by kate on January 25th, 2013
Canton Tea Club Week 17: Superior Organic Dragon Well
Long Jing or ‘Dragon well’ is undoubtedly one of the most significant of all Chinese teas; valued by Emperors and connoisseurs since around 750AD, it is still served to most foreign dignitaries visiting China. For anyone who truly wants to explore Chinese tea, Long Jing is an essential point of call.
Just as Champagne can only come from the Champagne Ardennes region, a true Long Jing can only come from Hangzhou, an area of incredible natural beauty and purity in the Zhejiang province of China. The highest quality first flush Long Jings are highly prized in China and every year are sold for tens of thousands of dollars.
The hand processing of Long Jing tea takes an incredible degree of skill, skills which take decades to perfect (the best Long Jings are generally not processed by roasters under the age of 50).
The leaves are carefully hand plucked to avoid bruising the leaves (the earlier they are picked the more desirable they are). They are then dried and withered for 8-10 hours to reduce the moisture content of the leaves. The tea is then roasted in an iron wok, (formerly heated by a wood furnace but these are now generally electric). Usually only about 100- 200g is roasted at a time, making large scale production of this tea a serious task. The master roaster will shift and press the leaves against the wok with his bare hands. It has to be with his bare hands so that he can feel the gradual change of the leaves. Fried twice, after the primary frying (which begins to form the characteristic flat, straight, spear like shape) the leaves are cooled, then fried for a second time to perfect the shape. Too much pressure, incorrect hand motion, or pressed too soon and the leaves will become too dark in colour. If not pressed enough or too late the leaves will be the wrong shape. So, not an easy tea to process, now we know why this tea is so prized and why many sellers in China try to fake it.
Our Long Jings are grown on a small organic tea garden owned by Mrs Jiang on an Island of Qiandao Lake also known as ‘thousand island lake’. (Don’t worry – this is in Zheijiang province – no fakes here). This incredible lake is manmade, created in the Maoist era (1950s) when a hydroelectric station was built nearby, flooding an area of 573km², this lake is dotted with over 1000 islands covered in lush forests and full of wildlife.
Before the valley was flooded to create the power station, the area was home to two ancient cities both built over 1200 years ago. These were seemingly forgotten until 2001, when divers found the submerged cities along with three other ancient townships.
An incredible tea, from an incredible place – enjoy it. And while you’re drinking it you can look at the pictures and watch the video below of Mrs Jiang’s tea garden (her tea is better than her camerawork, promise), and read more about the lake and the ancient underwater cities here.
We stock 3 grades of Long Jing. You have tasted the Superior Organic Long Jing but we also have a regular Organic Long Jing (great for everyday drinking) and a very very special Imperial High Mountain Long Jing.
took me a while to get round to this , as i normally find green tea a bit dull. Now i know why long jing has such a good name . The intense vegetal taste was almost matcha like. A very good tea indeed.
I wasn't using a thermometer to test the water temperature, and found it very hard to get the brewing right to bring out the chestnutty flavour which is what really draws me in with this kind of tea. I managed one almost-perfect brew where it was spot on and absolutely delicious, but it seems quite a fussy tea.
As always I couldn't wait to open this Friday's box. To be honest I wasn't expecting too much. I had tried the 'everyday' Long Jing, and whilst it is a very good green tea I'm finding I generally prefer Oolongs. However, my first impressions are that the 'superior' Dragon well is just that - superior. For a start it looks so perfect. The care taken to gently press the delicate leaves must be enormous. And that care pays dividends. When the water hits them the leaves instantly give off wonderful fresh aromas and sprng back almost to life - as though they would grow gain if potted up. The flavours are so natural and fresh too. I'm sitting here sipping tea in cold wet Wales, but can imagine sitting by the lake in China nibbling leaves straight from the bushes. It is a wonderful treat. I shall buy a big packet, and also splurge on the 'Imperial' version.