What Chemicals are in Chinese Scented Teas?

Chinese scented tea also includes flavored and smoked teas. Some Chinese scented tea is made with green tea, others with pouchong, oolong, white or black tea. In the case of one of the most well known Chinese scented teas, Jasmine tea, it depends on where it originates from as to which tea is used, either green or pouchong. In all cases, whatever tea that is used, the tea is first processed. Then the tea is scented.

Chinese tea

Examples of Chinese Scented Green Tea
(Also see Alphabetical Listing)

Jasmine, this tea is the most popular Chinese scented tea throughout the world. It was first created about 800 years ago during the Song Dynasty. Today it is chiefly from the counties surrounding Fuzhou in the Fujian Province. Taiwan is also known for its Jasmine tea. In Fujian Province, green tea is used, whereas in Taiwan, the lightly ‘fermented’ (14%) oolong tea, pouchong, is used for Jasmine tea. On the mainland, pouchong is referred to as ‘Green Oolong’.

The green tea is steamed and not pan-fired. The steamed leaves alone properly absorb scenting. The steaming is done in the Spring season when this early (“before the rains’) flush is plucked. The tea is stored until August and September, when the Jasmine flowers are at their height of fragrance and aroma. These flowers are used for the highest grades of Jasmine tea, of which there are seven grades. Flowers picked earlier, June and July, are not as fragrant and are used for making of the lesser grades. The flowers are either mixed with the, previously steamed, dried and stored, tea leaves or are placed adjacent to piles of tea leaves. Since Jasmine flowers open at night, the actual scenting process, is therefore, undertaken at night also.

 

The higher grades are exposed to more than one ‘batch’ of Jasmine flowers over a period of weeks, which really intensifies the flavor. The tea absorbs flavors from the fresh Jasmine blossoms and finally it is re-fired to dry it out, as it picks up moisture from the Jasmine flowers. NOTE – The spent flowers have no taste and if they are included in the tea, they are only present for a visual presentation. The higher grades of Jasmine tea do not even have flowers in them. The higher grades, though expensive, render a tea that is exquisite!

Dragon Phoenix Pearl, long glyph feng glyph huang glyph zhu glyph this is a ‘pearl tea’ because the leaves are rolled into balls or ‘pearls’. This Jasmine tea is exquisite! The scent, even upon opening its container, is wonderful, as is the flavor. A gentle, delicate tea that’s very soothing. I invite you to read my description below.

Mo Li Hua Cha, mo glyph li glyph hua glyph cha glyph “Jasmine Flower Tea”, Chun Feng “Spring Wind” is a special or extra-fancy grade of Jasmine tea. Yin Hao “Silver Down” and Chun Hao “Spring Down” are the highest grades of the seven numbered quality standards of Jasmine tea. There is also Heung Pin. “Grace Tea Before The Rain Jasmine” is an example of a Jasmine tea from Taiwan.

Examples of Chinese Scented Black Tea
(Also see Alphabetical Listing)

Jasmine Yunnan, black tea from Yunnan Province that is scented with jasmine.

Lapsang Souchong, this is scented and flavored with smoke during two different processing steps. Pine or cypress is used for fires over which the leaves are first withered after plucking. Briefly, the leaves are next panfired and rolled and covered and allowed to oxidize until fragrant. Then they are fired and rolled again and placed in baskets. The baskets are then hung over smoky pine fires to dry and absorb the smoke flavor. There is also a Tarry Souchong which is even smokier.

Smoky is the correct term to describe Lapsang Souchong! When preparing a pot of this tea, I have had comments along the lines of “Are you bar-b-qing, or cooking some smoked bacon?” I recommend this tea to anyone who likes pu-erh tea. Though they do not taste anything alike, they both have very distinctive flavors and aromas. In that regard they are related. Along the same lines, anyone who enjoys a good hardy Irish stout should enjoy this tea, both have a smoky, somewhat tarry taste. Lastly, anyone who is adventurous should try this tea, you will not be disappointed and you will, without doubt, receive comments from anyone else who is present.
This tea is a prime example of the confusion that exists in regards to tea nomenclature.

