In Asia, jasmine is one of the many flowers that are harvested, dried and sold for making hot drinks.
A teaspoonful or two of dried jasmine buds with a cup of hot water will yield a jasmine brew is subtly fragrant caffeine-free drink. You can strain and chill the brew and enjoy a cold drink.
Just subtly aromatic? Yes. Jasmine flowers are at their most fragrant after the flowers bloom when the petals spread out. If the flowers are harvested as buds and not allowed to bloom before drying, the fragrance is quite faint.
Jasmine brew is not the same as jasmine tea which requires jasmine flowers and tea leaves to undergo an age-old process to produce.
To start with, there are several species of jasmine but only one is prized for making jasmine tea. Jasminum sambac, called sampaguita in the Philippines where it is the official national flower, has sweet heady fragrance that provides a sweetish aroma to the grassiness of pure Camellia sinensis.
To make jasmine tea, fresh jasmine buds are layered with tea leaves (green or white or, occasionally, oolong) and left for hours in a controlled environment until the flowers open and release their fragrance into the tea leaves. Premium jasmine tea, more aromatic than cheaper kinds, undergoes this process several times.
What does real jasmine tea taste and smell like?
Jasmine tea is the first tea that I learned to appreciate. In taste, there is no real sweetness. But the aroma is decidedly sweet. Delicate and sweet. Sipping jasmine tea is like walking in a summer garden when flowers are in full bloom.
Yes, there is an undeniable calming effect. If you’re a practitioner of aromatherapy and you believe that basking in the fragrance of dried plant parts affects your moods and well-being, well, enjoying a cup of jasmine tea has a similar effect.
Is jasmine tea always served hot?
Oh, no. Not in Vietnam anyway. When we were in Saigon, iced jasmine tea was often served as a complimentary drink. Not sweetened iced tea. It’s jasmine tea that had been cooled and poured over ice in glasses. So refreshing especially in the heat and humidity that’s persistently present in Saigon.
A brew of jasmine buds and tea leaves is not the equivalent of jasmine tea
So, without undergoing the painstaking process of allowing fresh jasmine buds to bloom directly in the company of tea leaves, a brew made with jasmine buds and tea leaves won’t be as aromatic. Trust me, I experimented.
I bought dried jasmine buds and green tea leaves separately, took a teaspoonful of each and dumped them into a mug. I poured in hot water and waited. The buds did not open, naturally. And the resulting drink tasted like green tea with hardly any of the fragrance of jasmine flowers.
Jasmine tea buying guide
When buying jasmine tea, smell it first before buying. Smell the tea before AND after brewing. The floral scent should be highly pronounced. If the fragrance of jasmine is faint, it’s not high grade jasmine tea.