Blooming tea, also called flowering or artisan tea, is an ornamental type of tea made by tying a small bundle of tea leaves and flowers together with cotton thread into a ball. When steeped in water the bundle unfurls in a process like that of a flower coming into bloom. Jasmine flowers are the most common but globe amaranth, chrysanthemum, lily, hibiscus and osmanthus are also used. They are generally steeped in a glass vessel so that the process can be viewed and are a speciality of the Yunnan province of China where they are always hand made by specialist artisans.
History of Blooming Tea
The history of blooming tea is a little obscure. Some sources say it is a relatively recent invention, around 10-15 years old, coincidentally around the same time that they were marketed to countries outside of China. Other sources claim it is at least several hundred years old and can be proved by sources in Chinese literature. It is certain that “display teas” have been around in China for a long time. The tea loving emperors of the Song dynasty (960-1279) were known to have “bundles of tea leaves tied up with flowers for the emperor’s entertainment”, although these were not drunk, being usually of inferior quality tea, and only used for visual entertainment. What seems likely is that this art form was adapted for Western markets using higher quality teas and sold in a transparent glass or pot for consumption.
Types of Blooming Tea
Blooming teas are generally given poetic names that describe the way they unfold and the flowers used. There are many different types and no particular famous ones, as they are all artistic and unique in their own way. Names like “seven angels” to refer to a string of seven jasmine flowers that rise up in a line and “amaranth bouquet” for a large amaranth flower in the middle of a spread of tea leaves are common types of names for blooming teas.
Preparation of Blooming Teas
Blooming teas are generally prepared in a transparent vessel to better watch the opening of the flower, although sometimes they may be served in a cup and viewed only from the top. They are generally refilled with hot water several times until the tea begins to lose taste. The presence of the flowers makes them quite sweet and very aromatic so they can tolerate being steeped for a long time without becoming bitter.