Exploring, sipping & delighting in all things tea.
Just put the kettle on. One lump or two?

Saturday, July 27, 2013

Dragon Eye Tea *Guest Post*

Photo from Parisassoc
Dragon Eye tea, also called Tea Pearls or Buddha's Tears or Dragon Tears is a very special tea made from whole leaves laboriously hand-rolled into small balls. The kind I have is from the mountains of south-east China and is called Tai Mu Long Zhu. It has a lovely delicate flavour with a floral jasmine note. Only the top two leaves and bud are used to make this kind of tea, which is then stored with extra fragrant Jasmine flowers, which give it its exquisitely delicate flavour and aroma. Because of the extra work involved, it can be quite expensive compared to other loose-leaf green teas, but after trying it you'll probably agree that other green teas are simply no comparison! There are several ways to prepare it, but this is what I was told by the nice Japanese lady who works at the tea store where I usually get my tea. It will nicely serve a couple of cups each for  3 - 5 people so is perfect for inviting guests over for a special occasion.
Photo by Entso

You will need a Japanese-style tea pot, which has a fine built-in sieve that will keep the loose tea leaves from running into your cup. Heat up some water and start with about 25 pearls in the bottom of the tea pot. As usual with green tea, the water shouldn't be at a rolling boil, around 80° C is about right. Instead of messing about with a thermometer, I usually heat the water until bubbles are just starting to form on the bottom of the kettle. I'm told the Japanese call this "fish eyes."

Photo by Travis

After pouring the water the first time, let it steep for about 2 or 3 minutes until the leaves are mostly unfolded. As with 'flowering tea' watching the leaves slowly unwrap themselves can be a soothing and meditative experience, so don't miss it! After the leaves have mostly opened up, pour a little bit into each person's cup. The first brew will probably be the strongest, so you won't need a lot.

Photo by Travis

As long as the water hasn't cooled too much, you can use it to steep the leaves at least 2 or 3 more times. After the pearls have unfolded, you'll need much less time to brew; probably only 30 seconds or so. Because it is a delicate young tea, the water doesn't have to be extremely hot to bring out the flavour, so the water should still be usable even after sitting in the water cooker for 15 or 20 minutes while you enjoy the tea. The prepared tea should be a very light and transparent yellow-green colour; if it starts to become brown it's probably too strong and bitter and you'll miss out on the delicate and subtle flavour. If the tea is too weak, just pour it from the teacup back into the teapot, gently swirl and let it brew for a few more seconds. I like to use white tea cups so you can better judge the strength by the colour of the tea. If you only make one or two cups, you can even leave the leaves in the teapot and use them again the next day. The leaves will dry out a bit and lose a tiny bit of flavour, but this type of tea usually carries a lot of aroma and will still be quite tasty.

Photo by Travis

 You can also prepare individual cups by placing three or four pearls in the bottom of the cup (more of you're using a larger cup or mug). After letting the tea pearls unfurl, stir lightly, sip and enjoy! You won't need a strainer; as long as you sip carefully, the leaves should stay in the bottom of the cup. And as with a teapot, you can refill your cup with hot water several times without replacing the leaves.

Photo by Yuichi Sakuraba

Because of the delicate flavour, this tea is best unsweetened, so it fits well with a small sweet. A perfect snack to go with it is a Japanese treat called Dorayaki, which is two rice meal pancakes with a sweet red Azuki bean paste filling. You can sometimes find these at Asian shops and if you poke around, you should be able to find plenty of recipes online as well.


A guest post from A Man on the Hidden Path aka @hiddenplace.
Thank you Sir for your wise words.Chin chin...


nikkijoy said...

Sounds beautiful... Especially when you insist on the sweet treat to go with =) x

The Beach Hut Cook said...

Sounds interesting. Liking it x Beachhutcook

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