Osmanthus - The Saffron of China
Lately, I have been invited to create beverage programs to compliment Chinese cuisines and although I have lived in Asia and come across the Chinese style of dining I still have a lot to learn about the culture. Living in Singapore for almost six years has definitely exposed me to the culture in more depth and allowed me to explore many flavourful ingredients such as osmanthus.
Osmanthus is a popular shrub or tree grown for its ornamental flowers that bloom during spring, summer, and autumn so they are a great addition to anyone's garden. There are about 30 different species - for today though we will look into “Sweet Osmanthus” which is also known as “sweet olive” or “fragrant tea olive.” Most of the osmanthus species are native to China, Japan, Korea, Indochine, and the Himalayas.
The sweet osmanthus flower earned its title “city flower” due to the cities of Hangzhou, Suzhou, and Guili. While in Japan, it is known as a “city tree” of Kitanagoya from the Aichi Prefecture. This specimen of osmanthus is known for its fragrant flowers that bloom in late summer and autumn. The flowers do vary in colours of white, pale yellow, yellow or orange-yellow and are very tiny. Even though they are small, the flowers are strongly scented with notes of ripe peach or apricots. In the northern regions of India, the sweet osmanthus flower protects clothes from insects.
I am not surprised that the osmanthus flower has had a huge cultural impact as osmanthus tea is used as traditional medicine. In culinary use, it is cooked into cakes, jams, or mixed with black or green tea leaves to create a scented tea. The fragrance of osmanthus flowers is so fruity and delicate it is no surprise it has made its way into the perfumery industry. Osmanthus found its way into alcohol in form of wine that is associated with the Mid-Autumn festival. For all these reasons above, I think of osmanthus as a “saffron of China” :)
Here is a spritzer, that we recently had for bbq party:
50 ml London Dry Gin 15 ml Lillet Blanc 50 ml Osmanthus tea 50 ml Soda 10 ml Good quality honey - add based on your preference.
Combine honey and gin together in a glass and stir until it is mixed.
Add ice and the rest of the ingredients gently stir and garnish with a slice of lemon, a slice of orange, mint spring, and slices of peach. (If you use preserved peaches, use the juice instead of honey).