I’m a big fan of blooming tea! Yes, it can be a neat social thing, but it’s also a nice indulgence you can enjoy by yourself. There are some things that can improve your experience with it, too.
First, the big draw here is watching the bloom unfurl and enjoying the sight of the flower as you sip your tea. So, make sure you have a clear glass teapot. It’s also nice if you can get a stand that holds a small candle to keep it hot.
Second, there are many, many different brands and types of tea flowers out there, and quality varies greatly. I’ve bought some no name tea balls at my local Asian market that were magnitudes of difference better than the ones I paid a lot more for at trendy tea shops. Some of them bloom into very elaborate and spectacular arrangements where the flowers show up with true colors (brilliant reds, whites and yellows) - even when viewed through the tea. Others were nothing special. I can’t really provide a recommendation on these since the packaging is usually in Chinese, and I wouldn’t know what to tell you to ask for. It’s hit or miss.
There’s a brand called Primula that is sold in tea shops, grocery stores, even Amazon carries it. I’ve bought two of their cylindrical, cardboard gift boxes of 12 assorted tea balls and found them…disappointing. The box contains individually wrapped balls with a picture of what the arrangement should look like. With those, no matter what the picture indicates, the flower is always a sad looking muddy orange blob.
Another brand, Te Teas, has really nice arrangements and good colors. I found a shop that sells them locally, but they do have a website. Each ball is individually boxed and sells for $2.50.
Third, the flower arrangements are sewn up inside the green tea leaves. When the hot water hits the ball, the process known as “the agony of the leaves” cause them to unfurl and release the “blossom”. The arrangement stays anchored to the bottom of the pot by the weight of the tea leaves. It isn’t the highest quality green tea, but it’s not the lowest either. The lowest grades of green teas are usually the ones you buy in bulk (or worse, bags) with 90 percent broken leaves.
Tea blossoms are meant to be reused. There are a LOT of tea leaves in that base! You can refill the pot with hot water many times and still get a decent cup of tea and enjoy the pretty flower. But, if you start one and let it sit in the same water without finishing it, the tea will continue to brew and become strong and bitter.
The water should be hot (around 180 degrees), but not boiling.