Still whitling away the day sick, congested, and crampy watching content from the International Virtual Tea Festival. Decided to brew up a cup of this, as I’m still working on my 2017 sipdowns. This was a Spring 2017 harvest, 36 month best by, sealed packaging.
I know I have enjoyed Black Dragon Pearls before (from Adagio, no less!) but I’ve actually been a bit unimpressed with this particular one. I am aware of its age, but other equally old straight teas that were in still-sealed packaging has seemed to have held up quite well, so I’d be surprised if that’s all that is going on here. I think, mainly, it’s hard for me to judge a good water/leaf ratio with these large pearls. The packaging says “one pearl per cup” which seems logical given their size, and I brewed one for 350ml, but the flavor felt a bit weak. I also feel like I just don’t get very good expansion on these larger pearls compared to the smaller ones (those fully open up, while these just sort of “bloom” in a flower/octopus like shape… the tea is still somewhat bound together in the middle). I left the pearl in the infuser and added a second for my next cup, hoping to urge out a bit more flavor (so one pearl on the first steep, with an additional pearl on its second steep).
This produced a much nicer color in the liquor. The aroma is malty with a touch of molasses and spices, and a hint of citrus rind and cocoa. I was happier with the flavor this time; malt, baked bread, sweet potato, honey, and maybe a subtle hint of cocoa and cherry. So I think I just need to use double the amount of pearls to get the sort of flavor I’m looking for — or, if the tea doesn’t go astringent, perhaps try it grandpa in my thermos. I’ll leave that experiment for the work week.
So I still like the flavor of black Dragon Pearls, but I think for me, I have an easier time brewing/controlling the right amount with smaller sized pearls. In the future, I’ll probably look for the little pearls again when I restock a black Dragon Pearl. I love the taste though, good for mornings or lazy weekend afternoons!
Edit: After drinking this for several mornings as my “work thermos tea”, I have pinpointed my preferred steeping parameters. Firstly… I really don’t like grandpa style, it just becomes far too astringent for my personal preferences that way. One pearl for 8 oz. of water (so a standard 12 oz. mug tastes too weak to me with one pearl; I’ve been using a 16 oz. sized thermos with two pearls) and steeping for double what I usually give blacks (6 minutes instead of 3 minutes), which seems to allow the leaves to fully open, give the tea a nice color, but not reach levels of bitterness I don’t like.
Flavors: Baked Bread, Cherry, Citrus Zest, Cocoa, Honey, Malt, Molasses, Smooth, Spices, Sweet Potatoes