Pre-rain Long Jing - Green Tea

Pre-rain Long Jing - Green Tea

The most beloved green tea of China... LONG JING alas "Lung Ching" alas "Dragon Well". Tribute tea. The most famous Green tea. Legendary green tea.

One of the first real tea I've tasted and instantly fallen in love with. This tea is not only super powerful, but also super healing and super tasty.

Let's look at the tasting of four different Long Jing teas.

But before we start, let's talk a little more about this magnificent tea.

Origin: Long Jing is named after the ancient Dragon well in the Xi Hu (West Lake) region, Zhejiang, China. The true origin of Long Jing is Xi Hu (West Lake). There is this Shi Feng mountain ( Our company name “She Fang” btw is derived from this beautiful hill) which is the highest peak for Long Jing. Furthermore, you can get Dragon Well from five lots. Shi Feng (Lion Peak), Long (Dragon), Hu (Tiger), Mei (Plum) and Yun (Cloud).

Variety: The classic Dragon Well comes from clonal Long Jing 43 varietal, but there are some other heirloom tea trees varietals which are generally more complex in body and more prestigious as there is only around 100 acres heirloom trees left in Xi Hu area.

Pick: Dragon Well is a spring tea, hence it is picked in March/April. The most delicious and prestigious batch comes from the pick before 5th of April, before the festival of Qing Ming (also known as Ming Qing, before the rains) which is called pre-qingming. After the 5th of April the temperature rises notably with each rainfall, this changes the taste of the tea leaves rapidly, growing more bitter the longer it goes unpicked.

Fact: Now, if you know all of the above, you can only imagine with such a high demand and lust for this tribute tea (not only by tea lovers from all around the globe but also as it's being given as a gift to royalties and politicians in China) and considering the short harvesting period starting from 23rd of March till 5th of April alongside the fact that Dragon Well tea is growing in quite a small growing area, you can understand the insane pricing or amounts of fake Long Jings on the market, right?

Processing: Green tea is either pan-fired (fried) in wok, baked or sun dried or steamed. Dragon well is pan-fired, which gives the strongest flavour to the green teas. So after the Leaf+2buds are picked they go for wither (reduce of water). Withering is just a simple technique of spreading out the tea into a thin layer and waiting for the moisture to reduce (mostly in shade as the tea leaves are very fresh and gentle). After this step it is pan-fired in a wok, until it's nearly crispy to break when you touch it (2 times usually the second time it's for shaping of the leaf). Traditionally this is done by hand – ouch ouch! Of course the machines took over again to speed up and increase the volume of processed tea (which we are not happy about!).

Pan-firing or pressing the leaf against the wok creates the signature flat shape of the leaf, this technique is called “Hui Guo” and apparently it takes farmers up to 3 years to learn this technique as they also have to be quite gentle not to break the leaf when shaping the leaves into these masterful spears.

Back to the tasting:

Here we go! Let's break down four of our LONG JING teas we tasted recently:

1) Ming Qing Qiandao Hu Long Jing Imperial:

Fragrance of dry leaf: Delightful floral, vegetal & nutty fragrance. A little hint of freshly cut grass and steamed veggie.

Dry leaf appearance: Bud and leaf of smaller size, furry buds, colour of yellow serpentine gem, neatly pressed into the classic spear shape.

Wet leaf: Gentle vegetal & roasted chestnuts aroma, bud & leaf of emerald green colour.

Cup: Soft, light yellow liquid of mellow and delicate flavour. Strong and dense mouth-feel. The taste is sort of like a sweet peas, spinach and a little umami mixed with gently roasted chestnuts and floral honey. Aftertaste is uplifting, sweet and vegetal with no acidity and a little astringency.

This tea is powerful yet mellow and absolute class! This is the one we have in stock now, you can find it in our Spring Greens under the N.214!

2) Ming Qing Long Jing Shi Feng:

Fragrance of dry leaf: Less floral, more vegetal and very very nutty fragrance.

