In China, the tree peony, known as a mudan, is a flower that has been revered since the seventh century.
Blooming in a luminous range of hues—soft pink, coral, apricot, ivory, and more—the tree peony has long been considered a symbol of prosperity and wealth by the Chinese, who particularly cherish the flower's ethereal, anemone-like beauty.
China, the country which also gave the world its first taste of tea more than 5,000 years ago, has combined two of its greatest cultural and artistic passions with "display teas" known as mudans.
Handcrafted, mudans are most often made of green or white teas. Tea leaves are tied together in rosettes with silken cords and left to dry in an exquisite array of floral shapes, among them, of course, the peony. Intended to enchant visually as well, these showplace teas are enjoying a growing awareness and appreciation from tea enthusiasts, as well as gourmands.
More and more, food connoisseurs the world over are replacing the wine in their finest stemware with mudans. Not only do the different mudan varietals pair well with many foods, but they are most frequently steeped in wineglasses, which showcase the flowering teas to their fullest. Aside from their enchanting beauty, most mudans possess a magical ability to steep slowly, some 20 to 30 minutes, without becoming bitter.
To best enjoy your own mudans at home, place the tea rosette in a wineglass or Champagne glass, and top with water that is warmed to a temperature of 170° to 185°. As the mudan steeps, its silken leaves unfurl in a balletic sort of dance. Admirers, no doubt, will be as entertained by its display as they are pleased by its delicate flavor.