Sourcing Practices Tea301

Everything about jasmine tea

It’s another year jasmine flowers open again, except from how to make the tea, where the tea made is important too. Furthermore we dive deeper to discover why tea made in specific area is better and cheaper than others. So you will hear the history of the plant, the people, the craft and a glance of how China economy grow.

There are many articles available online about history of Jasmine tea if you Google, then why another post? The simple answer is I want to offer something that is useful for importers’ tea purchasing decision, so consumers can have more chance to buy good quality tea.

Besides although jasmine tea is a common table product, still there are some tricks you should know.

Where is the jasmine tea factory?

Growing RegionRateOutput
Heng County of Guangxi75%96000tons
Fuzhou city of Fujian8.6%11000tons
Qianwei County of Sichuan10.9%14000tons
Yuanjiang county of Yunnan5.5%7000tons
Originated from the China Tea Marketing Association in 2021

In 2019 the highest average price comes from Fuzhou which is 29USD/KG, the second is 17USD/KG from Qianwei, the third is 16USD/KG from Heng County and the last is 13USD/KG from Yuanjiang.

You may ask why the price has so huge difference? Aren’t they all jasmine tea? Are the reasons behind associated has affection to our purchasing? Let’s hit the fun part.

Industry SWOT analysis

SWOT (strengths, weaknesses, opportunities, and threats) analysis is a framework used to evaluate a company’s competitive position and to develop strategic planning. I am not going to present a long PPT but just borrow this word to spread some ideas.

Fuzhoubest tea base and scenting crafthigh costthe answer for top jasmine tea
Heng Countycheapest jasmine flower and mature industry systemin short of good tea basemost buying should come here
Qianweiunique aroma and good quality flowerindustry is small and decentralizedcome for something not so common if time and money is not the thing
Yuanjianglowest costeverything is not maturethe heaven for the real professional  

The real professional here means you have the following skills:

  • Tea base processing
  • Understand the difference among Steaming, Pan Frying and Roasting
  • Raw leaf material from different regions, different varietals
  • Tea scenting
  • Difference between different jasmine
  • Rational use of other flowers to decrease cost
  • Good communication with local people

That’s too much? Sorry it could be longer but I didn’t list them all, for example if the incoming flowers contain many immature buds and it’s raining outside, what would you do? 

Fuzhou is the greatest ambassador of jasmine tea

All what you have seen now means something.

If we think of Fuzhou as a basketball player, it could be Kevin Durant of NBA who knows every offensive skill, scoring is not a problem at all. Fuzhou can conquer your taste without a hesitation, this ability comes from the Gene and long time experience.

Among all interesting Globally Important Agricultural Heritage Systems of FAO, you will find there is one about tea, that is Jasmine and Tea Culture Systems of Fuzhou City, how Fuzhou have so beautiful jasmine tea?

The start of flower tea scenting

Tea leaf is started as medicine, then food and lastly drink, so in 2000 years ago it’s reasonable to _eat_ tea along with other plants, but that’s just mixing, then after several hundred years, people started to drink this mixing, the most famous mixing record comes from Tea Classic written by Luyu in 758 BD.

Seems people enjoyed this mixing drink very much, they even added the dragon brain which is a plant spice called Borneol into the tea. The first one recorded complained this mixing is Cai Xiang in his famous book Cha Lu in 1049 BC. From this book we can see the spice was added in the process of tea manufacturing, that’s a big improvement compare to mix with finished tea.

The real tea scenting documented from a book written by Zhao Xihu in 1240, he described the process with step to step details but took Lotus as example:

Before sun arises, open the half open flower, put some tea into the stamen then bind up with hemp skin and let it be over night. Remember don’t pluck it but do it lively. Pour tea out next morning and roast it with paper wrapped. Repeat this process and finally show out a more than beautiful tea.

— 赵希鹄《调燮类编》

Lotus tea, this is really a beautiful name, also it can be done with Sweet clover, Riley, rose, rose mold, LAN Hui, bucket flower, stick, wood fragrance, plum blossom etc, also he presented how to scent with these flowers in porcelain jar:

By weight three teas one flower, one layer of tea covered by one layer of flower till fulfill the jar then seal it by paper and steam it in pot, after some time take out the tea,  wrap it up again after cool down and make it drying by roasting.

— 赵希鹄《调燮类编》

That’s 781 years ago, they already knew how to do flower tea scenting but this kind of activity is for private use not a commodity trading in the market, but academically we can say jasmine tea has a history that is over 781 years. 

New era of flower tea scenting

In Song Dynasty people has more experience with tea scenting, racing to the next Dynasty Ming, everything has a big leap, loose tea became the main trend (the emperor stopped compressed tea but loose tea instead), flower tea scenting skill also had big development. The famous tea book written by Money Spring Year in 1539 had very detailed description. In 1613 Xu Bo talked about Jasmine tea scenting in Fujian, that’s the earliest record about how Fujian people did jasmine tea scenting.

