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Pearls of Wisdom or Everything you need to know about Jasmine Pearls, Dragon Pearls and other Chinese pearl teas

 [ IMAGE: Nonpareil Organic Jasmine Pearls ] Some of our readers have marveled over the curious dancing tea leaves in the picture of last week’s Patience post. As the caption of the larger version reveals to the observant viewer, it is a photo of one of our Nonpareil Organic Jasmine Pearls unfurling.

To me, Chinese pearl teas always had a very unique aesthetic appeal. During infusion, they perform a calm and very elegant dance that reminds me of a beautifully choreographed ballet performance. Witnessing this slow dance and savouring the resulting brew play equally important parts in the enjoyment of these teas. Therefore, they are best brewed in a teapot or gaiwan made of glass.

There is a lot of confusion and mis-information when it comes to pearl teas. Names like Jasmine Pearls are pretty easy to interpret, while Dragon Pearls or Phoenix Eyes are harder to pinpoint. Looking through the offerings of many online-stores doesn’t help either since many vendors mis-label these teas. This leads to interesting name constructs like Jasmine Dragon Pearls or my all-time-favourite Jasmine Dragon Phoenix Pearls. Since all these teas are different from one another, it is like offering a Mars-Snickers-Twix Bar (which actually wouldn’t surprise me too much to find in a store). As to the teas, this kind of naming is confusing at best and I’m not sure whether it’s simply a marketing move (like a 3-in-1 version of tea) or ignorance on the merchant’s side. To be fair, the name Jasmine Dragon Pearls is misleading BUT technically not incorrect since Dragon Pearls are indeed used to produce this scented tea (some Chinese speak of Mo Li Long Zhu, literally jasmine-scented Dragon Pearls).
Dragon Pearls, Phoenix Eyes and Jasmine Pearls are all quite well defined teas in China, so I’ll try to dispel some myths with this post.

Chinese pearl teas – green or white tea?

Some confusion arises around the question of which type of tea Chinese pearl teas represent. Some people classify them as green tea while others regard them as white tea. Most of them are actually processed as green teas. The highest grades are made from the spring harvest with very downy buds while lower grades are also produced later in the year.

Dragon Pearls & Phoenix Eyes

In Chinese mythology, the dragon represents the male while the phoenix represents the female. Dragon Pearls and Phoenix Eyes are both non-scented pure teas. They are usually produced with the highest grade buds or leaf-bud systems from the first harvest in the spring. Dragon Pearls are composed of the bud and one or two leaves, rolled into a small pearl shape. Phoenix Eyes are somewhat larger than Dragon Pearls, consist of bud only and are rolled into a slightly oval eye-shape.

Jasmine Pearls

Jasmine Pearls are a scented version of Dragon Pearls. Accordingly, they usually consist of bud-leaf systems which have been tightly rolled into a small pearl. Since the aroma of jasmine blossoms is quite intense if compared to that of a subtle, delicate light green tea, lower quality teas are often used to produce Jasmine Pearls. Since jasmine flowers reach their peak in August, teas harvested around that time are often used to avoid the hassle and cost of storing the (higher quality) spring-picked teas.
A good first indicator of leaf quality is the amount of white downy fur on the pearls as well as the darkness of the green tones. As a general rule: abundant fur and lighter greens are usually a sign of high quality leaf.
Jasmine as the second ingredient is equally important. Good Jasmine Pearls are scented with blossoms that were harvested before they actually open. At the stage shortly before maturing, they possess the sweetest scent. Jasmine Pearls do not contain jasmine flower petals like those cheap jasmine green teas you get at many Asian restaurants. The pearls are only infused with the aroma of jasmine by layering consecutive layers of Dragon Pearls and jasmine flowers for a number of hours before removing the flowers. This infusion process is repeated between 3 and 7 times. The used blossoms, which have lost most of their fragrance in the process, are often used to scent low grade green tea and produce the jasmine tea mentioned above. The quality of the scenting process can be judged by the sweetness and intensity of the fragrance of the Jasmine Pearls. High-end Jasmine Pearls – like our Nonpareil Organic Jasmine Pearls – have an overwhelming and distinctively sweet aroma.

Our personal take on Jasmine Pearls

 [ IMAGE: Nonpareil Organic Jasmine Pearls ] Diane and I have always liked the intensive aroma of jasmine. For many years, we’ve been disappointed by the poor quality (and often outright bitterness) of the commonly available jasmine teas. Until we sampled our first Jasmine Pearls a few years back. As fate would have it, we sampled one of the best Jasmine Pearls to be produced. Unfortunately, we didn’t make up our mind fast enough to stock up with this tea and by the time we decided to purchase an order, it was sold out! Since then, we’ve been sampling many Jasmine Pearls in search of the ethereal qualities of our first contact with this tea. The experiences have been so disappointing that we almost gave up on our quest. Until we came across the Nonpareil Organic Jasmine Pearls we are offering now. It is hard to compare something against a (arguably by now somewhat romanticised) memory, but we knew instantly that this tea is as good – if not better – than the tea we’ve been looking for these past years. We are very happy to be able to share with you the subtle beauty of “the best” Jasmine Pearls out there.
Try them. Compare them with other versions. We are sure you’ll come back for more.

If you want to see, smell & taste for yourself, just come by the teahouse or order a sample.

[techtags: jasmine pearl, dragon pearl, tea, pearl tea]

4 Responses to Pearls of Wisdom or Everything you need to know about Jasmine Pearls, Dragon Pearls and other Chinese pearl teas »»


  1. Comment by Michael | 2008/03/03 at 08:58:17

    I’d like to echo your opinion of the Nonpareil Organic Jasmine Pearls. I’m not a fan of scented tea, but I was instantly smitten with this one. The natural sweetness of this was entirely unexpected. I’ve had plenty of jasmine tea at Chinese restaurants, which had over time put me entirely off jasmine tea, until I tried Ya Ya’s Nonpareil Organic Jasmine Pearls :-D

  2. Jo
    Comment by Jo | 2008/03/04 at 07:06:29

    Hi Michael,
    this coming from you (knowing your discerning taste) is a major compliment. Like yourself, I rarely drink scented teas, but every now and then I’m longing for these pearls.

  3. Comment by Larry Parton | 2009/10/18 at 20:46:04

    I would like to order some of your Nonpareil Organic Jasmine Pearls …. Can you please let me know how to go about placing an order.
    Thank you for your time.
    Larry Parton

  4. Jo
    Comment by Jo | 2009/10/21 at 20:47:14

    Hi Larry,
    I promise you’ll not regret tasting these. I’ve sent you an email with the ordering instructions, but for future reference, just go to our order page.

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