The Jasmine tree blooms only in May and June. The flower lasts only about 12 hours and only comes out at night after sunset. About halfway through the night, the fragrance is at its peak and this is when the flowers should be picked and layered in the tea.In the morning most of the fragrance is gone from the flower, but if the maker has done his job correctly, this Celestial fragrance has been transferred to the tea and captured over time.This process is carried out over 5 successive evenings to impart the superior flavor of the tea and specially selected jasmine flowers.
In China, during the Sung Dynasty (960 to 1127), drinking tea became an art form. Tea harvesting became tightly regulated. Drum and cymbal signals were used to coordinate the tea pickers during the cold, dark hours before dawn. The tea pickers (always young virgins) received special training and even wore identification tags on their clothes so tea thieves could be easily identified if they entered the estates. Girls were required to keep their nails to a precise length, as the nails, never the finger, were used to pluck the highest quality tea leaves. Freshly picked leaves were graded and processed.
Choice grade was delivered as tribute tea to the emperor, while the rest was traded and sold by the regional government. A handful of the best quality tea could be worth up to 3 ounces of gold - practically a lifetime of earnings for the common man. This has earned the tea the nickname Golden Dragon, (gold means wealth, prosperity, money and dragon means long life and strength). With that unmistakable jasmine aroma that can only be obtained with midnight Mayflowers, it is no wonder that this pure tradition of jasmine tea making has prevailed to this day for delight the greatest connoisseurs around the world.
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