The next Dynasty follows Ming is Qing, between 1851 to 1861, jasmine tea had become a common commodity that has mass production. Around 1890 the tea were shipped to Fuzhou for scenting from around the country, Fuzhou was the center of jasmine tea production. 

Processing craft of jasmine tea scenting

Firstly let’s clarify an important term about tea scenting, what is three Yin with one Ti?

As you know tea scenting is a repetition of several processing steps, every round include a final step Roasting to remove moisture, this whole around is called a Yin.

Three Yin means three times repetition of scenting.

After that normally imply with a Yin but without roasting, and flower used need to be higher grade, this kind of final scenting is called Ti or Fly. Without roasting, the freshness can be reserved.

So Three Yin and one Ti is equal to 3 Scenting 1 Fly.

The full scenting map is:

  1. Preparing tea base
  2. Serving flower buds for blooming
  3. Mixing tea with flowers
  4. Opening the mixed pile once over 48°C
  5. Removing flowers when scenting finished
  6. Roasting tea to remove moisture
  7. Repeating step 3 to step 6 for whatever times you want
  8. Freshing it by repeating step 3 to step 5, this is Ti
  9. Packing

Question Time

How much time takes for this 3 scenting 1 fly?

The answer is 15 days, how could it takes so long? Let’s disassemble it and see what’s going on. 

  • Roasting and cool down: 2~3 days
  • First scenting: 1 day
  • Roasting and cool down: 2~3 days
  • Second scenting: 1 day
  • Roasting and cool down: 2~3 days
  • Third scenting: 1 day
  • Roasting and cool down: 2~3 days
  • One fly: 1 day
  • Packing

If something bad like raining happen, the process needs to wait, so time cost could be longer.

Jasmine Varietals

In China, jasmine flower for tea scenting use is divided into three classes:

  • Simple flower jasmine
  • Double flowers jasmine
  • Multiple flowers jasmine

All above types belongs to Jasminum Sambac, there are over 200 species in the world, this Jasmium Sambac is the most widely used for tea scenting and also national flower of Philippines and Indonesia.

You may heard Pakistan’s national flower is jasmine too, you are right but this jasmine is not Jasminum Sambac, it is Jasminum officinale forma grandiflorum which is widely used as the material converted into Jasmine Concrete and Jasmine Oleoresin.

Back to Jasminum Sambac (jasmine in short), double flowers jasmine is the most widely used in China for tea scenting, it’s imported from Guangzhou in 1963, now it has many variants too, a famous one is Jin Jian Moli in Qianwei county. Heng County plants this double flowers jasmine only, over 95% is this type too in Fuzhou.

Fuzhou also has another uniqiue varietal called Fuzhou Varietal which is Simple Flower Jasmine, the aroma is not so strong compare to Double Flowers Jasmine, output is smaller too, also plantation management is much more difficult, BUT, but, this Simple Flower Jasmine has very quiet yet long lasting aroma, so normally for scenting high class tea, this Simple Flower Jasmine is used for the Fly while use Doulbe Flowers Jasmine for Yin.

This Simple Flower Jasmine also has another important varietal called Formosa varietal which was imported from Fuzhou in 1882, with the Taiwan soil it turned into something different from its ancestor, then in 1930 Mr. Chen Daokui brought it to its home Fuzhou, then slowly it changed to something different from Taiwan varietal too and become the what we called Fuzhou varietal.

In 1884 Sichuan started to introduce Jasmine plant from Fuzhou, 1938 Suzhou also introduced this plant from Fuzhou.

Then how about Multiple Flowers Jasmine? Its aroma is too weak, not valuable for tea scenting. 

Heng county jasmine tea industry

First thing first, as Heng county is the biggest chance your jasmine tea come from, let me show you how to find the factories. You can find most jasmine tea suppliers in the South East Tea Town, almost all factories have a shop there, here are some details:

  • Name: South East Tea Town
  • Address: No.133 Zhong Shan Middle Rd., Hengzhou town, Nanning city, Guangxi Province
  • Post Code: 530399
  • GPS: 22.69518, 109.27948
  • Google Map: Location Link

Also there is a trading market for Jasmine flowers where is neighbor to above tea town, all farmers come here with their jasmine flowers in bag to seek a buyer while all factories have a spot here for flower buying, here are the details:

  • Name: Hengxian Jasmine Market
  • Address: No.47 Longshou Rd., Chengbei District, Hengzhou county, Nanning city, Guangxi Province
  • Post Code: 530399
  • GPS: 22.69592, 109.27525
  • Google Map: Location Link

So how to visit here? You can come by air or high speed train. Nanning Wuxu Int’ Airport (IATA: NNG; ICAO: ZGNN), from here it would take about two hours drive to the tea town, 154 Kilometers.

