Jasmine Tea from Cambodia

I have a terrible habit of saving tea for the “right” time. A time when I can fully engage, when life is less hectic.

You’d certainly think that a year of mostly working from home would provide such a time, but no, I still didn’t brew any of the “special” tea. So today, realizing that the “best by” date of this tea was long past, I finally decided I had to take action!

My kids brought this box from Cambodia—and I was soon transported to a different rhythm, beginning with the packaging.

cambodia tea box

This “Flavored Tea Selection” is beautifully packaged in a box that was handmade by weaving sugar palm tree leaves together. Sugar palms are found throughout Cambodia. Every part of the tree can be used for an array of purposes, including to make sugar from the juice of its flowers.

cambodia landscape
Cambodia landscape (photo by A. Bartlett)

My handwoven box was produced by Senteurs d’Angkor for Artisans Angkor. Should I ever make it to Cambodia, both Senteurs d’Angkor and Artisans Angkor will be on my list!

The Senteurs d’Angkor workshop focuses on people and their relationship with nature, while producing natural products, as explained on their website:

Khmer people have been familiar with the nature, living harmoniously within it and get inspiration from it. Faithfully transposing this idea into a workshop area was the first aim of this project.

Artisans Angkor teaches young people who live in rural areas (and therefore don’t have many job opportunities) how to make traditional Cambodian art and crafts, giving them a career that includes fair wages and a safe working environment:

Caring for the past, crafting for the future

As in other Asian countries, tea is part of Cambodia’s culture, and the country is home to the Camellia assamica subspecies (or variety; it’s not yet clear) lasiocalyx, which grows as a tree. The tea selection that I have includes lotus (see my earlier post, Cambodia’s Lotus Tea), lemon grass, ginger, and jasmine.

teas in box
Today I tried the jasmine, mainly because I couldn’t resist getting a closer look at the intact flower buds!

tea leaves

Although the box states these are all black teas, the rolled leaves seem to say otherwise, ranging from mostly olive green in color to some that are almost charcoal, interspersed with some stems and sprinkled with the cream-colored buds.

leaves closeup

The leaves have a heavenly sweet floral and fruity aroma! It compels you to slow down and appreciate this moment.

I wasn’t sure what temperature to try, so rather arbitrarily went with 185°F, a temp between the recommended temps of other (green) jasmine teas I’ve tried. I steeped a heaping teaspoon of leaves in 6 ounces of water for 2 minutes. This is why tea is so fun! It encourages experimentation, there are no real right or wrongs, and if you like your result, you’re golden.

After brewing, the large pieces of leaves are mostly olive green, with a little brown.

brewed leaves

The tea’s aroma is subtle, but it brews into a deep golden-orange cup that has a slight brown hue.

And its flavor is absolutely lovely!

Smooth, just a bit floral, but with a soft, somewhat earthy base. There’s not a hint of bitterness to this tea (which is at least partly attributable to the relatively low brewing temperature that I used), and its subtle sweet note is just right.

brewed tea

I had my husband try the tea—without telling him what it was. He HATES floral tea, so clearly the jasmine doesn’t go full-on “flower” because my husband didn’t even think floral!

Rather, he loved its smoothness and pronounced it a refreshing tea that he would enjoy in either hot or cold weather, which makes this the perfect tea for our changeable Michigan spring days.

And, it momentarily transports us to another place, another daily rhythm.

tea leaves 2

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