The October Hunt For Purple Petals


Ah, the middle of October. You know what that means: purple chrysanthemum picking time.

The purple chrysanthemum is a wonderful combination of beauty and function. A chief function is as the main ingredient in a delicious herbal tea. But the perennial doesn’t grow just anywhere. Unless you happen to be strolling in the mountains near Qiaoban village in Zhejiang Province, you won’t see it.

Herbal tea lovers around the world hold their collective breath this time of year, hoping that someone indeed is trekking to the mountain to harvest the purple flower. Chinese tea connoisseurs have been cultivating chrysanthemums for several thousand years. The petals come in several colors, are hardy (including, in the case of the purple variety, emitting an odor that repels insects), and have long been a favorite of Chinese artists.

But it is the flower’s drink ability that warms the hearts, and the palates, of herbal tea drinkers. The purple chrysanthemum petals brew into a tea that is cooling and fresh. It is delicate, yet can be infused several times for repeated tastings. Its light green tea soup yields a smooth floral taste.

Were that the flower’s only appeal, you might say…so? Well, the herbal tea also is a detoxifying cleanser, washing from the body the unhealthy build-up of negative elements. It is a notably healthy tea, in other words, another good reason to drink it.

So if you have favorite tea suppliers—we could recommend one, Wild & Bare—now is a good time to pull their chains and tell them to make sure at least one tea maker around Qiaoban is heading for the hills. It’s time to pick some purple chrysanthemums.

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