Yesterday, I asked the teashop for Pearl Jasmine, and the teashop said, essentially, you’ve been doing that for too long. They said, let us blow your mind. I consented to this prospective mind blowing. What did they have? What could they be hiding? They had an enormous back room. I expected they could lead out an alpaca from the back into the shop or reveal to me that they were all part of a secret society that specialized in transcendental tea. That last possibility could probably be said of all tea shops. They brought me two canisters: black, matte finishes with the unmistakable packaging, and presented them. They were both Jasmine Green Teas: Silver Tip Jasmine and Jasmine Brocade. They specifically noted the last one, which they said turned into a flower, slowly, as you added water. I was amazed. I was leaving, and I made a plan to finish discovering these teas the following day.
I first tried Jasmine Brocade. It was something I had been preparing for for some time. I had heard of a flowering tea for a year. I expected that it would turn into a perfect lotus when my cup was filled with water. It actually resembled a strawberry, with the petals of the flower falling to the side. I was given another bud to get a different effect, but the general impression was made on me. It reminded me of an underwater firework, almost a novelty that distracted and colored my experience of the tea, and that was what was really interesting to me.
Each steeping of this particular tea created a slow rise of taste strength over a period of infusions, peaking at about four infusions, and then slightly decreasing in the later ones. It was something that was hard to consider. I was so impacted by the color of the bulb that I sensed that I tasted something like a raspberry, but the last really wasn’t there when I thought about it. The color and shape of the flower completely changed the sensation of the tea.
Color can alter our entire perception. I made sure to close the lid after the infusions, and on these infusions I really could taste it for the first time. It definitely had a sweetness to it, but the notes of the teashop said there would also be a sensation of sweet pea. That was definitely present, and made the rest of the tea make sense. The pear sensation, mitigated by a sense of the vegetal qualities, made for an interesting tea. It was a perfect combination of these two qualities that slowly interweaved to choose a dominant flavor. It was a pitched battle. Pear absolutely won out. The taste is a round bubble, light and made of air with the exception of a thin surface, like a sheet of invisible glass, with only reflections describing its dimensions.
Even though flowering teas are common, it was the first one I ever had, and I approached it with awe. It felt really special, but when I tried it out, it felt really ordinary. I wonder if there is a way to preserve our feelings of wonder for the natural world when we see something every day. I left the teashop for a bit and saw so many scenes of flowers, growing in the wild urban environment, and coloring the yards of the 1950s houses of West Berkeley. We see flowers like this every day. Does it matter? Could I approach every flower I see on my way home and treat it with awe and reverence? I hope so. Even these simple gestures of care for a garden or flower are a powerful way people interact with their environments. Even in our urban space, we have cactuses that we love with small flowers. Are they no less special because they are not in a cup?