flowering teas

Tea Drop

Flowering tea is called gong yi hua cha that literally translates to “art flower tea” and are hand tied by tea artisans in China. They are made from the tea buds that are hand tied around one or more flowers. The tightly wound bundle of tea leaves unfurls when steeped in hot water to unfurl or “bloom” into a unique visual display revealing a deftly arranged  bouquet of flowers that rise from the opened tea ball. Sometimes, the flowering tea contains no flowers and opens to reveal carefully tied leaves that are lovely to watch unfurl into the shape of a blooming flower.

Flowering teas have a controversial history. The one fact everyone can agree upon is that they originated in the mountainous region of China in the Yunnan province. Some historians believe that these hand tied tea bundles first appeared in the Song Dynasty (960-1279) through literature. Proof is offered through literary references and pictures depicting flowering teas. This supports claims of hand shaping tea leaves into artful forms hundreds of years ago. Mentioned are display teas that were hand crafted for the Emperor’s amusement. The tea was for visual pleasure only; since it was made from inferior leaves and would be bitter if drank.  Others consider flowering teas to have made their debut in the mid-1980’s and have only become popular since the early 2000’s.  As the hand tied artisan teas began to be made from higher grade tea leaves their popularity has grown. Most flowering teas enjoyed today are recent creations made to produce an exotic tea experience that incorporate the senses for visual, aroma and taste.

These special hand crafted teas can be made from black, green, white or oolong tea. The leaves and buds are picked early morning when still wet with dew. tied together with the foresight of how they will burst forth from the tea ball. Eatable flowers such as chrysanthemum, lily, carnation, hibiscus, marigold, rose, globe amaranth, jasmine and others are surrounded by the tea leaves. The flattened leaves are tied around the flowers with cotton thread in the form of the desired shape of a globe, rosette, mushroom, cone, heart, peach, lantern or any other shape the artisan desires. Once completed, the tea is steamed or dried in the sun if green or white leaves are used. If the display tea is made from black leaves they are dried and oxidized. Making these special teas can take all day to complete.

Weeping Rose Display Tea
To truly enjoy all these special flowering teas have to offer, steep the ball in a glass teapot. This allows a full view of the bouquet bursting forth from the tea leaves encasing them. For safety, do not use a large wine glass, since this type of glass is not tempered and can shatter if hot water is poured into it. Most tea balls make 2-3 cups of tea. To brew, simple fill a teapot with 3 cups of just under boiling water. You know it is ready if tiny bubbles are just starting to break the surface of the water. Drop the tea ball into the teapot. If water is poured over the tea ball, it may come apart some from the force of the water. The tea usually needs to steep about 10 minutes or until the ball has fully opened. This is usually not the way to brew tea, since water that is too hot or tea steeped longer than 3-5 minutes turns bitter. The process of making the artisan tea balls allows for the non traditional brewing of the tea.  Steeping the tea balls with extra hot water and for a longer period of time does not affect them since they usually have less pronounced flavor with a floral or vegetal taste. Flowering teas can also be brewed 2 or 3 times. Simply add more hot water to the pot and steep again.

After enjoying a pot of this floral tea, place the fully opened display of blooms in a clear bowl of cold water and enjoy as a centerpiece for several days. These flowering teas make beautiful tablescapes and party favors. To use as a center piece, brew the flowering tea till fully opened. Place the bouquet into a clear container of your choice and fill with cold water. For party favors, place the number of tea balls wanted into a draw string mesh bags that matches your party colors. Guests will enjoy brewing these at home, while remembering the nice time they had at the party.