Popular Post abcdefg Posted December 30, 2016 at 08:38 AM Popular Post Report Share Posted December 30, 2016 at 08:38 AM I just returned to Kunming last weekend and experienced the same pleasant culture shock that happens every year: namely a series of "Look what I've been missing" moments, one right after the other. And one of the things I had been missing in the US during my annual visit was the easy availability of a hundred and one varieties of delicious flower tea. I'll take the liberty of calling these drinks tea, even though if one were to be strict about it, they are not made with leaves of the camellia sinensis plant and should technically be referred to as herbal infusions or tisanes. My favorite of all is Chrysanthemum 菊花茶。I particularly enjoy it in the evening when I don't want caffeine. Traditional Chinese medicine holds that it helps tired eyes and refreshes without causing nervous system stimulation. TCM also promotes it as cooling, but in a gentle way. The heat altering effect is not nearly as strong as the dark, bitter 凉茶 concoctions that are popular in Guangdong and Hong Kong. Here's what the two main kinds of chrysanthemum tea look like in their dried form. This first one is known as 胎菊 and you can see that it's made from unopened flowers. This second one looks nicer, and you can see that the flowers are dried after they already bloomed. It's known as 贡菊。The best of this comes from around Yellow Mountain 黄山 and was prized by various emperors down through the years, hence the name. Neither of these is expensive, between 10 and 20 Yuan for a small bag like these pictured above. I had the good fortune to run into a vendor who had large displays of these as well as ingredients for many other herbal concoctions, and she helped me understand the merits of the various types. The 胎菊花 brews up with a slightly stronger flavor and a somewhat deeper color than the 贡菊花。Here's what they look like when brewed. 贡菊花 on the left and 胎菊花 on the right. Use four to six blossoms, regardless of which type you prefer. Flavor is best if the water is a little below boiling, but it isn't critical and temperature doesn't need to be measured. You leave the flowers in the glass as you sip. Some people add a small piece or two of rock sugar 冰糖。 If you want to really dress up your glass of chrysanthemum tea, then add a few dried gouqi 枸杞 berries. They are fine in combination and balance each other in terms of altering internal heat. One cools while the other warms. Put in 6 or 8 for starters. They add a gentle fruity sweetness. The best ones come from Ningxia 宁夏，which is a province bordered on three sides by desert. Growers point to this as having an influence on their product. They are cultivated in large plantations, which supply most of the world. I got to pick some outside 银川 a couple years back and learned how they are graded, mainly according to size. The ones pictured here are 特级品 and they don't really cost all that much more. Known in English by the strange name "wolfberry" these pack lots of vitamins and trace nutrients. I've jokingly told one or two of my teachers when they asked what I was sipping in class, that I'm positive 枸杞 added to 菊花 improves the accuracy of my tones. Another one that tne the ladies like a lot is rose 玫瑰。It is said to improve the complexion. They are slightly tart and come in two main grades. The best ones, most aroma and most flavor, are made from unopened flowers. They are known as 金边玫瑰, golden-sided rose buds. Yunnan is a major producer of these, we are the rose capital of China. The little package of them shown here cost me 14 yuan. It will last 6 months. If you've bought good ones, when you open the package there should be immediate rose aroma. There is another variety, less expensive, made from buds that have partly opened. I don't have any of those to show you, because I tend to avoid them. They sort of fall apart in the glass. Rose, like gouqi, can be combined with chrysanthemum. Not sure you should put all three together, however. Again, use water that's just shy of boiling. Don't brew them and strain them out. Let them float while you enjoy the beverage. Although all of these have medicinal properties, I mostly drink them for pleasure. But here's one that I only break out when I have a cough or sore throat. 甘草 gancao. Admittedly, it's a root, not a flower. It is made from the woody root of a variety of the licorice plant. One can buy two main kinds of it, mainly according to the part of the root from which it is cut and the manner in which it is sliced, either straight across into discs or at an angle like these shown above. It has a distinctive taste, and some people claim it is habit forming if taken in large amounts. Personally, I'm not scared of gancao addiction and use it freely when needed. It can be combined with chrysanthemum. My herb tea drawer has 5 or 6 others, but these are the ones I use most often. They are easy to find if you are in China. Places to look are pharmacies 药店 and grocery stores 超市。 Even the Carrefour and WalMart in my part of town both have a great selection, probably 20 or 30 different flowers and similar dried items, which means that they are popular and in steady demand. The big Chinese pharmacy on the corner has 30 or 40 different kinds of dried flowers, dried fruits, berries and medicinal roots. They will even custom blend them to order and give you advice on their proper use. If you are shopping for these flower teas overseas or online, it's important to realize there is sometimes confusion between teas that are made entirely of flowers and others that are made from black tea or green tea just scented with flowers after the fact. Nothing wrong with those, of course, but they are not what we're talking about here. Even if you don't care to delve into their medicinal properties, consider a glass of flower tea in the evening when you are winding down and getting ready for bed. Soothing, tasty and mild. One of the glories of the Middle Kingdom. 7 Quote Link to comment Share on other sites More sharing options...
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