Following up on my earlier experiment infusing Oolong tea in gin, I decided to do another Chinese tea inspired infusion. This time round I wanted to use a tea blend called Jupu (??), which is simply a mix of chrysanthemum flowers (??) and a black tea called Puer (???).
You do not buy this tea as a blend. You simply buy a pack each of Puer tea and chrysanthemum flowers and blend them yourself in the pot. The ratio is up to you, but the usual thing is to use enough puer to make a decent brew and then add a teaspoon or so of chrysanthemum. This tea is very popular among Cantonese as an accompaniment to dimsum.
Puer is an interesting tea from Yunnan province in southwest China. Puer is a black tea, meaning it is fully fermented. After fermentation and roasting the tea is pressed into bricks and aged. This aging makes Puer tea unique. The finished tea has an earthy and almost fungal flavor. The top of the range stuff can be decades old and sells for huge sums.
You can buy Puer tea in various forms from any Chinese grocery or tea shop. Traditionally it is sold in bricks of varying sizes, ranging from enough for a single pot up to huge things that could keep a person supplied with tea for years. You simply unwrap the brick and remove what you need using your fingers or a knife. Breaking off exactly what you need is tricky, and things can become messy if the brick crumbles all over the place. These days loose leaf Puer is popular. Although not traditional, loose leaf Puer is easier to deal with and tastes good enough for everyday use.
Chrysanthemum tea should also be available from any Chinese grocery. It is sold in the form of dried whole flowers and is quite inexpensive.
My first experiment with this infusion involved gin. I infused the gin with the tea for two hours, and then made a gin sour sweetened with honey. I did not particularly enjoy the result. The idea behind the honey was to mimic the honey sweetened chrysanthemum tea which is a popular iced summer drink in Cantonese areas. However, I found it did not work well as a cocktail. The honey dominated too much and the gin seemed to clash with the chrysanthemum.
My second experiment used a different approach. I dispensed with the gin and turned to pisco. I thought Chilean pisco, with its ‘raisiny’ character, would make a nice base for this infusion. Pisco would contribute some similar characteristics to honey but without dominating nearly so much. Moreover, the absence of competing botanicals would leave the delicate chrysanthemum unmolested.
I made my infusion by soaking the following for two hours:
100 ml Bauza pisco
1 tsp puer tea
5 dried chrysanthemum blossoms
Then I simply used that infusion to make a pisco sour, as follows:
1 ½ oz chrysanthemum and puer tea infused pisco
¾ oz lemon juice
½ oz simple syrup (2:1 sugar to water)
1 egg white
Shake over ice and double strain into a cocktail glass. I did not bother with the Angostura Bitters garnish because I wanted to be able to enjoy the flavors without extra distraction.
This really worked. The pisco provides a nice soft background and lets you really appreciate the chrysanthemum. It makes for an interesting drink, albeit a slightly lightweight one. If I was to refine this further I would look to increase the chrysanthemum. I might also do the infusion in two steps, first briefly infusing the tea (say for 2 hours) to get flavor without too much tannin, then giving the chrysanthemum a longer infusion.
I guess vodka could also work, though right now I prefer to use the more light bodied piscos I happen to have lying around. If I were to do this with a more full on pisco, such as Machu Pisco or Demonio, I would definitely look to take the chrysanthemum up a notch. This might also work nicely if sweetened with St. Germain, though again I would look to increase the chrysanthemum if I went down that route.
I will update with a name when I think of one.