Dust and Jasmine

Last week I finished off the last of a tin of jasmine pearls and was reminded, after an unintentionally long period of neglect, how much I enjoy this exquisite tea.

Jasmine Pearls

It is not at all reminiscent of the brightly colored exuberance of Chinese opera, nor the strident red imagery of Maoist propaganda, but of the back rooms of Chinese antique stores in the United States – dust and breakage and history – the detritus of 19th century opium dens during the California Gold Rush. It brings forth images of antique medicine cabinets, the scrolled detailing on Qing Dynasty tables, piles of decaying silks in faded colors. Clearly not of jade, but of the soft absorbency of wood and textiles. And unlike oolongs and other teas prepared using the Gongfu method, for me jasmine pearls unfold in an entirely secular milieu. It is a tea of the home and of the retail shop, not of the monastery or the teahouse.

I do not expect my associations with jasmine tea to be universal, but I would not be surprised to find other people with their own unique reminiscences and connections to this tea. Its delicate and precise aroma seems particularly well suited to attaching its source to memory. I attribute my relationship to it, at least in part, to memories of the actual aromas hovering about old wooden articles from China, which do often have a lingering and very distinctive scent that hints of jasmine.

The references to San Francisco’s Chinatown in the 19th century lead me down a path of research regarding the socio-political implications of the Chinese experience in the West during the Gold Rush and in the building of the railroads. Those are much more serious matters and not to be addressed here or with a lovely cup of jasmine tea in my hand.


  1. Beautiful imagery…

    When I first started chiropractic care last fall, I made a point of stopping for jasmine tea on the way back to work from my appointments. The first few weeks of treatment were difficult, and the tea was a small treasure found in the back of a deep, dank cave. It reminds me of the determination to be healthy and to develop a strong foundation – both literally and figuratively. It brings to mind the sights and sounds of dark and wet November days with pink cheeks and steam from my cup mixed with the fog of my breath, and of standing up a little straighter, perhaps just to spite the oppressive chill.

  2. There’s something really magical about it. I need to get more, now that I’ve gotten all sentimental about it.

  3. Pingback: Fujian green tea scented with jasmine flowers « Phoenix Tea