With a name like Dragon Balls, it’s got to be good (or something like that). I have been intrigued ever since I saw the first post on this. Doulton kindly provided me with a sample ball in my Dammann Freres shipment. I had, as it happened, placed an order with Silk Roads that crossed with the generous sample. So now I’m balled up for at least a while. This is my first attempt, and I can’t wait to be amused.
The ball looks like a fig to me. Or a somewhat worse for wear Hershey’s kiss. It’s round, in an uneven, testicular sort of way, yes. But it’s sort of twisted into a point at what I’m going to call it’s “top.” I’m envisioning it being molded into this shape while damp. I’m thinking tea as papier mache.
Here’s something I never thought I’d say: I’m sniffing a Dragon Ball. Dry, it doesn’t give off a lot of fragrance. Maybe a small amount of oolongy toastiness.
Adding water to Dragon Ball. It’s floating! Little bubbles are forming on its outside and floating upward. And it’s gradually puffing up, so that now it looks like one of those gourd-like seed pods that falls off a tree. By the end of the first steep, it’s starting to look like one of the following (1) a bird’s nest, or (2) me on a bad hair day.
After a two minute first steep, it is still at the bird’s nest stage. It has generated a clear, golden yellow liquor, that smells toasty, a little buttery and a tiny bit green, oddly enough. The taste is mild, gentle, and sweet. There is some butter and an unexpected smoke-like note in the aftertaste. But it is not nearly as strong as darker oolongs I have had in the past, and I am wondering whether I used too much water first steep. Will rectify on second steep.
Second steep: 2:30 First, it expanded so much that it knocked up against the sides of my smaller finum filter, so I put it in a bigger one. Then I gave up and just dumped it straight into the cup. It has taken on the look of a Swedish meatball that has been overcooked. I.e., a little ragged, and almost falling apart. A few of the leaves have in fact abandoned ship and floated to the bottom of the cup. Less water does translate into more concentrated aroma. It’s reminding me of the GM Orchid Temple’s aroma, which isn’t a terrific sign as I found that one pretty florally soapy. The taste, however, is not at all soapy and has deepened some. There’s more of that oxidized oolong taste now, some nuttiness, some fruitiness.
Third steep: 3:00 Go Dragon Ball, go! I am stubbornly refusing to prod my Dragon Ball into unfurling before its time. It has, by now, become something that reminds me of the Tasmanian Devil caught in mid-spin. It’s doing a sort of leisurely scarf dance in the cup, taking its sweet time. But aroma and taste wise, this is the best steep yet. The soapiness isn’t there in the aroma anymore and the flavor seems to have intensified and deepened still more as more surface area gets exposed to the water. If I’d stopped after the first or second steep, I would have said this is an interesting novelty but without a great deal of flavor. That’s changing now. I’m now starting to get a dark fruit note that sometimes seems like apricot and sometimes like peach.
Fourth steep: 3:30 Morgie vs. Dragon Ball. We are locked in a battle of wills. It still refuses to deball, however, it is now looking more like an Impressionist rendering of a ball. One more steep and I’m pretty sure I’ll win. And the flavor just gets fruitier, nuttier and more toasty. There are some floral tones, too. The early butter has tapered off in favor of roastiness.
Fifth steep: 4:00 Really more like 5. I forgot to set the timer while I was writing about steep 4. The Dragon Ball is turning out to be a more formidable adversary than I’d thought. It is still not completely unfurled. It is maintaining its flavor, though. It’s just now starting to get that sharp, water as solvent infusion taste that seems to happen in late oolong steeps.
Sixth steep: 5:00 I’m ashamed to admit, I let the Dragon Ball win. I was certain it had become stuck, so I stuck a fork in it and gave it a little shake. It obligingly unfurled completely. Good for six steeps, though, without becoming too weak. The last steep is surprisingly just as dark as the previous one, which is significantly darker than the first. The depth of flavor has lightened and become more floral, but it’s still quite tasty. There is power in them Dragon Balls!
Now I must decide how to rate this and I’m torn. Truly, I think its taste is above average as oxidized oolongs go, but it isn’t bowling me over as astonishingly better than others I’ve had. That said, it does offer a great deal of entertainment value, and it does have an admirable longevity.