The High Speed Train Station of Heng county is under construction that will be ready in about 2026, so now the train station available is Nanning Train Station.

Heng County has jasmine history back to 400 BC but the start of jasmine tea scenting began from 1960s, at that time there was a govrenment controlled factory called Hengxian Tea Factory, they imported the scenting skills and plant from Fuzhou, after 1978 especially the Reform and Opening of Economic, the local government decided to focus on jasmine, in 2000 Heng county was rewarded as the Home of China Jasmine. The local industrial standard is also established for Jasmine Tea and Jasmine Tea Scenting Technical Regulations.

Question Time

Can we just scent ONE kilogram tea? Any difference?

The good news is you can, even do it in your home as private hobby.

Back to factory, huge difference will appear given scenting 1kg and 1000kg, or let’s be more serious, 100kg and 1000kg. Different machine will be used, 100kg is a small quantity, so closed box alike roaster is used while open chain conveyor roaster is used for 1000kg. In closed roaster, the mixture can not go out freely, so the final aroma is repressive, you will get it if try our experimental tea.

Arising Star – Black tea Jasmine

All around the world when we talk about Jasmine tea we take Jasmine Green tea as an assumption, because Green tea especially the one uses Roasting as Drying method, it has the best flower aroma absorption ability and its character of clean and smooth has good coordination with jasmine aroma. 

The Fujian Tea Research Center also invented a series of new varietals that not only has right quality for jasmine tea scenting but also has very good output, it’s the hybrid of Yunnan Big Leaf with Fuding Big White.

All these sounds nice but there is one problem trouble me all the time, that is the storage, it needs a big icebox to store this green tea stock, not just about the cost also about the quality change worries in transit especially for high end tea. So why not use black tea instead of green tea? 

Previous experience shows out black tea doesn’t have good flower aroma absorption ability, that’s the reason. I dig more and found a way to increase the absorption ability much, to this end, we need to break the old rule on how to make black tea, we call the new one as Dancing Rule, here Oolong varietal is used as raw material, Leaf Dancing craft is used, also the tea fermentation level is adjusted too. This saves cost, saves worries and bring much enjoyment.

The best jasmine flower for tea scenting

We hold these truths to be self-evident: that all men are created equal; that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable rights; that among these are life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness.

Thomas Jefferson

The truth of the real world is that not everyone born equally, we need to fight for it. In the jasmine flower world, they are not equal too from the perspective of a tea maker. So next question is which one is the best?

According to the Chinese traditional culture, the world is fulfilled with two forces – Yin and Yang which varies into six Qi in whole year, each Qi controls two months.

Scientifically speaking, perfume essential oil comes most from the highest temperature which is summer, between May to July, these time belongs to the Qi 少阳相火(Shang Yang Xiang Huo), the main character of this Qi is hot along with damp, short word is, at this time the jasmine flower could be very aromatic but humidity is also very high which harm the aroma absorption by teas while decrease the shelf life a lot too.

So we pick the end of summer and early autumn, that is July 25 – September 5, hot yet dry.

The origin of China Jasmine flower

If you have a Google then you will find many articles claim the jasmine plant in China can date back to Han dynasty (206 BC to 220 AD) that was introduced to the nation from south east Asia via India. This conclusion is based on one book written by Ji Han in 304 AD, in this book Ji Han talked about Jasmine tea and confirmed it’s immigrated from other country to Guangzhou, but many of them ignored Ji Han also quoted a sentence as evidence of his saying, this quotation comes from a book called A Journey to South Yue written by Lu Jia, Lu Jia is the founding hero of Han Dynasty, here is the original saying from his book:

This book is full of beautiful and romantic description, thanks to him we still have the memory of such gorgeous place. Actually Lu Jia went there not for a vacation, he had a mission from his new emperor, to persuade the King of South Yueto surrender, that’s not an easy job, instead he had big possibility to be killed. South Yue is not a civilized region, they are irritable and impulsive, also there is a fact, South Yue is far away from the center China, many big rivers and mountains make it doesn’t easy to be conquered, so the King of South Yue can just rage on the hearing of Lu Jia and throw him out for the crocodile.

And Lu Jia knew that although no double he was very the talented man, so when he came across a mountain he made a wish, “if I can return with success, I will ware this mountain with brocade.” At that time brocade was bright and very beautiful cloth. He went into the South Yue and finally met with Zhao Tuo, the King of South Yue after three months waiting. Zhao Tuo asked a question, “how do I compare to your king?” That’s a very challenging question, Lu Jia successfully persuaded Zhao Tuo who even built a palace for him.

It’s time to get back, on the way to that mountain, Lu Jia remembered his wish, he wanted to do it but the mountain is too big and it seems impossible to have enough brocade, suddenly his genius brain got an idea, “plant flowers and cover it wholly.” Still today there is a tablet standing on the mountain telling this story.