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A little about Chinese flower tea 花茶

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889

Don't flower teas have a bigger pesticide problem than leaf teas? Those flowers seem a lot more difficult to rinse thoroughly. Plus, rightly or wrongly, I somehow associate pesticides more with rose bushes than tea shrubs.

 

(I assume you weren't talking about this when mentioning that "all of these have medicinal properties . . . .")

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abcdefg
Don't flower teas have a bigger pesticide problem than leaf teas?

 

889 -- That's a though-provoking question and I must confess that I don't really have a solid answer. I've been told by vendors that they are safe, though I realize full well that's not a real strong assurance. What I've read is that flowers grown as food items are not blasted with pesticides like those being raised for ornamental purposes. They receive different styles of cultivation.

 

Roses are grown extensively a little south of Kunming (down towards Yuxi 玉溪). I've visited a couple of those huge rose farms and asked the same question about which you are wondering. The flowers are all grown in large plastic tents 塑料大棚 with walls which roll up partway in the middle hours of the day to admit warmth. At night they are rolled down for the sake of plant protection. No roses are grown in the open air. Food roses are grown in one part of the farm in their own tents, while ornamental roses are grown elsewhere.

 

This part of Yunnan, around Kunming, is nationally famous for rose cultivation. And lots are grown exclusively for food. Tons of rose petals are made into jam or incorporated into a signature rose petal pastry that's very popular here. Yet other roses are grown exclusively to be cold pressed or steam distilled into essential oil.

 

I don't have any first-hand experience with the small tea-sized "button" chrysanthemum flowers at their point of production, but they are a different sub-variety from the larger ones grown for decorative cut flowers. I'm told they are raised differently, without pesticides, but I cannot point to any scientific articles as evidence. The industry is not well regulated.

 

In China the sad truth is that one can never be absolutely sure about food safety, much like one cannot trust  the drinking water or even the air. And as a result, some expats I've met lead a very restricted life, subsisting mainly on imported can goods.  I've opted to take my chances after minimum prudent precautions. But then, bear in mind I am old; so cumulative effects are not of as much concern. If I were a lot younger and tasked with raising a family that included young children, I would probably pack up and leave. 

 

And as to brewing, I don't pre-wash any of these flowers. Unlike a strong Pu'er tea, they don't have enough flavor to survive an additional operation like that. I just put them in the glass and add hot water. Rightly or wrongly, that's how it's done here.

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abcdefg

Here's some about Yunnan edible roses, such as those used for cakes.

 

They are immensely popular here, and immensely delicious. Not too sweet, made with local honey and rose petals, lots of aroma and flavor. Quintessentially Yunnan.

 

Be sure to try them when next in the area. 玫瑰鲜花饼。The most famous maker in Kunming is 嘉华蛋糕店, a local chain with many outlets, but most other bakeries have their own house brand as well.

 

post-20301-0-49609200-1483145909_thumb.jpg

 

http://food.ndtv.com/food-drinks/rose-petal-cakes-a-big-hit-in-china-693732

 

Currently, Yunnan Jiahua Food has 200 hectares of land for growing edible roses. The plantations produce 1,200 tonnes of roses every year.

Wang Guiming, a 45-year-old farmer, has a rose plantation in Yunzhaotun village. He has been cultivating roses for about a decade.

"In recent years, the price of edible rose has rocketed as demand increases. I make about 50,000 yuan a year. If we planted other crops, I'll probably be making about 3,000. Almost every household in our village grows roses now," he said.
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889

Thanks for the information! I hadn't realized roses for tea were grown under special conditions.

 

China does have that Q-S mark on packaging that supposedly shows what's inside is safe, but when you buy tea ladled out of a bulk container you don't get that protection.

 

One thought is to buy export production, since products for export usually undergo testing. (And you have to wonder where the products that fail testing end up.) Plus, destinations like Hong Kong and Taiwan do their own testing.

 

http://www.cfs.gov.hk/english/whatsnew/whatsnew_fst/whatsnew_fst_Pesticides_Residues_in_Tea_Leaves_Floral_Tea.html

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abcdefg
One thought is to buy export production, since products for export usually undergo testing.

 

Yes, I suppose that would be a sensible precaution.

 

--------------------

 

Today when out and about, I passed by a small branch of the bakery mentioned above. 嘉华, English name Joy.

 

post-20301-0-53373200-1483176989_thumb.jpg   post-20301-0-50059400-1483177002_thumb.jpg

 

Bought two rose pastries 玫瑰鲜花饼 at 3.5 yuan each. The ones I got were fresh baked 鲜烤的, with a shelf life of only 5 to 7 days. My local Chinese friends all agree that these have the best flavor. Plus a tender flaky crust and a pleasant aroma when cut. A definite flavor of rose without being cloyingly sweet. Great with a glass of flower tea or warm milk.

 

post-20301-0-82868500-1483177020_thumb.jpg   post-20301-0-17410000-1483177034_thumb.jpg

 

post-20301-0-12143400-1483177066_thumb.jpg   post-20301-0-93865000-1483177051_thumb.jpg

 

Although these fresh ones taste best, they also make some that can be kept longer, packaged in gift boxes for special occasions.

