By Emily Guo
During my days working at Coffee Lab, I noticed that Jasmine Green Tea is always one of our
most popular. There are also plenty of articles out there about the health benefits and properties of green teas. So, instead of just providing more information about this tea, I want to offer an interpretation of this gentle drink, while focusing on something that many of us find elusive these days - rest.
The story of jasmine tea is one that speaks of the intertwining processes of labor and rest.
Jasmine tea most often takes the form of green tea leaves infused with tiny jasmine blossoms to give it a relaxed, floral fragrance. Some jasmine varieties even keep the petals mixed among the tea. But whether the tea is green, black, white, etc. (the type of tea depends on how the leaves have been processed and dried), what characterizes Jasmine tea is the infused flavor of jasmine blossom, giving it the flexibility to take many forms. This acts in much the same way as bergamot flavors tea leaves to create Earl Grey as I wrote about a few months back.
In addition to its long history, health benefits, and delicate flavor, Jasmine Tea involves quite a labor intensive process. Once the tea leaves have been dried and treated, the harvesting of jasmine flowers begins. During the window of late spring to early summer, jasmine buds are picked at the peak of day when the petals are closed to the heat of the sun. Tea-makers either wait until nightfall or bring the buds to a cooled area, as the jasmine only opens amidst milder temperatures. Once open, the blossoms release their scent onto the tea leaves mixed in with them.
Letting the flowers and tea leaves rest together is crucial for bringing out the jasmine flavor. Several hours later, the jasmine buds will have released their scent and the process begins again the next day. Depending on the tea maker, this repetition of picking jasmine and scenting the tea can take place up to ten times.
The tea we drink - each cup - contains all these immense efforts. We can easily forget how much labor and work happens around us every day. And moreover, we can take our own labors and abilities for granted, too.
Labor, work, effort, strain, striving, hustling, action. Maybe those things have become part of how we understand ourselves and our lives. But what if we understood ourselves from seeing our ability to rest and live unhurried? It’s a different way of thinking, and frustratingly hard to understand.
In the past, I considered rest to be a day to do nothing, free time to spend idling, a few extra hours of sleep. In essence, rest was something I found by not expending energy. But now, life for me (and for many of us) has taken on a different color, and the idleness that would feel restful before can be so easily undermined by thoughts, by simply being conscious.
Not long ago, I came across a new way of viewing rest. A beautiful animated series gives voice to this ‘rest’ I had been feeling confused by. Ginko, the main character of Mushi-Shi, is a lone traveler, attending to the mystical phenomena caused by the mushi of the world. He decides to help another traveler on their expedition in search of a rainbow and starts to move to the current of that traveler’s journey for a while. The traveler then asks Gingko if he finds it hard to wander without purpose, if a person can go on travelling without any direct end goal in mind. Gingko responds, “Well, sometimes I do want to take a rest…When I feel that way, I set a goal like this. Then that creates some leisure time like this. Those who “live for living’s sake” have no leisure time,” (Mushi-Shi, Raindrops and Rainbows).
I think we tend to think of rest as a stop, a halt on the way to accomplishing what we want to achieve. But as Ginko says, we can easily get caught up by trying to live for living’s sake, thinking that everything we do needs to have direct purpose. But for a time where we are forced to live day by day, where thinking about the future remains exhausting and pointless, moving in some way can itself be the end goal. Moving creates times of exertion and thus moments of rest. It takes energy and allows you to regain energy.
We can learn from the way that Jasmine Tea is formed by cycles of labor (picking the blossoms) and rest (allowing the jasmine to scent the tea). They are equals in importance and both necessary to that process.
Maybe it’s rather simple. Rest and labor are parts that give to and help each other. We learn to move ourselves at times, so that we can feel comfortable taking our leisure at others. It could be that we rest so that we can continue to work. But it also may be that we use some energy so that we can find the respite of rest.
And when we can realize just how much we have toiled - as we grant ourselves a moment to sit quietly - our tea will be there to welcome us.
After all, good tea is its own reward (Uncle Iroh, owner of The Jasmine Dragon)
Sources / Background:
Sencha Tea Bar: https://senchateabar.com/blogs/blog/jasmine-green-tea
The Tea Makers: https://www.theteamakers.co.uk/blog/jasmine-tea-explained.html
About the Author:
Alumnus at Northwestern University
Writer at Ignitus Digital Evanston
Blogger for Coffee Lab Evanston
hobbies: drinking tea, wiggling to music, naming plants after food