Have you ever noticed those beautiful teapots with a flower at the bottom? Have you been left there wondering what the heck is a flowering tea?
Well, wonder no more in this article we will discuss:
- What are flowering teas?
- The history of blooming tea
- Where & how to buy blooming tea
- How to make flowering tea
- Health benefits & risk of flowering
What are Flowering Teas?
Flowering teas are usually green or white. The tea buds are harvested in the early morning, usually in early spring. First flush leaves, the youngest of the tea plant, is usually used for flowering teas. These leaves yield a lighter, more floral tea with a fresh taste and are only lightly oxidized.
Once the leaves are harvested, artisans sew the leaves together by hand using thin food-safe cotton or silk threads. From twenty to as many as one hundred leaves are arranged carefully and shaped with edible flowers such as chrysanthemum, rose, globe amaranth, and jasmine.
The crafters usually have a design in mind for how the tea will look after ‘blooming.’ Sometimes, it will look like a basket, a wreath, a crown, or even an arch of flowers in the water. The flowers are ingeniously sewn together into the bundle in careful arrangements to produce the desired look.
The leaves are then flattened against them, and the bundle is shaped into a ball or a cone. Some artisans also shape them into little hearts or lanterns. Since flowering teas are usually very light, some tea producers also add flavorings such as lychee, jasmine, or mango at this part of the process.
After the shaping, the tea bundle is withered by steaming, dried in the sun, and then in some cases, oxidized before being packaged. The entire process can take up a whole day’s work.
The History of Blooming Tea
Flowering or blooming teas are unique in the tea world; they are a mixture of a true tea (leaves from the Camellia sinensis plant) and a tisane (herbal and floral infusions).
They originate from the Yunnan region of China, where they are called Gong Yi Hua Cha, which, when translated literally, means “flower art tea.” Though they are called flowering teas, they don’t always contain flowers.
Even though their history is contentious, some historians claim that they date back to the Song dynasty (960-1279 AD), where emperors and aristocrats enjoyed it. It is referenced in literature and art as a purely display tea, only made for visual pleasure and not for drinking. This was because the tea was crafted using inferior quality leaves and was often too bitter to drink.
On the other hand, there are claims that flowering teas were only produced in Yunnan from the 1980s when a time of excess meant that the showy and elaborate displays were not only marketable but in high demand. The truth of how flowering tea appeared is likely a combination of the two.
Blooming tea in the modern times
In the 1980s, new folding techniques refreshed the aesthetic of centuries-old art. The new blooming styles brought the tea popularity in the West around the 2000s.
Now with modern techniques and technology, flowering teas are no longer just for emperors to enjoy. These days, the teas are still handmade by artisans in several parts of China (most notably Anhui, Fujian, and Yunnan), but with higher quality leaves, making them pleasant to drink.
Where to Buy Flowering Tea
Flowering teas usually come in small amounts, with a canister or package containing five to a dozen tea bundles. And since the process is labor-intensive, flowering teas are a little more expensive than your regular tea bag. That said, there are many producers and a huge variety out there at prices that won’t break the bank.
1. Chinese grocery stores
Chinese grocery stores usually have some in stock that is affordable. Though they may not be as spectacular and showy as the more premium stuff, they are still great to enjoy at garden parties or on your own. If you don’t want to commit to a full canister, some online retailers also sell flowering or blooming teas in smaller sample sets.
Teaposy sells little mushroom-shaped bundles that open up into various designs with jasmine scents. Their blooming teas also come in a variety of white, green, and black teas.
Teasenz also has a blooming tea collection at pretty affordable prices.
If you’re looking to give flowering tea as a gift, though, check out Teabloom. Their teas are a little fancier, and their gift sets are gorgeous. All three sell glass teapots and teacups if you need those too.
Flowering teas are all about the view, so look for a design that you like. But keep an eye out for flowers that you or your guests are allergic to and steer clear. Make sure to buy the teas that come in airtight containers and try out a sample first. Flowering teas are beginner-friendly, so look for the flavors you enjoy best, not necessarily the most expensive.
How to Make Flowering Tea
Flowering teas are unique and eye-catching. You may have seen those gorgeous clips of someone pouring hot water into a clear teapot and the little bundle at the bottom blooming to life like something out of a fantasy movie. It might look intimidating for a tea beginner to try brewing at home, but the truth is that getting the tea to bloom as you see on Instagram, Tiktok, or fancy hotels is almost as easy as brewing a tea-bag!
Flowering teas are a surefire way to impress a date or fussy guests and a wonderful conversation starter with their rich history. Here are some notes to take to your next garden party.
To enjoy a flowering tea to the best effect, use a clear glass teapot or pitcher. If you don’t have one, plastic is fine too (but glass truly is best).
For smaller bundles, you can also use a glass teacup. A double-walled one or one with a handle will protect your hands from the heat. Do not use a wine glass. Some wine glasses are not tempered and might shatter if hot water is poured into them.
Also, make sure to use spring or filtered tap water for this. Depending on your area, your unfiltered tap water might contain minerals that can affect the flavor, and distilled water makes bland, underdeveloped tea.
First, pour just under boiling water into the teapot, and then drop in a bundle of flowering tea. Pour the water before putting the tea bundle in since pouring it on top may break the bundle apart.
It may take several minutes to bloom fully. Some flowering teas take up to ten minutes to open up entirely. But the process is a part of the experience. Enjoy it!
Flowering teas can steep for a long time without getting bitter, so you can admire the display for as long as you want. Flowering teas can also generally be brewed several times. All you have to do is add more hot water to enjoy them again. Hold back on the milk, though. You can appreciate the delicate flavors better without it.
Once you’re done with them, you can pour cold water into the pot and find a prominent place to put it. You can display it as a centerpiece or decoration for up to three days.
Health Benefits and Risks of Blooming Tea
Though there are floral ingredients in blooming teas, they are in low enough quantities to not affect health (as long as edible varieties are used). The majority of the health benefits of flowering teas come from tea leaves.
Tea leaves are rich in antioxidants, particularly catechins. Some of the catechins found in green tea may reduce the risk of heart disease and possibly have a positive effect on your metabolic health and prevent type 2 diabetes. Scientists have also observed that the antioxidants in tea may also help prevent cell damage that could lead to cancer.
Furthermore, these antioxidants combined with the mild acids also present in tea can improve oral health. Drinking green tea in the mornings has been proven to decrease cavities, prevent gum diseases, and eliminate bad breath positively.
If you are already consuming teas with no adverse effects, flowering teas should still be safe for you. But the risks associated with drinking tea in general still apply.
If you are at risk of iron deficiency, drinking tea with meals can interfere with your body’s iron absorption from foods. You should also drink less tea if you want to reduce your risk of kidney stones since tea leaves are rich in oxalates.
Supplements made out of green tea like those promoted in weight-loss products may also affect the liver. Some flowering teas use green teas as a base, but the concentration is usually low. Still, if you have liver damage, seek out the advice of a doctor before consuming green tea products in any form.
Flowering teas can bring a little bit of magic into your home or party. They’re made from a labor of love and for us to experience with our eyes as well as our tongue. Drinking these teas can make you really appreciate what artisanal tea means. Not just something to enjoy the taste and smell of, but a piece of art in your cup!
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