Monsieur went to Hong Kong and brought me back a bag of tea. Fook Ming Tong tea, to be precise. It was wrapped in foil with a pretty tag and presented in one of those smart carrier bags with gold cord handles. I admit, I hadn’t exactly expected to receive tea from Hong Kong. But then I found out that this wasn’t your regular cup of PG Tips.
Firstly, I noticed that the pack felt lumpy, not soft and squishy as you’d expect with loose tea or tea-bags, so I opened it up to find 8 or 9 hard balls. Looking at the tag again, I realised that these were flowers which would open when placed in hot water, creating a tea. How novel. So that picture on the front of the tag wasn’t some weird sea plant in a wine glass, after all. Looking at the tag’s reverse, I read with interest the traditional Chinese medicinal values of the so-called Treasure Blossom carnation tea:
Carnation: Improve blood circulation, stimulate metabolism, calm the temper, skin conditioning.
Gosh. Perhaps Monsieur’s trying to tell me something here, such as to stop complaining that I’m cold, drop some weight, chill out and lose the wrinkles? No, Monsieur isn’t like that, but given that all of the above have relevance to me, he definitely chose the right tea. Clever Monsieur.
A few weekends ago I decided to try my first cup of Fook Ming Tong flower tea. Impatiently I stood over the mug waiting for the flower ball to unfurl. I didn’t realise that it takes around 3 minutes to do this. Initially it was like watching paint dry and I thought I was imagining each twitch of the bud, but then the unfurling began. The opening flower reminded me of a large sea anemone as it moved slowly in the water.
Intrigued by this new tea-making experience I googled Fook Ming Tong. The website is a bit difficult to navigate, but with a bit of perseverence it’s possible to order your preferred tea along with requisite accessories and gift packs. Specialty teas are a pricy delicacy in China and can be prescribed to help with all sorts of ailments, from eczema to impotence.
Back on the Fook Ming Tong site, I noticed a variety called ‘gun powder’. Apparently it’s a type of popular green tea, but I couldn’t be sure what ailments it might be prescribed to fix, apart from our upstairs neighbour who stomps around at all hours of the night. Perhaps I should buy her a bag and leave it by her door with a note: “to help you sleep”?
I wanted to know more about these flower teas and a few more minutes of research bore fruit. I’d made my first cup of slimming, soothing, skin-clearing, heart-activating carnation tea all wrong. I’d used boiling water and a mug, both big no-nos when the ideal way to prepare a flower tea is to place the flower ball in a clear glass and pour very hot, but not boiling, water over it, allowing the opening flower to be seen. I did not realise that the flower ball should be removed after five or six minutes to prevent the tea from turning bitter, or that each flower ball can be used up to three times. There is much to learn, apparently. For instance, the creation of a flower ball is quite time-consuming as each flower is hand-sewn into a bundle of green tea leaves before being shaped and dried at high temperatures. That would have to go down as one of the most unusual jobs I’ve ever heard of:
“So, what do you do for a living?”
“I sew flowers into tea balls at the Green Tea Factory.”