I was strolling through Chinatown last weekend, killing some time while waiting for a client to open a nearby shop. During my stroll, I ducked into a herbal remedy store to smell and gaze at the myriad concoctions and dried stuff that filled every corner of the pungent shop. Over on one of the sidewalls, my eye caught a glimpse of small bags filled with incredibly bright flowers. Being a tea blender, I could not help noticing how the buds popped. I walked over and picked up a package labeled “snow chrysanthemum.” I had never heard of or seen this type of chrysanthemum before, so I felt a tingle of excitement.
After a quick study, I grabbed a medium-sized bag and headed to the checkout. At this point, I couldn’t care less how it tasted; I was only thinking of how it would look as an ingredient in a potential new tea blend.
Later that afternoon, as I was preparing a cup, I thought I would find out a little more about the story of the snow chrysanthemum and where it hails from. I always find that taking the time to learn a little about an infusion or a tea before quaffing it greatly enhances my enjoyment of it.
So, check this out – the snow chrysanthemum lives 3,200 meters above sea level in the Kunlun Mountains of far western China in Xinjiang Province. Just to put it into perspective, the Kunlun range is north of the famous Himalayan chain and south of the Tian Shan Range. Here, on these remote slopes, at just about the snow line, these fragrant flowers bloom and fill the alpine valleys. Oh, one can only imagine the site it must be!
As it turns out, those powerfully vibrant buds are also endowed with 18 different amino acids and 15 trace elements that are highly beneficial to people suffering from high blood pressure and coronary heart disease. The fragrant snow buds offer up a lot more then just these two benefits, but I will leave that for you to research and find out.
Finally, how does it taste? – the true litmus test for whether it will become your new evening staple or not. When I opened the bag and buried my snout in deep, I was engulfed in a sensational sweet floral bouquet. If this was going to taste anything like its gorgeous fragrance, my tongue was in for a rare trip indeed.
Sweet, woodsy, with a hint of meadow flower honey and distinctive notes of turmeric and papaya, it has a clean full-mouth body that lingers as you swallow. It’s a fantastically textured infusion, solitary in its nuances and noticeably warming on the gastrointestinal tract. It was (and is) as close to zen in my mouth as any herb I have yet to try.
As I wind down the evening, and drain the last drop from that clear mug you see in the picture, I feel blissful about yet another discovery of a tisane that for the past 15 years has eluded my radar screen. Now, if I could only have just a few of those years back. Serve this over the holiday season and you will be this year’s bright new tea star.