If you like the occasional herbal or other tea, you may wonder how you can reap more benefits from these healthful beverages. One type of beneficial tea growing in popularity is osmanthus tea. Osmanthus (or osmanthus fragrans) is an incredibly aromatic flowering plant that you can grow at home. Then, you can harvest the flowers to make your own tea and see the associated health benefits.
Here’s everything you need to know about osmanthus flower tea, including how to make the tea (and other edible items) from the flowers, how to grow the plant so you can harvest those flowers and the benefits this unique plant offers.
What is Osmanthus?
Osmanthus is a small evergreen shrub or small tree called a variety of other common names. For example, you may have heard it referred to as fragrant tea olive, sweet olive, fragrant olive or sweet osmanthus. The plant is native to China, Japan and Taiwan, where it grows outdoors, but you can easily grow it indoors or outdoors in USDA Zones 8–11. The plant features dense, dark green leaves and small, showy yellow or white flowers in the spring and occasionally in the fall. The flowers are, as mentioned, extraordinarily aromatic.
Traditionally, cultures living where the osmanthus is native have used the plant for tea for centuries, though it’s not a common offering in the United States (yet!). The plant is also used to make a variety of other beverages (like wine) and foods, such as cakes, jams and other dessert items. It’s also used in cosmetics and perfumes that take advantage of its sweet aroma. In North India, osmanthus and its strong fragrance deter bugs.
What is Osmanthus Tea?
Osmanthus tea is made by drying the small osmanthus fragrans flowers and then brewing them just like you would any other type of tea. You can mix and match the flowers with other teas for a mix of flavors. You can find osmanthus tea sold online and at specialty stores. Sometimes, you may find the flowers fresh for sale at Asian markets, but if you intend to use fresh flowers to make osmanthus tea, you want to clean them before drying and steeping thoroughly.
Osmanthus tea has been described as tasting slightly sweet, almost like apricots, with a spicy undertone and a near-overwhelming scent. Because it’s quite powerful, it’s often combined with white or green teas. When brewed, the tea takes on the flower color and has a pale yellow hue. Osmanthus tea is naturally caffeine-free unless the flowers are combined with another caffeinated tea like green or black tea.
Health Benefits of Osmanthus Tea
So what kind of benefits are associated with osmanthus tea? Here are a few of the most popular, study-backed claims.
1. It Suppresses Appetite
One study reported that osmanthus tea makes a suitable appetite suppressant for those looking to lose weight. The strong smell, the study found, actually changed study participants’ brain chemicals, reducing those brain chemicals that increase appetite and increasing the brain chemicals that decrease appetite.
2. It Increases Immunity
Osmanthus tea boasts similar antioxidant properties to those found in green tea, a 2015 study found. The study mentioned that this finding was in line with the flowers’ traditional use in Chinese folk medicine, where it has been used for treating a range of diseases and alleviating coughs, pain and age-related issues.
3. It’s High in Vitamin B3
Osmanthus flowers are high in Vitamin B3, aka niacin. Niacin helps convert food into energy, helps your cells make and repair DNA, improves blood fat levels, helps reduce blood pressure, increases brain function, improves skin health and acts as an antioxidant. Niacin deficiencies are uncommon in developed countries, but if you do have a niacin deficiency, it can cause issues such as memory loss and digestive symptoms.
4. It Reduces Allergies
While this particular use hasn’t been tested on humans, an animal model study found that osmanthus extract can reduce oxidative stress and allergy-related airway inflammation. Again, the study pointed to the flower’s traditional use in ancient Chinese medicine, saying that the historical literature recommended using the flowers for phlegm reduction, as well as inflammation of the digestive tract, treating stomach aches, diarrhea and even bloody stools. While the study in question didn’t have anything to say about the latter uses, it did show that the antioxidants in the flower were useful for reducing allergy symptoms in mice.
5. It Reduces Anxiety
Lastly, another study found that osmanthus oils used in aromatherapy effectively treated anxiety in patients in a healthcare setting. While the study was pretty specific and used essential oils rather than osmanthus flowers or osmanthus tea, if you’re looking for something to potentially reduce your stress and anxiety, osmanthus tea may be something to try out.
How to Make Osmanthus Tea
Ready to experience the benefits of osmanthus tea for yourself? Here’s how to make your new daily cuppa.
If you’ve purchased the dried flowers only, not in a blend or pre-filled tea sachets, you’ll want to use an infuser. Add the flowers to the infuser (you’ll need about one teaspoon for every cup of tea), place it in your mug, pour on the boiling water and let the infuser do its work for a few minutes.
You can also make osmanthus tea by boiling the dried flowers directly in your water, for up to 20 minutes, at a ratio of two grams of dried flowers for every four cups of water. This results in a stronger tea, and it does require some straining, but if you want to make your osmanthus tea in a large batch, it might be a preferable method.
