With spring really coming along, flowers pushing up and birdsong in the air, I was in the mood for fresh floral teas this weekend.
What does floral mean in tea? It means big aromatics that blossom (pun intended!) on the palate and linger long after every sip. These can range from tropical orchid to deep rose and marigold, or sweet honey and vanilla, or even saffron. Florals are always some of the most interesting teas to taste because the intensity of aroma leads straight into texture, almost always playing up juicy qualities or creating a beautiful showcase of creamy velvety goodness.
If you are in the mood for some aroma-focused teas to ring in the springtime, here’s a roundup of my top picks.
The obvious choice - this is one of the finest jasmine teas I’ve ever tasted. I feels like it gets richer and more nuanced every year as the traditional jasmine scenting is dialed in. Too often, jasmine florals are paired with overly earthy green teas. Not so here! This is a rich buddy silver needle white tea from Yunnan, already creamy and leaning towards juicy strawberry on its own. The addition of jasmine through traditional scenting makes it sing. This is a tea you can resteep all day, and it never gives up the jasmine flavor. It feels like dessert in a gaiwan, and smells like the tropics. We have trouble keeping this in stock, but we just got in a few dozen more bags.
You may have seen Master Zhang’s newest beautiful dark roast Ruan Zhi and Rou Gui just released yesterday. While those are cooling, smoldering and tingling textural experiences, Master Zhang can also deliver perfectly sweet saffron-laden creamy juicy Tieguanyin. His Tieguanyin is what made him a community leader and continues to bring fame to Daping Village (along with Mao Xie). These florals are mouthwatering, and with Tieguanyin, half the fun is seeing how the tea evolves over each steeping. This autumn harvest balances florals with sweet green undertones - perfect to capture the early spring spirit.
This tea is decadence. If we are talking spring, this is full bloom in a conservatory, steamy and humid, tropical and enveloping. Qilan is all about orchid aromatics, and the labor-intensive yaoqing process and hand-firing are finely honed to bring out those florals. Qilan captures florals like a jasmine and sandalwood incense blend - deep and dark, yet luscious at the same time.
Mi Lan literally translates to “honey orchid” which sums up the experience of this tea quite well. This is juicy and tropical, but much brighter and sunnier than Qilan. It feels like being outside in early spring and catching that first scent of flowers in the wind, feeling the sun hit your face after a long winter. Huang Ruiguang’s incredibly labor-intensive finishing process locks in this nuance and depth, and winds it up to practically jump out of your gaiwan the moment it is in hot water.
That’s my floral celebration “to-brew” list.
If you’re ready for a little springtime flavor, we even have the jasmine in 250g bags if you want to stock up.
Explore this tasting journal's featured teas:
- 2022 Autumn TieguanyinTrue Tieguanyin varietal stands out for its deep lingering aftertaste, big texture, and the ability to steep out over many infusions. Master Zhang has honed his Tieguanyin cultivation techniques and finishing process over forty years of experimentation, earning the respect of the entire Daping area as a teacher and community leader. He utilizes organic farming techniques, encourages biodiversity, and advocates against wasteful irrigation to encourage healthy and deeply complex and nuanced tea. This modern green style Tieguanyin requires an intense turning and fluffing process in finishing that needs to be adapted on the spot depending on the weather and the aroma, requiring deep experience.
- 2021 Qilan
Qilan varieties is almost legendary for its deep luscious orchid notes and its subtle incense spice. The Li Family cultivates established 40+ year Qilan bushes on their rocky volcanic mountainside plot in the Wuyishan Ecological Preserve, letting the tea build complexity through biodiverse plantings, and carefully preserved natural forest cover. They hand-pick their Qilan and expertly bring out the florals through hand-crafting over a meticulous 12 hour turning and fluffing process called yaoqing. The careful and restrained roast on this Qilan really allows the florals to shine through, bolstered by the rocky minerality that the Li Family’s teas are famous for.
- 2022 Mi Lan Xiang Dancong
Huang Ruiguang's family Mi Lan Dancong is picked only once a year from single trees that are not pruned back to encourage deeper roots & more robust flavor, year after year. His mountain plot and decades of work in improving agriculture techniques for the region have earned Huang Ruiguang's Milan awards such as the recent 2015 Gold Medal at the Sixth Guangdong Tea Expo. Mi Lan varietal is set apart with its distinctive golden green leaf color in early spring & its luscious deep aromatics.