Though I had already tried a 2017 Feng Qing dragon pearl black tea from What-Cha, I decided to try some of these 2017 Feng Qing dragon pearls from Yunnan Sourcing simply because I wanted to attempt to gauge how more or less the same tea can differ after being in the hands of two different vendors. In many instances, I find that formed teas, even those produced from the same harvest, can display significant variation from vendor to vendor and brewing session to brewing session. Sometimes it’s almost like drinking an entirely tea, and while the same can be said of loose leaf teas as well, I find that I get more variation out of formed teas for whatever reason. What really surprised me about this tea was how different from the presumably more or less identical What-Cha offering it struck me as being. The dragon pearls I purchased from What-Cha seemed slightly smaller and were also a little earthier and more mellow. These seemed slightly larger and also livelier and pricklier. Of the two offerings, I definitely preferred this one.
I prepared this tea gongfu style. After the rinse (about 10 seconds) , I steeped two dragon balls (just shy of 7g in combined weight) in 4 ounces of 194 F water for 10 seconds. This infusion was chased by 17 infusions in water of the same temperature. 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, 10 minutes, 15 minutes, and 20 minutes. I then steeped the remains of the dragon balls in 200 F water for 30 minutes, and then I ended the session by steeping them in 205 F water for 40 minutes.
Prior to the rinse, the dry dragon balls produced aromas of malt, cream, chocolate, molasses, earth, brown sugar, and eucalyptus. After the rinse, I noted new aromas of baked bread, vanilla, butter, and sugarcane that were backed by subtler scents of banana and sweet potato. The first infusion brought out aromas of marshmallow and roasted almond. In the mouth, the tea liquor presented delicate, smooth notes of malt, cream, earth, baked bread, sugarcane, and vanilla that were chased by hints of brown sugar, banana, marshmallow, and roasted almond. The subsequent infusions introduced aromas of pine, camphor, black pepper, honey, oats, cinnamon, and orange zest. Notes of sweet potato, eucalyptus, butter, and chocolate emerged in the mouth alongside slightly stronger notes of marshmallow and roasted almond. New notes of minerals, pine, camphor, black pepper, cinnamon, oats, and orange zest also appeared. In places, I also found subtle impressions of molasses, honey, clove, and tobacco in the background. As the tea faded, the liquor emphasized notes of minerals, earth, malt, cream, roasted almond, and baked bread that were underscored by hints of butter, tobacco, cinnamon, sweet potato, camphor, black pepper, pine, orange zest, and eucalyptus. There were also some fleeting, often just barely detectable hints of banana and marshmallow.
I was really impressed by the depth, complexity, liveliness, and longevity of these dragon pearls. Though I tend to not be a huge fan of formed black teas, this one was highly enjoyable for me. Compared to its sister offering from What-Cha, this tea consistently offered greater character in a gongfu session and also had a few highly enjoyable quirks that I either did not pick up in the other tea or did not pick up to the same extent. In summation, this was definitely a worthwhile dragon pearl black tea. I’m glad I took the opportunity to try it.
Flavors: Almond, Baked Bread, banana, Black Pepper, Brown Sugar, Butter, Camphor, Chocolate, Cinnamon, Clove, Cream, Earth, Honey, Malt, Marshmallow, Mineral, Molasses, Oats, Orange Zest, Pine, Sugarcane, Sweet Potatoes, Tobacco, Vanilla