Flowering tea, say some, developed as recently as the 1980s in a Chinese province. Given the ancient history of tea, it would be truly remarkable to think that flowering tea (or blooming tea as it is also known) was such a recent innovation.
There are many claims to the creation blooming tea of this ‘artistic tea’ although hard facts and proof seem to be thin on the ground. This leaves a lot to the imagination and assumptions! There is no doubt though that artisans created flowering tea buds or balls, and that this craft originated in China – some say the Anhui Province, others say the Fujian Province. For most of us, it really does not matter where it was invented; suffice to say that it has become a strong export for China to the western world and as a result, we have a lovely choice of flowering tea products.
Artisans, skilled workers who produce items by hand, make the flowering tea buds. Loose green tea, together with loose white and black teas are combined with flowers tea and petals in unique styles to create flowering tea. Once the combination of teas is selected, the buds are hand sewn, covered with material, put in a kiln to dry out, packaged individually and then dispatched. As the process is labour intensive, the price of these buds is consequently relatively high.
Watching the first flowering tea is an amazingly satisfying experience. As the bloom emerges from a tight ball, to become something completely different and quite indistinguishable from that grey lump of tea, there is a sense of wonder that something like this can be created.
With immersion of around three minutes, the tea bud will be transformed into a blossom. Some buds will be more spectacular than others, varying from a lump of long green leaves, to incredible blossoms with wafting tentacles such as “Touching Dragons”. The names alone are enough to build much anticipation – “Jasmine Silvery Strawberry Ball”, “Double Lion Pearl”, “Seven Sons Congratulating”.
After the initial visual impact, it seems somewhat of an anti-climax to drink the tea. But that is exactly what the flowering tea is designed for. Again, there are varying levels of quality of tea. Some blossoms are made from quality white tea, but most are made from loose green tea. It is generally true that you get what you pay for. A cheap product is likely to be made of inferior products and may not have the desired pleasant taste – or any taste at all. Not all teas are borne equal!
A satisfying blooming tea is definitely a trial and error process, and even more so when the quality of tea is taken into account. But it is not hard to find fabulous flowering teas these days. Most tea stockists provide pictures so you can be assured of seeing a beautiful unfolding of handmade tea buds.