If you know anything about the Chinese zodiac (although it’s not exclusively Chinese), you know that being a dragon is wonderful luck. And if you already love dragons — even before you knew you were year of the dragon! — you’re entranced when you find that out, as well!
Add to that a love of good jasmine tea, and dragon pearls jasmine tea is a sure winner. Especially when served in a yi xing clay teapot, in the shape of a dragon, gifted you by a beloved niece. A total home run!
Today isn’t cold enough for chai, nor even Fortnum & Mason’s smoky Earl Grey (one of my favourites for colder weather, but sadly no longer available from Williams & Sonoma — and very pricey on Amazon!). Nor is it warm enough for iced tea — jasmine or otherwise. Just right, as Goldilocks would say, is a hot pot of dragon pearl jasmine.
My niece — the one who lived with us while she went to college; I have several nieces! — bought me a lovely little yi xing dragon teapot (see picture) one Christmas. For a later present, she bought me 2 glass Chinese teacups, without the handles we use in the West.
The lidded version of these small tea bowls is called a gaiwan, and often we Westerners call the small lidless ones gongfu, from the tea service featuring the gaiwan and the small handleless cups. I have a pair of Korean gong fu that my beloved brought me back from one of his trips to Korea, made from raku-glazed celadon (above).
So, what’s dragon pearls jasmine tea like? Beautiful, for one thing: the tightly rolled jasmine leaves are, indeed, like pearls of tea. Watching them unfurl in a cup, or a glass teapot, is an exercise in meditative contemplation. They lend themselves better than most teas to the gong fu method, changing as they steep: first deepening, then softening. The flavour is my favourite of all jasmines — or at least the ones I’ve had the pleasure (& $$ to. buy!) of tasting! Not too sweet, not too floral, but with that ineffable jasmine perfume, and a lovely green tea undernote. Friends often tell me they don’t really care for green tea, so I ask if they’ve had dragon pearl…? After I show them the beautiful pearls, and they smell the jasmine blooming in the pot (or cup), they’re ready. And I’ve yet to meet someone who didn’t love it!
I rarely sweeten green teas, and never do jasmine, especially not jasmine pearl. It seems like … well, gilding the lily? Totally unnecessary — the tea is lightly sweet on its own. And while I drink several tea blends, I can think of nothing that could possibly improve dragon pearl tea. It’s perfect in its own warm cup. Or — if you’re feeling luxurious! — splurge in the summer, and double the tea you use (still steeping as for a green tea: 3 minutes at 175º) for dream of an iced tea!
Right now? It might be one of those things you can say you tried in Covid Time: buy a cheap gong fu, dragon pearl tea, and play. It’s the perfect time for it! (It’s even nicer if you can hint to a beloved family member that this would be a great treat!)