Zhangyiyuan Jasmine (张一元花茶)

Name Zhāng yīyuán huāchá / 张一元花茶
English Zhangyiyuan Jasmine Tea
Region Brand in Beijing, Produced in Fujian
Manufacture Jasmine tea (~10% oxidization)
Style Budset and leaf, scented during manufacture only (flower petals are removed from the finished tea)
Flavor Smooth, sweet, soft
Aroma Clean, floral
Liquor Clear silver
Brewing Brew numerous short infusions at 75-80°C. The scenting will dissipate after the first infusion.

Jasmine tea is similar to green tea, but during the manufacturing process it is scented with fresh jasmine flowers. The spent flowers are typically removed, but if they do remain it is strictly for show as the flavoring process has already been completed. Historically, jasmine tea was a specialty of Fujian province (according to Wikipedia, the jasmine plant was brought to China from Persia before the third century) and is now the most popular tea in Northern China. Since there is a slight incompatibility in the natural timing of the tea harvest (in Spring) and the jasmine flowers (in Summer) it usually takes until the Fall until the fresh crop of jasmine tea reaches the market. As it is slightly oxidized, this tea can last up to 3 years.

As for the the Zhangyiyuan brand (website: http://www.zhangyiyuan.net/, shop: http://wcities.com/beijing/shopping/poi-zhang-yi-yuan-tea-leaf-shop-253717.html) it is another member of the Shanghai World Expo Top 10 Tea List. Founded in 1900 in Beijing by an Anhui tea trader (tea leaves were/are brought in from Fujian) it has evolved to become the most famous tea brand in Beijing.

Tea Tip – Scented Tea

Scented tea was traditionally a Chinese specialty prized by emperors from the Ming Dynasty (1368-1644) onward. This manufacturing style directly inspired other creative mixtures of tea with flowers, spices, oils and herbs throughout Asia and Europe. For example, in Morocco fresh mint is added to green tea, in India spices and milk are added to black tea to make Indian chai and in Britain the citrus oil bergamot is added to black tea to create Earl Grey.

Personally, I was looking forward to this tea because of its historical narrative and strong, fragrant smell. That said, after sampling this tea I found it somewhat “impure” with the frangrance of the flower masking the flavor of the tea. Moreover, I found I couldn’t drink more than 2 cups without feeling physically agitated – as one often does with coffee. I have read that jasmine tea is supposed to reduce anxiety so perhaps I have just sampled an inferior grade, but so far scented teas get a thumbs down from me on this Taobao Tea Trail.

More Information (from Baidu Baike):

Zhang Yiyuan Tea Company was founded by Zhang Changyi, a native of Anhui in Beijing in 1900. It is most renowned for its jasmine tea. Zhang Changyi first based his production in Fujian Province where he could source teas at cheap prices, giving his teas a competitive edge in Beijing, helping the tea company establish a prolific presence up to this day. He was also a pioneer in marketing, hiring Peking opera singers and stand-up comedians to perform in front of his stores. It never failed to draw huge crowds, which helped spread the brand awareness of the tea company.

As a tea trader in Beijing, Zhang Yiyuan had to adapt to local taste. Due to long transportation time, greens tea would lose its fresh flavor when it reached Beijing. Using flower to scent was a great way to make them taste more pleasant. Therefore, flower teas, especially jasmine tea became the default tea in Beijing. Zhang Yiyuan’s jasmine tea is known for its superior quality, using good green teas and jasmine flowers tied together by a painstaking production process. The dried tea leaves and the brewed liquid both smell as fresh as a blossoming bouquet.

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