It is no secret that aroma contributes more to the “taste” experience of tea (and everything else) than taste itself. Today’s tea spotlight is dedicated to aroma in all its encompassing glory.
What makes aroma so interesting to me is how hard it is to recreate. Take the smell of fresh jasmine in the sun. You can break down a jasmine sample into a few dozen primary aromatics such as linalool and geraniol, but mixing those together again doesn’t capture the full complexity of the true jasmine.
Even essential oil distilled from fresh jasmine is transformed in the act of extraction, losing an element of itself. For a perfumer, being able to take the true, unadulterated experience of immersion in a garden of fresh jasmine and deliver that on-demand would be an unprecedented achievement.
Perhaps the problem with trying to bottle an experience in nature is that you are taking the experience out of nature. Aromas are beautiful because they happen in real places, in the warmth of the sun and against a canvas of nearly infinite other aromas in the air.
Jasmine tea offers a chance to capture the depth of true jasmine not in a bottle, but against the textural and aromatic backdrop of nature through the tea leaves themselves. Today, I am experiencing the trueness of jasmine against the canvas of both white tea and black tea. These teas inform what the jasmine evokes, just like walking through the same jasmine garden under the midday sun and under a cool moon.
First, I turn to Yunnan White Jasmine, a cascading perfumed mist, an aroma that seems to condense itself into texture, a reminder that jasmine isn’t just floral. Of course, there is vanilla, orchids, and tropical fruit, but there is also a cooling undertone, a camphor that heightens the intensity of every sip.
When I compare that to Yunnan Golden Jasmine, the florals are transformed by a deeper sweeter undertone. Vanilla and orchid edge towards rose, juicy tropical fruits come together to the specific deep dark quality of lychee, cooling notes are tempered by the oxidation of the black tea, moving to mouth-watering aftertaste.
Both teas are true portraits of jasmine in that they both reach beyond the jasmine itself and capture the sense of place, the feeling of experiencing a jasmine plant.
And they should – these are no “essential oil” scented teas. These are traditional jasmine teas, scented by allowing the tea to dry with fresh picked jasmine, absorbing the actual aroma of the plant, not the aroma of its distilled oil. These teas are labor intensive and difficult to make, but worth it for the joyous aromatic decadence they bring to the cup.
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