity side of bed this morning, because I timed our first brew exactly - 29.95 seconds! It's enough, otherwise too much of the Jasmine scent is released in one steep and it ruins the brew.
The flavour is aromatic and as expected, big on Jasmine. There's a fair amount of the tea taste coming through this year as well, which was less prominent last year. It's got a very mild baked taste, overall fairly soft and slightly tart.
Still coming on strong with jasmine aromas, the second brew (again, 30 seconds) builds upon the first. The base green tea taste is coming out stronger now, and there's a really prominent and pleasant 'full' mouth-feeling (口感). It's not so much a taste as a feeling, touching the upper palate and sides of the mouth, like true mineral water from a spring.
Typically with Jasmine a good marker of its quality is how long the Jasmine taste persists - called 耐泡 (nai pao, "patient brew"). It's a sign of how long, and how many occasions the tea leaves were infused with Jasmine flowers (top teas are infused 9 separate times). So, the third, fourth and fifth brews are all quite consistent, with the taste dropping off after the fifth brew. That's a good sign!
Jasmine tea is a bit of a 'one-trick-pony', but it does that trick so well we have a lot of time for it. As always with tea, you learn to appreciate each tea's specific qualities - this year's Jasmine White has all the hallmarks we've come to expect of the 'King of Teas' and I'm sure you'll enjoy it!
This was written by Chris West
Tea for me is all about that "aha" moment when you try a truly great tea for the first time. I live in Fuzhou, China and enjoy anything that helps me appreciate Chinese culture more (currently tea, martial arts and history books!). Contact me on email@example.com