No cup of tea is perfect -- but with the right water, carefully selected tea leaves and just the right technique, the delicate flavor and full, floral fragrance of hot jasmine tea certainly feels like perfection. It takes time and care to make jasmine tea, which starts with green or Pouchong leaves infused with jasmine petals on cool nights. To achieve the height of tea sipping, take inspiration from the tea growers themselves and practice patience and deliberation when prepping your cup of jasmine.
Leafing Through Leaves
A cup of tea is only as good as its leaves. Whenever possible, stick with loose-leaf tea. Typically, tea bags contain broken leaves and leaf parts such as dust and fannings, which compromise the tea's essential oil content and fragrance. Broken leaves also release an overabundance of tannins, which increase the tea's bitterness and astringency. These are especially important considerations when brewing jasmine tea, as its flavor is light, its aroma is key and its green tea base makes it precariously easy to brew a bitter cup. On the other hand, loose-leaf tea features whole leaves, minimizing the aforementioned issues. Without the constraints of a tea bag, these leaves expand in hot water, making for a more robust taste and more even flavor diffusion.
The Wonders of Water
While the leaves give your cup of tea structure, think of water as your tea's foundation. Whether brewing jasmine, oolong or Irish breakfast tea, high-quality water makes for high-quality tea. Spring water is your best bet, with filtered water a close second. The water should be low in alkalinity and chlorine-free. Delicate jasmine tea requires a much lower water temperature than darker teas; the water should be about 160 to 180 degrees Fahrenheit. This gives you plenty of range to find the ideal temperature for your cup of tea -- remember, your own personal preferences factor into the definition of perfection.
In terms of proportion, about 1 teaspoon of loose-leaf jasmine tea per 6 ounces of water lends your cup of tea an ideal balance. Depending on the quality and intensity of the leaf and your own taste, you might experiment with a smaller or more heaping teaspoon. Bear in mind that bitterness often results from too much leaf. Whether steeped per-cup or by the pot, jasmine tea tastes best at about 2 to 4 minutes of steep time. Steep time, which determines the tea's flavor and aroma intensity, is also a matter a preference; start with 2 minutes and give the tea a taste. Taste the tea at 30-second intervals to find out the flavor profile that works best for your taste buds.
More to Brew On
If you can, avoid tap water when striving for jasmine perfection, as hard water or water with chlorine may bring out a bitter edge. If you don't have a thermometer on hand, look for what Chinese tea brewers refer to as "fish eyes" in boiling water. Fish eyes are the bubbles that appear after the initial tiny bubbles -- known as shrimp and crab eyes -- but before the "string of pearls," or the bubbles that break the surface. Fish eyes indicate a jasmine-friendly temperature range of 160 to 180 degrees Fahrenheit. If loose-leaf jasmine tea isn't available, whole-leaf tea sachets with a roomy shape and cloth mesh construction make for a comparable taste.