Here is another sipdown from last month. I discovered several black tea dragon balls from Yunnan Sourcing in my tea hoard, and having recently finished the fantastic spring 2017 Yi Mei Ren, I just had to try this tea. Unfortunately, I did not realize that this dragon ball was made using the similar but not nearly as satisfying Yi Mei Ren Needle black tea. I was expecting an abundance of sweet, floral, fruity flavors, but instead, I ended up getting more flowery notes springing from a muted, fairly nondescript black tea base.
I prepared this tea gongfu style. After the rinse, I steeped the entire 8-9 gram dragon ball 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 osmanthus, malt, and straw. After the rinse, I detected new aromas of cream, baked bread, and sugarcane as well as subtle cocoa scents and a greatly amplified osmanthus aroma. The first infusion introduced aromas of anise and pine. In the mouth, the tea liquor offered notes of osmanthus, pear, malt, cream, butter, and pine that were backed by hints of baked bread, sugarcane, straw, and pineapple. The subsequent infusions introduced aromas of raisin, licorice, earth, and rose. Anise notes appeared in the mouth alongside hints of pine, smoke, roasted almond, apple, and vanilla as well as barely perceptible cocoa. Stronger and more immediately noticeable impressions of baked bread, sugarcane, and straw also came out alongside notes of licorice, raisin, earth, minerals, orange zest, and rose. There were also very subtle menthol hints on each swallow. As the tea faded, the liquor settled and emphasized notes of minerals, osmanthus, malt, vanilla, butter, orange zest, and pear that were chased by fleeting hints of straw, roasted almond, pine, cream, baked bread, earth, raisin, and menthol.
This was not a terrible tea, but it also struck me as being decidedly unbalanced and unfocused. The osmanthus tended to dominate throughout most of the session, and it seems that the base tea just did not have enough strength and character to rein it in and pull everything together in a satisfying fashion. If you really like osmanthus and aren’t looking for something with more depth, then you’ll probably be into this, but if, like me, you are looking for a tea with balance and great interplay between the tea base and flowers, then you should probably look elsewhere.
Flavors: Almond, Almond, Anise, Anise, Apple, Apple, Baked Bread, Baked Bread, Butter, Butter, Cocoa, Cocoa, Cream, Cream, Earth, Earth, Licorice, Licorice, Malt, Malt, Menthol, Menthol, Mineral, Mineral, Orange Zest, Orange Zest, Osmanthus, Osmanthus, Pine, Pine, Pineapple, Pineapple, Raisins, Raisins, Rose, Rose, Smoke, Smoke, Straw, Straw, Sugarcane, Sugarcane, Vanilla, Vanilla