Monday, July 2, 2007

New Article: Flowering Tea

I just got back from a long weekend in Maine, so this is a bit of a late post! Maine was wonderful (green everywhere, a puffin-watching tour, ocean breezes, lots of tea-drinking . . . incredible), so it's worth the late work tonight!

Anyway, on to the point . . .

I get a lot of questions about flowering tea. For my own edification (and yours!) I decided to do some extra research on the topic and write an article about it. It covers their mythology, how they are made, how to brew them, and some sources for buying flowering teas. Here's an excerpt:

Hand-sewn teas are, well, hand-sewn. There’s much more to it than that, though. They are most commonly produced in the Yunnan province of China near the borders of Vietnam and Laos. Green flowering teas are the norm, but other types of tea can be used. The leaves may or may not be scented with jasmine or other flowers before they are sewn. Like the reeds and wood of basketry, the leaves for flowering teas must be kept damp when they are shaped. They are laid flat, and then sewn with cotton thread to form various shapes. The sewing and shaping may take as little as one minute or as long as ten minutes, depending on the complexity of the design. Sometimes, flowers such as jasmine, globe amaranth, chrysanthemum, marigold, carnation, or rose are placed inside so that when the tea unfurls, it reveals a hidden, colorful bouquet. Occasionally, there are flowers that are visible on the exterior of the flowering tea, though this is usually just with simple shapes, like spheres. Ah, this brings us to another topic: the shapes. The most common shapes are peaches (often called “peach ball,” and said to signify longevity) and spheres. Less common shapes include mushrooms, cones, cylinders with rounded ends, eggs, hearts, and various abnormal forms. After the teas are sewn, they are dried in their new shape and sold either individually or in packages at upwards of $1 each (and often more).

After all the work that is put into flowering teas, you’d thing that brewing them requires great skill. Don’t worry--brewing flowering teas is incredibly easy. All you need is a glass teapot, large clear cup, or pale, shallow bowl and some good brewing water at the right brewing temperature. (Since the leaves are tied together, you don’t even need a strainer. I find these teas are great for people who are transitioning from bottled or bagged tea and don’t mind the price point, but are very concerned about ease of brewing.) Flowering teas tend to be mild, so you can brew them over a longer period of time (like a meal) without worrying about them becoming too astringent. Most of them can withstand multiple infusions (often 5, sometimes up to 15). This means that flowering teas can be displayed over the course of the tea-drinking and refilled with additional warm water as they are used up. (In other words, it’s a natural conversation piece.)

Read more about flowering tea on Vee Tea.

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