Tea: Grading Jasmine Tea
Jasmine tea is the most popular flavored tea in the world. The first jasmine tea was produced in China and made from green tea. Today, however, jasmine flowers are used to scent teas from all over the world, in black, white, green and oolong varieties.
What makes jasmine tea so wonderful is its special blend of high quality loose tea leaves with jasmine petals. The jasmine petals impart a delicate yet very aromatic fragrance and a slightly sweet flavor to the tea.
Jasmine has been produced in China for at least 700 years. The original production of jasmine tea included plucking the jasmine blossoms just as they were beginning to open in the morning. Then the jasmine petals were kept cool until evening when they were added to the green tea leaves.
The jasmine petals were infused with the tea leaves at night because this is the time when the petals release their fragrance. The teas were infused with the jasmine petals multiple times to obtain just the right scent and flavor. Today, the process is more automated, but good quality jasmine tea still depends upon using the best loose tea and infusing it with just the right amount of jasmine blossom.
For the jasmine lover, there are many choices in tea. However, it can be difficult to spot a really good jasmine tea, because interpreting the way teas are graded can be difficult.
First, it’s important to understand that there are no international standards on grading tea. Each country uses their own system, and even different types of tea are graded differently. For example, green teas are not graded the same as white teas.
So, understanding how the jasmine tea you’re considering is graded really means understanding how the tea variety that the jasmine tea is made from is graded. Here are some examples to help make it easier to understand.
Black tea is graded primarily based on how it’s processed. So, while this will tell you the approximate percentage of whole leaves in your tea, and may tell you if it comes from an early or late plucking, it’s not the total picture when it comes to judging the quality of the tea.
Knowing where the tea was grown and how tea is harvested in this part of the world is important, too. In the US, the best black teas are considered whole leaf teas and are designated by the term Tippy Golden Flowery Orange Pekoe. You should avoid teas marked “dust” as these are typically the lowest grades of black tea.
Green tea is typically graded by the shape of the leaf in China. In other parts of the world, green tea is also usually graded by leaf shape, but different names are used to describe the leaf shapes. Within the leaf shapes, in both China and other countries, you’ll find grades that further break down the quality of the tea.
Oolong tea from China is graded in a simple manner that is easy to follow and understand. The best oolong tea is referred to as “Fanciest” or “Extra Fancy”, while the lowest grade of oolong tea is referred to as “Common”. Since most oolong tea is produced in China, it’s fairly simple to sort out a good oolong jasmine tea. However, if you buy an oolong tea from another country it could be graded in a totally different manner.
White tea’s grading is somewhat simpler, because when the tea leaves were plucked is not part of determining the quality. All white tea is from a first plucking, because there is only one plucking of white tea during each growing season. Therefore, choosing a quality white jasmine tea from China simply means choosing one of the two highest grades of white tea, Silver Needles or White Peony.
However, if you choose a white Ceylon jasmine tea or a white Darjeeling jasmine tea, the grading will be totally different.
To choose a good jasmine tea, begin by determining whether you want a white, green, black or oolong jasmine tea. If you’re new to drinking jasmine tea, it’s likely best to begin with a Chinese green jasmine tea, as this tea represents the true essence of the jasmine tea.
Once you’ve sorted out the variety of tea you’d like to try and the country of the tea’s origin, simply look for this tea from a quality tea store. If you can’t find the combination you’ve chosen at a good tea store, then it’s likely that very good qualities of this particular combination are difficult to find.
Keep looking until you find a combination that can be purchased from a reputable tea purveyor. This way you’re assured of the quality of the tea, even if the combination was not what you had originally planned.
It’s hard to go wrong with jasmine tea. The scent is soothing and light and the delicate sweetness complements any variety of tea. It’s no wonder that every country that produces tea makes this delightful beverage. The hard part is figuring out which jasmine tea you like best!