Tea Scenting - Our team in Shanghai recently took a short trip to catch up with Jasmine Pearls producer Liu Guonqing in Fujian. Here’s a behind the scenes look at how this refreshing, fragrant tea is brought to life over two distinct seasons.
Our Jasmine Pearls are crafted under the watchful eye of tea maker Liu Guoqing and his team in Shekou Garden in Fujian, China. This south-easterly region is the authentic home of jasmine tea in China, with the seasonal climate, fertile soil and high mountain ranges making it the perfect place to produce some of the best examples of jasmine scented green tea.
The neatly arranged hedgerows of tea bushes are composed of the Fuding Da Bai Hao cultivar, a native type of tea bush which was cultivated for its large, flavourful buds. These buds and young leaves are hand-picked in the early spring when they’re at their sweetest to make the very best green tea.
After picking, the tea leaves are brought into the factory to begin processing. The first step is to carefully lay out the batches of leaves on bamboo mats to allow them to naturally wither. This step enables the moisture to begin evaporating and will help the tea leaves become supple enough to work with.
After withering, the tea is heated to stop any oxidation from occurring. This allows the buds to retain their silvery colour and locks in the natural green of the leaves. Heating the tea evenly and for the right amount of time will also ensure the correct flavour – lightly grassy, sweet and smooth. This is something only a master tea maker can do by feel and experience.
After being left to dry, the tea leaves are sorted. Any broken leaves or stems are removed to ensure a uniform leaf size and shape, before the delicate stage of rolling the leaves into pearls.
In small batches, each pearl is perfectly rolled by hand using an expert touch. The tea makers will take a small pinch of tea leaves and roll them carefully into a small ball shape, which is neatly tied in a piece of cotton to maintain its form. It’s a slow, labour-intensive process, but one that ensures the highest quality pearls of green tea.
Tea Scenting. After they are completely dry, the pearls are then left in storage until the summer when the jasmine season arrives. In early June, the pearls are unwrapped and laid with freshly picked jasmine buds which blossom and impart their natural fragrance into the tea leaves overnight. This process is repeated for five consecutive nights, with fresh flowers being laid over the tea each morning. This allows the leaves to soak up all the natural oils released by the flowers, giving them genuine long lasting flavour and aroma.
Finally head tea maker, Liu Guoqing, can taste test his fresh batch of long-awaited Jasmine Pearls in an equally traditional style – using a Chinese gaiwan (lidded bowl) to infuse the tea and a pitcher to serve the tea to guests.