Dry leaf appearance: Bud and leaf of medium size, little more broken. Yellow serpentine gem colour. Not as much furry buds yet nicely pressed.

Wet Leaf: Green beans, gently roasted asparagus and umami. Emerald green bud and leaf, unified in colour.

Cup: Soft, yellow liquid of mellow flavour. Robust and deep mouth-feel. The taste is like roasted cashews with roasted courgettes and green beans. A little unbalanced on one side, yet still very beautiful flavour. There is no acidity and only a little astringency.

This tea is okay, yet I felt it was too roasted and a little too vegetal with missing sweetness. Still pretty good but for the tea snobs out will not do :P

3) Ming Qing Long Jing Shi Feng Premium:

Fragrance of dry leaf: Steamed brussels sprouts, umami & wheatgrass with a little of hazelnut flavour.

Dry leaf appearance: Bud and leaf quite big, nicely pressed into spear. The buds are not furry, the buds and leaves are very uneven.

Wet Leaf: Far too much roasted – creating a sort of tobacco smoke aroma. Notes of butter and hay, steamed brussels sprouts and asparagus and a little of hazelnuts. The appearance of wet leaf is quite chunky, uneven with some stalks in.

Cup: Soft, yellow liquid of mellow, smooth flavour. Robust & round mouth-feel. Gentle spinach fragrance. The taste is quite soft and steamed rather than roasted ...umami, spinach, brussels sprouts and wheatgrass. Roasted hazelnut aftertaste with a little less sweetness and more vegetal notes. No acidic but more astringent than N1 or N2 Long Jing.

This tea is lovely, pleasant and uplifting to drink.

4) Ming Qing Long Jing Xi Hu (West Lake) Superior:

Fragrance of dry leaf: Creamy, super creamy, buttery, wheatgrass and umami fragrance with a little floral and roasted notes.

Dry leaf appearance: Now look at the picture! The colour of bud& leaf is so different! It's emerald-green with quite huge, chunky leaves. From this I'd automatically presume this tea may not be as good... considering furry, fluffy, small, cute and nice leaves is all you want from tea ;) but as I’ve learnt by many coffee or tea tastings... never judge the tea by only looking at the leaves!

Wet Leaf: Creamy butternut squash, cashews and alfa-alfa with gently roasted walnuts and a lump of butter. Buds and leaves are bright emerald-green.

Cup: Soft, yellow, clear liquid. Complex and deep mouth-feel with stunning notes of creamy butternut squash, alfa-alfa, courgettes and extremely well balanced roasted walnuts. The aftertaste is sweet floral honey and steamed veggie. No acidity in the cup. Long lasting sweet & strong astringency.

This tea is absolute surprise and gem! It's easy to drink and fall in love with.

The Legend:
A long time ago in China, there was a very long period of drought. The consequence was an epidemic of plague that affected entire villages, causing the death of many people.
The situation was really serious. It was then that some elderly people told of the existence of a plant whose juice, if extracted, could cure the sick and make the land fertile. It was a plant that could be found on a mountain that was manned by a ferocious dragon.

Then brave young people went to the mountain to take it. But they didn't come back, the dragon who was watching the spring had taken them.
Three siblings, two boys and a girl also decided to take upon this quest. The older brother left first, but after 36 days, he hasn’t returned. The second departed then but after 49 days have not returned either. The girl left last.
When she reached the spring, she noticed that the dragon had turned them all into stones. 
Not wanting to meet the same faith, she hit him with an arrow from a distance, instead of approaching him (cheeky monkey, right?). The dragon was shot to death.
The girl was thus able to collect the shoots of the sacred plant. She watered them with water from the spring and, to her surprise, they immediately became adult plants. She then collected the seeds and squeezed them onto the stones. With every drop that fell, one person returned to life. This was also the case with his brothers.

At home, the brothers planted seeds on the slope of a hill and other plants were born. With the leaves of these sacred plants they prepared an infusion that they distributed to the village.
The sick healed; the rain fell again and the earth was fertile again. Since then, they never stopped drinking the sacred tea infusion of the tea plant.