DISCOVERING LONGJING TEA
Grown near the city of Hangzhou, in the Zhejiang Province of China, for more than a thousand years, Longjing has gained a great reputation for its exquisite quality.
This green tea is indeed a world full of elegance, benefits and history, starting with its name.
This Chinese tea is also known as Dragon Well tea, and there is more than one legend to explain this mysterious name.
According to one version, in ancient times, people believed that a dragon lived in the village well, controlling the rainfall. They would actually visit the well and pray for rain.
Another legend says that the name Longjing is both the name of a water spring and the name of a temple, where monks planted tea trees.
Imagine starting your day drinking such an enchanting tea!
HISTORY OF LONGJING
Historically, Longjing green tea was not given its name until the southern Song Dynasty (960 – 1279AD), a dynasty that invested in the development of tea production.
However, it was only during the Qing Dynasty (1616 – 1911AD) that Dragon Well tea was introduced to the world, due to the increasing interest of the emperor Qianlong (1735 – 1796AD), philosopher and poet, who loved to visit the tea plantations.
During one of his visits to the tea plantations in Hangzhou, the emperor’s mother became ill, forcing him to return at once taking some tea leaves.
Upon his arrival, his mother was intrigued by the smell of the tea leaves and the emperor brewed them for her. She soon improved and the emperor granted Imperial status to the temple tea trees.
Longjing went from preferred beverage of emperors to tea offered still today to heads of state.
CULTIVATION AND PROCESSING
To be an authentic Longjing green tea, this tea has to be produced in the right place, under the right conditions and using the right method.
Take a minute to read about how this tea is processed and you will be able to tell a real Longjing from a fake one.
Location and Climate
Longjing green tea comes to life in the mountainous area of the Zhejiang Province, surrounded by a mild climate, rain and fog all year round.
These conditions, and the lack of sun, allow the tea leaves to retain more theanine, thus providing your tea with a mellow and fruity taste.
The best Longjing quality tea can be found in West Lake, namely in Lion Peak Mountain. There are, of course, other Longjing teas produced outside West Lake, within the Zhejiang Province.
In other provinces, tea is being produced using the same Longjing techniques, but only tea produced in Zhejiang is considered real and authentic Longjing green tea.
This tea is harvested in early spring and then only young buds are plucked.
Leaves are jade-green in color. The highest quality teas are picked first, prior to April 5th, known as the pre-Qingming Festival. After that, teas picked are considered lower grades.
Another step in the process that is unique to this tea is the roasting. This magical art is done by hand in iron pans.
Roasters use their bare hands to better experience the heat and understand the development of the tea leaves, which takes up to five years to master.
Shaping the Leaves
Longjing is a type of tea that is folded by hand into the shape of flattened sticks, much like a flat tea leaf. As this stage of the processing takes place a wonderful warm aroma emanates from the tea leaves.
It is this technique that is often copied, so be careful when buying this tea. Make sure that all conditions are met so that you always purchase a real Longjing tea.
This is an example of the very standard convention of naming; the Xi Hu (West Lake) is a place where this particular Longjing is grown. This Longjing, also known as West Lake Longjing, is a China Famous Tea—in fact the most famous one—and is grown in the Zhejiang Province near Xihu, or West Lake. It is grown in a designated area of 168 square kilometers. Historically, Xihu Longjing tea was divided into four sub-regions: Lion (Shi), Dragon (Long), Cloud (Yun) and Tiger (Hu). As the distinction between the sub-regions blurred over the years, this categorization has now been adjusted to Shifeng Longjing, Meijiawu Longjing, with the remaining known collectively as Xihu Longjing.
The premium early season first-picking known as Ming Qian or Pre-Qingming (or Before Ching Ming) Longjing tea requires it to be produced from the first spring shoots prior to the Qingming Festival on the 5th of April each year (approximately). The production cycle is very short, usually only ten days before Qingming every year. Tea picked after this period is of a lower grade .
Shi Feng Longjing
A type of Xihu Longjing from the Shi Feng (Lion Peak) production region. Fresh tasting, its fragrance is sharp and long lasting. Its leaves are yellowish green in color. Some unscrupulous tea makers excessively pan-fire their tea to imitate its color.
A type of Xihu Longjing from the area around Mejiawu village. This tea is renowned for its jade green color.
Not a true Longjing but looks like one and is commonly attributed, it is actually a Bai Pian. It comes from Anji in the Zhejiang Province. It was created in the early 80’s and is a Green tea from a race of White tea trees and is hence very unusual; it is said to contain more amino acids than ordinary Green tea.
This tea comes from just outside the Xihu district. It is generally not as expensive as Xihu Longjing.
Tiger Spring Longjing
It is named from the best water source in Tiyun Mountains. This type of Xihu Longjing tastes wonderful even after repeated infusions.
This is the best style among all Xihu Longjing variety. It is originally produced from the second degree protected Xihu Longjing Farm, thus the price of Lion is much more affordable than other types of Xihu Longjing.
CHINA NATIONAL TEA MUSEUM
The China National Tea Museum was opened in Hangzhou, Zhejiang Province in 1991. It is located in Longjing (Dragon Well) Village, west of charming West Lake, and covers an area of 22,000 square meters (about 5.4 acres) with a 3500 square meter (about 0.9 acres) construction area.
This museum is the only one in the country with the tea theme. It has no external walls but is enclosed by vegetation giving the unique impression that the halls and the tea plants inside depend upon each other. Additionally, one hundred distinctive Chinese characters relating to tea are enchased in the road to add color to your trip.
The museum is comprised of four groups of buildings which display the history and development of tea in China. The exhibition building is divided into six halls to show the history of growing and processing of tea. They are the Hall of Tea History, the Kaleidoscope Hall, the Hall of Tea Properties, the Tea-friendship Hall, the Tea Sets Hall, and the Tea Customs Hall. Here, different halls illuminate different aspects of tea and its culture in the long history. The Tea Customs Hall is recommended. Here visitors can discover the great impact of tea on the lives of various minority groups of the country. The Kaleidoscope Hall features more than three hundred kinds of tea, including the six basic types of tea of the country and some reprocessed teas. To learn more about these kinds of tea, take a digital earphone upon arrival.