Lapsang; meaning and origin is stated as either completely unknown and without meaning, as Lapsang is not a Chinese word. Or Lapsang is a pronounced corruption of the Chinese word, Zhengshan, which has a translation of ‘ real or authentic’. Some tea dealers use the adjective Zhengshan, to denote that their tea is authentic Wuyi tea from the Wuyi Mountains in Fujian Province.

Souchong; meaning is stated as either part of a system for grading black tea according to leaf size, with Souchong being the leaf with the largest possible size. Or in contrast, according to All The Tea in China, “The Fukienese word souchong (xiao zhong) means “subvariety,” that is, a subvariety of the black teas from the Wuyi Mountains in Fujian. … Therefore, the authentic Wuyi (tea) vendors began calling their (tea) Zhengshan Souchong (Real Wuyi Subvariety).” In addition, “”Souchong” from siau-chung, means “subvariety” in Fujian dialect, probably in reference to oolong.”, from Tea Lover’s Companion. Yet, an 1883 reference, The Middle Kingdom, states that Souchong refers to a mode of packing.?.

Related Item

Though not a true tea, Yerba Mate, technically speaking an herbal infusion or a tisane, also has a ‘smoky’ taste / quality to it that reminds me of Lapsang Souchong. It is not as ‘smoky’, so perhaps for anyone who finds Lapsang Souchong too intense, and yet like the ‘smoky’ taste might try Yerba Mate as an alternative.

Lizhi Hong Cha, “Lychee Black Tea”, lychee is an evergreen plant with a citrus-like fruit, not a nut, that is very popular in southern China. It is the juice of the fruit that is used to impart to this tea a unique flavor.

Meigui Hong Cha, “Rose-scented Black Tea”, this tea uses black tea as a base tea. It is made with rose petals. Produced in several provinces, including Guangdong.

Earl Grey, this is a well known scented tea that has Chinese black tea as its base. This tea is scented with the oil of bergamot, which is obtained from the peel of a citrus fruit in the orange family. One source states that this pear-shaped fruit is called the Canton orange, Citrus aurantium. It is also referred to as Citrus bergamia and Citrus aurantium bergamia. Another, that it is obtained from a citrus that grows in the Mediterranean area. Actually, it is believed that the word ‘bergamot’ is a corruption of the Turkish ‘beg armudu’. The amount and quality of the oil that is used in any particular Earl Grey tea varies, therefore so does the taste. The oxidized tea is spread out on screens and then sprayed with the oil. One source also indicates that lavender is sometimes used instead of bergamot.?.

Examples of Other Scented Chinese Teas
(Also see Alphabetical Listing)

Daidai, scented with Canton orange, it has a rich, slightly smoky flavor.

Gardenia, often added to pouchong tea, as is Jasmine.

Guangxi Gui-Hua, Pouchong tea is usually scented with Gui-Hua (Osmanthus). Osmanthus is of the genus of trees that includes the olive. It is an evergreen shrub in China, Olea fragrans, noted for its fragrance. Varieties are also found in Japan, the Middle East, and the southern United States. Being somewhat similar to cinnamon, Osmanthus lends a somewhat sweet taste and a floral scent. Black tea can also be used.

Jasmine Yin Hao Silver Tip, a white tea scented with Jasmine.

Lanhsiang, chloranthus or Orchid, belonging to a small family of tropical herbs, shrubs, and trees, is used to scent green tea from Guangdong Province.

Melon Scented White, another white tea that is scented with melon.

Youtze, pomelo, a southeastern Asian tree producing large pear-shaped fruit similar to grapefruit but with a coarse, dry pulp.

Yu-Lan Hua Cha, “Magnolia Flower Tea”, has a strong taste.

Other Flowers, citrus, chamomile, clover, hibiscus, linden, saffron, yarrow.

Further Reading:

https://www.govtlab.gov.hk/english/glossary.htm
https://www.ftc.gov/news-events/press-releases/2017/04/ftc-requires-china-national-chemical-corporation-syngenta-ag
http://eng.sfda.gov.cn/
https://www.prospects.ac.uk/jobs-and-work-experience/working-abroad/work-in-china

Larry Hutchinson

Physics Student at UEA
I'm a researcher with a passion for the environment, and how science can help prevent climate change.

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