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Michaelyus

Thanks abcdefg: that rose pastry looks amazing!

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abcdefg

You're welcome, Michaelyus. I enjoy them a lot. My ulterior motive in posting about them here is so forum members planning a trip to Kunming, even a brief one, can stroll into one of these bakeries and give them a try. They can thus discover something delicious and local that isn't mentioned in any of the standard guide books.

 

Most Chinese pastries are nothing special, but these rose cakes are a definite standout.

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Teasenz

Also noteworthy is the Snow Chrysanthemum tea 雪菊. They brew a more dark infusion and the flavour is more intense and caramel like. I still remember a few years ago there was this big spike in prices when this flower became a hype in China.

snow+chrysanthemum3.JPG

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abcdefg

Thanks, Teasenz. I was hoping you would arrive and contribute to this thread! I remember your great post last year about freezing flower tea into ice cubes to use during the hot months. 

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Alex_Hart

Nice post! Also quite fond of flower teas, especially in summer. My teacher in Sichuan always drank rose tea and she turned me onto it. My teacher here has a ginormous box full of different varieties of flowers and herbs which, when mixed by her, produces quite delicious teas. Sadly, mine ends up rather more muddled in flavor.

 

Will need to buy some of the rose teas when I'm in Yunnan!

 

EDIT: Wolfberries? I thought they were what we call goji berries?

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abcdefg

Glad to see you back, Alex_Hart.

 

Yes, wolfberries are one of the strange English names for gouqi 枸杞。

 

I know where to get good flower tea in Kunming. I was there today at noon. It's part of a wholesale flower market. The flower tea sellers are just a small part of it. I found some 昆仑山雪菊。Brewed up dark and flavorful. Will post photos tomorrow of how the liquor compares in color.

 

The herb tea shop was being blessed by a Buddhist nun when I was there. It was an unexpected bonus. Chanting, incense, and what looked to be a sprinkling of holy water. She even used one hand to bless the chrysanthemum flowers I was in the process of buying. 阿弥陀佛,阿弥陀佛。

 

post-20301-0-72475200-1483801810_thumb.jpg   post-20301-0-44828600-1483801821_thumb.jpg

 

The Snow Chrysanthemum 雪菊 cost a little more than the others. 15 Yuan for a 市两,whereas only 10 Yuan for 贡菊 and 胎菊。So now I have three kinds in my herb tea drawer. Pretty darned lucky!

 

In among the fresh flower vendors, the vendors of dried decorative flowers one finds not only sellers of flower teas such as this one, but quite a few shops selling essential oils derived from flowers. I usually buy rose, lavender, and jasmine. Use them in amateur night-time aromatherapy 香薰。

 

post-20301-0-64880200-1483855466_thumb.jpg

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abcdefg

Here are the three kinds of chrysanthemum tea that were mentioned, all in one place and side by side for comparison. First some of the flowers alone in a plate, then dry in a glass, then brewed with hot water as tea.

 

Kunlun Mountain Snow Chrysanthemum 昆仑山雪菊 dry:

 

post-20301-0-42336200-1483851721_thumb.jpg   post-20301-0-19135500-1483851792_thumb.jpg

 

The Kunlun Mountains 昆仑山 is a long chain, one of the longest in Asia, running along the northern border of the Tibetan Plateau, south of the Tarim Basin and the Gansu Corridor, extending all the way east to the Great China Plain. They can be well seen if you drive along the spectacular Tibet-Xinjiang Highway.

 

Gongju Chrysanthemum 贡菊 dry:

 

post-20301-0-96453500-1483851830_thumb.jpg   post-20301-0-70696300-1483851846_thumb.jpg 

 

Taiju Chrysanthemum 胎菊 dry:

 

post-20301-0-22642000-1483852030_thumb.jpg   post-20301-0-39139200-1483852041_thumb.jpg 

 

Not sure how to render the word 胎。It has to do with pregnancy, foetus, and premature birth. Maybe best to call it "immature chrysanthemum," though I can quote no authoritative sources to support that.

 

And, finally, here the are, side by side in the bright Kunming morning sun. Left to right, 昆仑山雪菊、贡菊、胎菊。

 

post-20301-0-14524100-1483852483_thumb.jpg   post-20301-0-99947400-1483852498_thumb.jpg 

 

As always, click the photos to make them enlarge.

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Alex_Hart

Nice pictures, abcd! Can't wait to taste!

 

As usual, your pictures of stores makes me jealous. Will need to ask around to see if I can find a flower shop here. Taobao just doesn't have the magic of walking into a store and sniffing everything prior to making your purchase. Didn't even see any tea vendors in 龙井 - though perhaps I went in the wrong season.

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abcdefg

Immediately prior to 清明节 is when those small tea shops in 龙井村 up on 龙井山 come alive. Then they are humming throughout the spring harvest, at least through late May or early June.

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