Are flo­ral in­fu­sions your cup of tea?

China Daily European Weekly - - Front Page - By PAULINE D LOH paulined@chi­nadaily.com.cn wu­long

Keep­ing cool in sum­mer is a full-time job — and there’s no bet­ter way to beat the heat than with a jug of iced tea, full of tin­kling ice cubes. Only in China, that dewy glass of cool brew may be made with a vast va­ri­ety of flow­ers and leaves.

The eas­i­est drinks are made from jas­mine­in­fused wu­long tea leaves, or longjing tea, har­vested in early spring be­fore Qing­ming, Tomb Sweep­ing Day. These are in­stant cool­ers, whether drunk hot or cold. Green or semi-fer­mented teas are the best thirst-quenchers, and the stronger fla­vors of aged, fer­mented teas such as pu’er are best re­served for cooler weather in au­tumn and win­ter. Be­sides the Bei­jing fa­vorite, huacha or jas­mine tea, there is also a se­lec­tion of fruit- and flower-in­fused teas to choose from. A sum­mer fa­vorite is the beau­ti­fully el­e­gant gui­hua wu­long, scented with dried os­man­thus flow­ers.

There is also tea that is brewed with pieces of dried peach, or roselle, the hi­bis­cus fruit. These tangy teas are re­fresh­ing and fla­vor­ful and of­ten drunk sweet­ened with honey.

But the stars of these sum­mer drinks have to be the flower in­fu­sions, and the best comes from Yun­nan prov­ince, the gar­den of China.

Hon­ey­suckle, marigold, globe amaranth, chrysan­the­mums, jas­mine, roses, magnolia, lilies, nar­cis­sus, lo­tus buds, laven­der, os­man­thus are all part of the great bou­quet of fla­vors.

Flower in­fu­sions have many med­i­cal ben­e­fits and this is where the wis­dom of tra­di­tional Chi­nese medicine can be tapped. In­di­vid­ual flow­ers have dif­fer­ent heal­ing prop­er­ties, and by com­bin­ing sev­eral, your long cool drink can be tailored to your health needs.

For ex­am­ple, hon­ey­suckle and chrysan­the­mum are an­ti­sep­tic and an­tibac­te­rial, so they are good for those sus­cep­ti­ble to sum­mer snif­fles. The flow­ers are added to green tea and may be spiced up with a stick of cin­na­mon. The overly “cool” prop­erty of the raw tea is neu­tral­ized by the warmth of the spice and TCM also rec­om­mends raw su­gars like cane su­gar or rock su­gar, or honey.

Some flo­ral teas have pim­ple-clear­ing prop­er­ties.

Roses, globe amaranth, nar­cis­sus and jas­mine are all re­put­edly used in detox con­coc­tions and great for those who care about skin health.

Wu­long tea leaves form a bet­ter base for these flow­ers as the semi-fer­mented tea has its own fra­grance to add to the flo­ral scents. It is also more suit­able for ladies with weaker con­sti­tu­tions.

For those al­ready suf­fer­ing from an out­break of acne, lo­tus seed shoots added to chrysan­the­mum tea is a use­ful cleans­ing com­bi­na­tion. The in­tensely bit­ter brew is a tra­di­tional cure for pim­ples, and if the tea doesn’t cure you, the bit­ter­ness will at least in­duce a good sweat.

Sum­mer ul­cers in the mouth of­ten plague the hot-blooded, and a cool­ing in­fu­sion of mint leaves, green tea and hon­ey­suckle is rec­om­mended.

The com­bi­na­tions are end­less once you mas­ter the ba­sic prin­ci­ples.

There are many ready-packed flower teas on the mar­ket, but you shouldn’t buy more than you can drink. Flower teas tend to lose their scent over time, since most are or­gan­i­cally dried and have no preser­va­tives.

It is bet­ter to buy small quan­ti­ties and make up your own, mix­ing and match­ing tea and flow­ers.

There are beau­ti­ful glass tea sets es­pe­cially made for flower teas. Of­ten, they may also come with a lit­tle spirit burner.

The lit­tle glass teacups are in­su­lated with a dou­ble layer so you can drink your teas pip­ing hot and ad­mire the in­gre­di­ents at the same time. The lit­tle rit­ual in­volves adding the flow­ers, herbs and tea leaves to the boil­ing wa­ter and al­low­ing it to sim­mer. Then the tea is poured into a “fra­grance cup”, a lit­tle glass jug that comes with the set.

The fin­ished brew is then served in lit­tle glass bowls. This process al­lows the tea to be en­joyed with­out the stray petals and leaves get­ting in the way.

Of course, you need to have ei­ther green or

tea at hand. These tea leaves can be kept in tightly lid­ded con­tain­ers and used when nec­es­sary. Just re­mem­ber that these are more per­ish­able than the fer­mented teas and will lose their fra­grance over time.

Or­ganic dried flow­ers for the flo­ral teas are avail­able on­line, and there is a great va­ri­ety to choose from. Herbs such as mint, rose­mary, thyme and dried fruits such as wolf­ber­ries, ju­jubes and dried hawthorn are very fla­vor­ful.

The process of brew­ing a pot of flower tea can be very re­lax­ing, es­pe­cially on a leisurely sum­mer week­end. You may have a stash of ice avail­able to make a long cool drink, but sip­ping a hot scented cup slowly also has its plea­sures.

PRO­VIDED TO CHINA DAILY

A cup of pretty flo­ral tea with jas­mine and roselle bloom­ing.

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