To keep your dried osmanthus flowers fresh, store them in an airtight container, away from humidity, heat and light.
Oolong is a popular choice if you want to combine your osmanthus tea with another tea. Just add your dried osmanthus flowers to your oolong tea in the same infuser, and let the oolong tea steep as you might normally. You can also steep the oolong tea solo and then simply sprinkle a few of the osmanthus flowers atop your mug.
If you like the idea of blending osmanthus with another tea, you can also make an osmanthus syrup and add it to a favorite tea, instead of steeping the fragrant flowers alongside that other tea. What to Cook Today says to combine water, sugar, honey and a pinch of salt in a saucepan and allow the mixture to cook until the sugar is dissolved completely. Then, add your osmanthus flowers and transfer the mixture to a jar. Let it cool and then transfer it to the fridge, where it will thicken and be ready to use for up to two weeks in your favorite beverages, tea or otherwise.
But what if you want to make osmanthus tea from fresh flowers?
To harvest and dry flowers for tea, Martha Stewart offers a quick guide. If you’re harvesting the flowers from your own plant, pick them from the bottom of the stem. Whether or not you’re harvesting your own fresh flowers or purchasing fresh flowers, you’ll want to start by examining each flower and clipping away any remaining stems so only the petals and buds are left.
Then, wipe the petals clean with water and allow them to dry in direct sunlight on a piece of cheesecloth. Rotate the flowers every few hours. Once the flowers are dry, store them in a sealed container until you are ready to use them in your tea recipe.
Where to Buy Osmanthus Tea
If all of the above sounds like a little too much work, though, you can always just buy some osmanthus tea. You can order it online if you’re having trouble finding it at your local tea shop or specialty grocery store.
Cha-Wu offers an osmanthus and oolong blend. Or, you can buy dried osmanthus flowers for use in tea on Amazon. Elitea sells dried osmanthus there, along with a range of other flower-based teas, such as chrysanthemum, honeysuckle, rosebud and lotus.
Growing Your Own Osmanthus at Home
If you really want to get into your tea experience, you can bypass buying the tea or the dried flowers elsewhere and go straight for growing your own at home. It’s actually a lot easier than you likely think.
You can find osmanthus plants at nurseries and choose to plant them indoors or outdoors, depending on where you live. If you plant the osmanthus outdoors in the right conditions, you’ll find that it grows relatively large, up to 30 feet tall and 14 feet wide, and will live for quite a long time, even if it is relatively slow growing.
How do you know your home is suitable for growing an osmanthus plant outdoors? For your best chances of a healthy plant, you need to live in the USDA Hardiness Zones of 8–11. This zone, more or less, stretches along the southeastern coast, from North Carolina, through Florida, Texas and the Southwest, and continues up along the coast to Washington State. So, if you live within a few hours’ drive of the ocean and not in the Mid-Atlantic or Northeast, you should be safe to plant this tree outside.
The plant likes lots of full sun and moist, well-drained soil. If outside, you only need to water your plant if there’s no rain for a few days. It likes humidity and is drought tolerant.
Osmanthus is considered relatively easy to grow outdoors, but if you don’t live in one of the proper zones, you won’t have much luck doing so. Instead, you’ll want to opt for growing the plant indoors. While this may be a little more challenging and results in a smaller plant, it’s worth trying if you already love a good house plant and are okay if you end up with a healthy, happy plant and not necessarily one that’s going to produce a ton of tea-ready flowers.
Plant your indoor osmanthus in a large container and place that container in full or partial sun. At the very least, the plant should get three hours of direct sunlight. Water the indoor plant once per week, on average. Test the soil moisture by inserting your finger three inches into the soil; water is needed if the soil is dry.
Common problems with osmanthus plants include scale infestations. If you see signs of such an infestation, like yellow spots, spray the plant with horticultural oil.
You should be able to expect your osmanthus to bloom for about two months at a time in the spring or fall. However, if you’re not seeing the bloom time you think you should, the issue could be attributed to a few factors.
If you planted your osmanthus outdoors or just moved your potted, normally indoor osmanthus to an outdoor space and the osmanthus was affected by an unpredictable frost, that could impact the flowering for up to a year later. Incorrect pruning or removal of new growth can also impact flowering. Fertilizing can help with delayed flowering.
If you’re noticing problems with your osmanthus that aren’t flower-related but are overall impacting your plant’s health, you may not frequently be watering enough (daily watering could be needed if your home’s air is incredibly dry — though a home humidifier could help with that, too). You may also need to ensure that your plant is getting sufficient light.
Looking for Your Next Tea Obsession?
If you’re always looking for the latest and greatest in the world of tea to add to your wishlist or searching for that perfect cuppa that you’ve yet to try, let osmanthus be your next tea obsession. Not only are these floral buds delicious and unique, but they offer a range of health benefits that are just the icing atop the (tea) cake.
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