Teas with floral flavors are some of the most popular on the market, and dried flowers are often characterized as tea despite having no relation to the traditional Camellia sinensis tea plant. So it is easy to understand that teas described as “floral” bring to mind flowery tisanes or teas blended with dried blossoms, but many unblended teas have natural floral nuances with more depth than any blend can offer.
Floral notes are often found most distinctly in the aroma of a tea, since few people eat flowers as a basis for flavor comparison. Lightly oxidized oolongs like our Tung Ting, from Taiwan, are common examples of teas which are extremely floral with no additions of scent or flavoring. The key to creating this unique fragrance is in the crafting of the tea, when the leaves are gently bruised, rolled, and lightly roasted. Without enough bruising and oxidation, the tea will remain too close to a raw vegetal flavor, while too much will push the tea past floral into a more fruity flavor spectrum. The roasting process is also a careful balance, required to dry and finish the tea, but capable of transforming the dominant flavor from floral to nutty, as in our Monkey Picked Tieguanyin.
Oolong teas from the Phoenix Mountains in Guangdong are also well known for natural floral fragrances - our Xin Ren Xiang (Almond) is one example with a strong floral flavor component, fittingly akin to almond blossoms. These teas are bred selectively in order to create the distinctive flavors of each variety, but also depend on careful crafting methods.
Other styles of tea have more subtle floral notes in the cup. On either end of the oxidation spectrum, our Fuding Silver Needle and Formosa Red #18, Mi Xiang both have a distinct rose-like sweetness to the finish, though other flavor notes are more dominant on the front of the palate. What makes all of these floral characteristics compelling is the way they interact with other flavor nuances, avoiding the sometimes cloying sweetness of straightforward flowers and lingering in the back of the palate, building in intensity with each sip.
Of course, if upfront floral fragrances are what you’re after, naturally scented jasmine teas derive intense aromas from multiple rounds of scenting with fresh flowers, which are subsequently removed in high quality examples, leaving only their fragrant oils behind, absorbed by the dry tea leaves. This traditional scenting process is typically only performed using jasmine blossoms, however, so other strong fragrances without a visible source are usually artificial.
Unfortunately, the low cost of artificial scenting or flavoring makes it all too common as a technique to disguise the mediocre quality of mass-produced tea. A captivating aroma can easily sway buyers into believing that the flavor quality will also be intense, but with a base tea that has little in the way of texture or inherent flavor, added floral scents are often left feeling “weak” in flavor when brewed. In a similar way, dried flowers blended with tea leaves may have natural origins and make a tea look more beautiful while brewing, but add little flavor once the flowers have lost their fresh oils. When we do drink blended teas, we prefer to create them ourselves to verify the quality of both the base tea and the added ingredients.
What floral flavors do you love in your favorite teas? Let us know in the comments below!
Sign up for our newsletter to get blog updates in your inbox!