A bowl of Jasmine Phoenix Dragon Pearls are simply beautiful. Pearls of perfection.
Each “pearl” is actually is the tip of the plant’s new growth—the bud and first one or two tender new leaves—tightly rolled into a smooth, tight ball.
Here you can see a pearl side-by-side with one that has opened up during brewing, revealing its bud and first leaf. Two other examples show the plump bud along with first leaves (all at same scale).
Uniformity of pearls indicates quality.
When balls are of uneven size or have leaves peeking out, leaves of different sizes may have been used or the balls were carelessly rolled.
In the bowl of Jasmine Phoenix Dragon Pearls shown above, the balls are all tightly rolled, by hand, and are all roughly the same size—exemplifying why this is a premium tea. As the balls open up, we can see they contain only plant tips, and they had been rolled with a high level of expertise. In the rolling process, the leaves are rolled around the bud so as to protect it. (Read more about whole leaf rolled teas.)
Balled tea opens slowly (as seen in these photos), which is why you can brew these teas multiple times. It takes at least two brews for the leaves to fully unfurl, so you can just keep brewing until there’s no flavor left.
The Jasmine Phoenix Dragon Pearls yield a champagne-colored infusion that deepens in hue, turning more golden, with the second infusion.
And that wonderful lightly jasmine flavor?
After tea leaves are oxidized, they remain pliable and moist. While in this softened state, they are layered with jasmine blossoms, readily absorbing the fragrance and flavor of the flowers. The blooms are then removed and the tea leaves rolled into pearls.
Scented teas such as this are unique to China, and are produced in Fujian Province.
Jasmine itself originated in Asia, probably Persia (now Iran), the name derived from Persian jāsamīn, or “fragrant flower.” Carried along the Silk Routes, it made its way to China and found its way into tea, probably during the South–Song Dynasty (CE 1127–1279) and certainly during the Ming Dynasty (CE 1368–1644) as attested by written documents.
And entering into the poetic realm, The Dragon
According to The Daily Tea (7/30/15), a sympathetic dragon helped an ill child recover by giving the boy’s sister a tea plant—which grew from a drop of water that emerged from a pearl of the dragon’s.
The sister tended the plant, dried the leaves next to jasmine blossoms, and rolled the tea leaves into pearls. Drinking this jasmine tea, the boy recovered and a lovely tradition was born.
and The Phoenix
Hmmm, not sure.
According to my dictionary app, there are several possibilities:
- the constellation
- the mythical bird that arises from its ashes
- “a person or thing regarded as uniquely remarkable in some respect”
However, just when did “phoenix” become attached to the tea, and just when did these meanings for “phoenix” evolve?
But let’s not overthink this!
This is a shining example of a tea that has crossed into the mystical, having risen from a pearl—truly, uniquely, remarkable!
Sources: (1) “The history of the jasmine flower,” by Linda Marie, Garden Guides, 9/21/17, https://www.gardenguides.com/138962-history-jasmine-flower.html; and (2) “Know your tea: jasmine dragon pearls,” by Bethan Thomas, The Daily Tea, 7/30/15, https://thedailytea.com/taste/know-your-tea-jasmine-dragon-pearls.
The Jasmine Phoenix Dragon Pearl tea shown here is available at TeaHaus.