This was another of my sipdowns from last week. I only had one of these dragon balls, so I had to be careful with it and try to get the most out of it in order to do a thorough review. Since I had already tried the spring 2017 Big Snow Mountain black tea a month or so ago, I was a little curious as to how this dragon ball would differ from the loose leaf offering. I can safely say that this tea did strike me as being slightly different, though I preferred the loose leaf offering over this formed version.

I prepared this tea gongfu style. After the rinse, I steeped the entire dragon ball (Yunnan Sourcing claimed that each of these were around 8 grams, but my scale put my dragon ball at right around 9 grams) in 160 ml of 194 F water for 10 seconds. This infusion was followed by 15 additional infusions. Steep times for these infusions were as follows: 12 seconds, 16 seconds, 20 seconds, 25 seconds, 30 seconds, 40 seconds, 50 seconds, 1 minute, 1 minute 15 seconds, 1 minute 30 seconds, 2 minutes, 3 minutes, 5 minutes, 7 minutes, and 10 minutes.

Prior to the rinse, the dry dragon ball emitted aromas of malt, honey, sweet potato, brown sugar, and tobacco. After the rinse, I detected aromas of orange zest, pine, banana, and sugarcane. The first infusion introduced aromas of roasted almond, cinnamon, cream, molasses, and eucalyptus. In the mouth, the tea liquor presented notes of malt, cream, sweet potato, orange zest, tobacco, honey, and eucalyptus that were chased by hints of pine, sugarcane, roasted almond, and banana. The subsequent infusions introduced aromas of cedar, red grape, cocoa, baked bread, and earth. Notes of cocoa, baked bread, cedar, red grape, lemon zest, earth, and minerals came out in the mouth alongside belatedly emerging impressions of cinnamon, brown sugar, and molasses and somewhat stronger notes of pine and sugarcane. I also noted some hints of black pepper that were generally most noticeable right around each swallow. As the tea faded, the liquor emphasized impressions of minerals, cream, malt, earth, pine, and lemon zest that were chased by hints of baked bread, black pepper, roasted almond, eucalyptus, banana, and sweet potato.

This was a rather satisfying Yunnan black tea dragon ball. Much like the loose leaf version of this tea offered by Yunnan Sourcing, this one did not impress me much at first but steadily grew on me. I did note, however, that this formed version of the spring 2017 Big Snow Mountain black tea was a little more powerful on the nose than its loose leaf counterpart. I also found it to be smoother and subtler in the mouth while also taking a little longer to open up and reveal its charms. If I had to pick between the two, I would definitely pick the loose leaf offering, primarily because I am a huge fan of strong, flavorful black teas, and I admired the strength and quirkiness of that offering’s liquor. I am also just not the hugest fan of dragon balls. This dragon ball was not much of a step down from the loose leaf offering, though, and its consistently stronger bouquet and smooth, subtle tea liquor were very appealing. Overall, this was a pretty solid offering. Even though I would not likely be in any rush to revisit it, it did not disappoint me in any way.

Flavors: Almond, Black Pepper, Bread, Brown Sugar, Cedar, Cinnamon, Cocoa, Cream, Earth, Eucalyptus, Grapes, Honey, Lemon Zest, Malt, Mineral, Molasses, Orange Zest, Pine, Sugarcane, Sweet Potatoes, Tobacco

9 g 5 OZ / 160 ML

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My grading criteria for tea is as follows:

90-100: Exceptional. I love this stuff. If I can get it, I will drink it pretty much every day.

80-89: Very good. I really like this stuff and wouldn’t mind keeping it around for regular consumption.

70-79: Good. I like this stuff, but may or may not reach for it regularly.

60-69: Solid. I rather like this stuff and think it’s a little bit better-than-average. I’ll drink it with no complaints, but am more likely to reach for something I find more enjoyable than revisit it with regularity.

50-59: Average. I find this stuff to be more or less okay, but it is highly doubtful that I will revisit it in the near future if at all.

40-49: A little below average. I don’t really care for this tea and likely won’t have it again.

39 and lower: Varying degrees of yucky.

Don’t be surprised if my average scores are a bit on the high side because I tend to know what I like and what I dislike and will steer clear of teas I am likely to find unappealing.



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