Jasmine Snowdrift, a beautiful exception

by Lydia Kung

If the temperatures at the jasmine gardens in China were anything like what the western part of the U.S. experienced at the end of August, then lots of flowers should have been about to bloom. By the end of September, jasmine tea making will come to an end until next summer.

Jasmine Pearls (green tea base) at all price levels have arrived, and our prices for conventional and EU standards have dropped by $2/lb.

Staying on the fancier side of this scented green tea, I’ve written extensively about the removal of spent blossoms after they scent green tea leaves, a step that means we see more dried flowers in lower grades of jasmine, and only a few petals remaining in the higher grades of jasmine teas.

Here is one beautiful exception to the general processing method: a lacy-looking tea to which (fresh) jasmine blossoms were added after scenting — Jasmine Snowdrift.

The Chinese name (Bi Tan Piao Xue) evokes an image of snowflakes drifting over a jade-like pool. For a tea produced in summer, the name seems a stretch, but one look at the tea and we can appreciate the poetic imagery intended.

This Jasmine is closely associated with Sichuan province, and the gardens are about two hours from the city of Yibin, where an agricultural university has a distinguished tea department.

As the photo shows, the tea base itself is comprised of high quality tips. The tea is scented four times with the following cycle:

  • flowers are added to the green tea, with a 1:1 ratio
  • the combined leaves and blossoms rest for 8-10 hours;
  • the flowers are removed;
  • the tea leaves are dried.

After the 4th round of scenting, fresh flowers are added, but fewer in quantity than that used in scenting, and this time, the flowers – which are in better shape because they were not actively blended –are left among the tea leaves.

The resulting cup carries a fresh jasmine bouquet, not the sort of “powdery” scent that one would associate with potpourri. Given the tippy character of the tea, the cup is a golden brew, and the high jasmine aroma does not overpower, but definitely gives the tea a lift.

There are high priced leaf jasmine teas from other provinces (Fujian and Hunan, for instance) but this very distinctive looking Snowdrift Jasmine is found only from the Yibin area in Sichuan. Once seen, the tea is memorable for its sheer delicacy. One has to wonder if the original intent was to include not just a remnant, but a pretty mark of the ingredient that went into making such a popular tea. The ornamental component is a reminder of the spent blossoms, now gone from view.