Longjing, or Dragon Well, is one of China’s great green teas. It’s short season, small annual yield, unique, sweet chestnut taste and full bodied, buttery mouthfeel make it one of the most expensive, sought after and famous of China’s green teas. Look to the Bazaar at Firepot.com in mid April to taste one of the best 2017 Dragonwell teas China has to offer!
Here in Hangzhou, Eastern China’s Zhejiang province and the heart of Dragonwell tea in the last week of March, we’re plucking the first flush harvest. The first buds and leaves to sprout in the 10 days before the Qingming festival (April 4th or 5th) each year are considered to be the best and most nutrient-packed, with winter stores of vitamins and minerals bursting out of the leaf as soon as the spring sun shines.
These are notoriously difficult to access and worth more per gram than gold, since only a very small amount is made annually. They are exclusively for VIPs and not available commercially, but for $800 a pound or $50 per ounce, Longjing aficionados can buy a pound of the highest quality, pre-Qingming Longjing tea available. At around USD $4.5 a cup, that is actually great value, considering you can resteep one cup”s worth of leaves at least 3 times!
Besides and early harvest date, quality is determined by a number of factors from care and skill in processing to grade and soil quality and weather conditions.
West Lake (Xi Hu), a 100 square mile radius near West Lake where the original Longjing plants were growing is known to have the best Longjing tea. This includes the Meijiawu and Shifeng regions.
Look for leaves of uniform size and a clean edge where the leaf was separated from the plant.
Of the three plucks, Lotus Heart (just the terminal bud), Flag Spear (one leaf and a bud) and Birds Tongue (2 leaves and a bud), Lotus Heart is considered the best because flavor and nutrients are stored predominantly in the bud.
Look for uniformity of color. They should be mostly green with a some yellow. A greener, jade leaf (Meijiawu’s style) will taste more sweet and complex while a more yellow leaf (Shifeng’s style) will have nuttier notes. Both are considered to be good quality. Look for whole, unbroken leaves that are uniformly flat.
You also want a dense, weighty tea that sinks to the bottom of the cup when steeped.
- As a rule of thumb, steep Dragonwell in water that is about 170 degrees (8 minutes off the boil) for 2 minutes.
- Resteep up to 3 times.
- Keep in an air tight container for up to 1 year.