I know, I know. Anything-infused water sounds like a right Millennial thing. But I'm not lying! For as Millennial-sounding as it is, this jasmine water is really traditional Thai.
We (and probably a lot of other countries) had started infusing water long before infused water became a thing. If you read Thai literature (which I'm not gonna go into), you'll know that the Thai jasmine infused water can be traced pretty far back.
In the past, Thai people would store rainwater in HUGE earthen water jars to drink. As unbelievable as it may sound, although still in my 20's, I am old enough to have seen those freaking jars lying around and drunk rainwater from them. To this day, I can still picture in my head the large metal cone permanently tied by a thread to a man-made whole in the gutter under my grandmother's roof, and connected to a 1.5 inch diameter hose that was as long as the height of her stilt house.
People waited until the rain had washed away the dust on the roof and then started storing rainwater. Most wouldn't drink it right off the hose. They let the little dust particles sink to the bottom first. Sounds worrying, I know, but I swear rainwater was perfect to drink then. And the fact that those jars were earthen meant that the water inside was cold, which was great for the Thai weather. However, that wasn't the only way Thai people made their water refreshing. They also did something else. And that's infusing the cold rainwater with jasmine flowers.
While some people would put jasmine flowers in their water jars; others would put them in aluminum water bowls, ready to drink or serve their guests. Today, you won't see that many people drink or serve jasmine infused water in aluminum water bowls in real life, let alone make such a thing. Though you may find certain Thai restaurants entertaining customers with this.
Me? I've only rediscovered my love for jasmine infused water a few years back, when I started growing jasmine myself at home. Initially, I chose this plant because I wanted to have homegrown jasmine flowers for my mom every Mother's Day - jasmine is the symbol of Mother's Day in Thailand, by the way. But then there was this one year where I wanted to do something a bit more interesting with the jasmine flowers. So, I tried jasmine infused water.
I had completely forgotten how the smell and taste of jasmine infused water would be. The smell was surprisingly strong but certainly nothing to be put off by. The reason why I call it strong is because most of the time you try to infuse water with a natural ingredient, the scent will be subtle. Jasmine infused water is different, though, and I was totally hooked after the first swallow in years. It's so beautiful (no pun intended!) that I'll go as far as to say it's my favorite infused water. And the good news is, it's the easiest thing to make.
To create jasmine infused water, you only need jasmine flowers and water! Well maybe also a fridge...but that's totally your choice. While you may be able to buy jasmine flowers where you live, they're something you want to stay away from because God knows what pesticides are in them. If you can verify that your source doesn't use pesticides or anything dodgy on the plants, feel free to use them. If not, it's best you grow a jasmine plant yourself --- yes, one is enough.
In terms of harvesting, some say to harvest the flowers early in the morning but others say evening. I've tried both myself but noticed no difference so I came to a conclusion that you just do the time that's best for you. As long as you have the right ratio, your drink will smell amazing. For the flowers, many Thai people suggest picking the larger unopened ones that are about to open - you'll know right when you see one - because the smell will be stronger. I find that even when I use only open flowers, it still works.
But there's a good thing about using unopened flowers, and it's that their petals don't bruise easily, since they'll open later in your container. Open flowers tend to bruise when you rinse them and you don't really want bruises on the flowers because they're gonna give your infused drink a grassy smell. Leaving the flowers in the water for too long also causes that smell. You'll know when the flowers bruise when the petals become transparent.
For a handful of jasmine flowers, you'll want to use about 1.5 liters of water. Just put the water and flowers in a pitcher or something but make sure you can easily remove the flowers from it and cover the top. After a few hours, your infused water should be ready. But here's what I do: I make it in the evening and leave it in the fridge overnight! The next morning I remove the flowers and start drinking it right then (if you use unopened flowers, they'll still look perfect at this point and you can put them in a bowl with water for home decoration!). There's nothing quite like starting your day with something satisfying, trust me.
If you're a fan of the Thai cuisine, you may have come across jasmine water in several traditional Thai dessert recipes. That's essentially the same thing as this jasmine infused water. So feel free to use the same method, if you need to use that and you can find the flowers. Other than that, I hope this make it to your list of summer refreshments and that you enjoy!
Traditional Thai Jasmine Infused Water Recipe
- 1 large handful of jasmine flowers
- 1.5 liters drinking water
- Gently rinse the jasmine flowers. Be careful not to bruise them.
- Add drinking water into a container from which flowers can be removed easily.
- Add the flowers and cover the container. Let infuse for at least a few hours or overnight.
- Remove the flowers from the water and enjoy.
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