Dragon Well tea, also known as longjing tea or lung ching tea, is a roasted green tea from the Zhejiang Province of China. The tea is cultivated in Longjing Village in Hangzhou and is known as one of the highest-quality green teas on the planet. In fact, the tea was once considered the "tea of the emperors" and it holds a China Famous Tea award. Here, we’ll dive into the details of Dragon Well tea from its unique cultivation region to the highest quality types, bursting with flavor.
Dragon Well tea is a mellow green tea with fruity tasting notes. The tea is often described as having vegetal base notes that are similar to spinach, which is enhanced by other flavors including chestnut and rich cream.
Dragon Well green tea is traditionally harvested by hand, paying special attention to collecting uniform leaves for the highest grade teas. High-quality Dragon Well tea is called superior grade and features uniform leaves in terms of size and shape and also demonstrate a tenderness not found in lower quality blends. The highest quality Dragon Well teas mainly come from the West Lake area (Xihu) of Zhejiang.
After harvest, the tea leaves are then placed in a large wok and pan-fired like many other Chinese teas. This heating process prevents the leaves from oxidizing, thus maintaining the rich green hue of the leaves and the integrity of ingredients. This type of green tea contains high amounts of catechins, vitamin C, and amino acids that offer a range of health benefits including weight loss (1).
The Zhejiang Province is characterized by large mountain ranges, foggy days, significant rainfall, and mild temperatures. Since the weather often includes cloud cover or heavy fog, this type of green tea is considered a shade-grown tea. Like matcha green tea and sencha, that means this green tea has higher concentrations of antioxidants and chlorophyll that boost healthy properties and flavor. In addition to higher levels of catechins, polyphenols, and amino acids this type of green tea also contains more caffeine than standard green teas.
Harvesting tea is more complicated than simply plucking a few leaves from the tea plants. Timing, cultural techniques, and finesse are all key to the harvest and cultivation of Dragon Well tea. To ensure the best quality and flavor, this type of green tea is harvested early in spring. The highest quality longjing tea is harvested before April 5th when the Qingming festival takes place. These teas are known as pre-Qingming or Ming Qian. The early harvest ensures the tea is made only of the youngest and freshest tea buds.
Once the tea leaves are harvested, they are heated in large woks. The best quality — and most expensive — leaves are roasted by hand, with tea masters gently crushing the leaves in the wok until they reach the right roasting point. More affordable longjing teas are roasted and sometimes even harvested using machines to speed up the process. Once dry, the leaves are gently flattened and folded to release the aroma.
There are three main types of Dragon Well tea and two additional varieties that are sometimes still classified as longjing. The first three teas are known as Xihu Longjing teas — those that are grown in the West Lake area. The latter two are cultivated in the same province, but a different region — Anji rather than Xihu — so traditional tea classifiers don't always consider them true Dragon Well tea even though they share many of the same flavor characteristics.
Nestled in the mountains of Xihu, more than 500 farmers cultivate an exquisite form of Dragon Well tea known as Mejiawu. What sets this longjing tea apart from others is its rich jade green hue. The tea brews into a bright pale green hue and offers nutty notes and a mildly floral aftertaste.
This type of Dragon Well tea is named after the mountain on which its tea leaves are harvested. Shi Feng — or Lion Peak — is one of five large mountains in this region of China. Its mild and foggy climate creates the perfect conditions for developing exquisite and expensive teas. This type of longjing tea is the type that was enjoyed by emperors and is considered the highest quality Dragon Well tea. The tea brews into a light yellow hue and has a crisp flavor.
Tiger Spring is another famous green tea from the West Lake region. This loose leaf tea is cultivated near the clear, refreshing Tiger spring. It is an expensive Dragon Well tea that can be infused numerous times without a decrease in flavor quality. It tends to be more mellow than Shi Feng with higher vegetal notes.
Bai longjing is not a true Dragon Well tea as it is produced in Anji. In addition, this type of tea is actually made from a special type of white tea plant, although it is processed and sold as a green tea. The tea boasts a full body with grassy notes and is more affordable compared to the true Dragon Well teas.
This type of Dragon Well tea is cultivated outside of the West Lake region and is largely produced by the popular Chinese brand called Shi, or Lion. It is one of the most popular longjing teas as it is more affordable for the masses. This type of green tea boasts nutty aromas and an aftertaste that is similar to sweet, juicy grapes. The tea leaves are an emerald green hue and brew into a rich green color when infused in hot water.
For the best flavor, it's better to use loose leaf tea rather than tea bags. That's because loose tea tends to be a higher grade than tea bags, which usually only contain the dust and fannings of tea leaves. Also, make sure to use filtered water or spring water instead of tap water for the most authentic flavor.
Like most green teas, Dragon Well tea should be brewed at lower temperatures than black tea or oolong tea, which can tolerate more heat. This type of green tea should be brewed with a water temperature between 170 and 180 degrees Fahrenheit. For best results, use a temperature-controlled tea kettle to reach the proper temperature. If you don't have one, you can also bring water to a simmering boil and then let it cool for 2 minutes before pouring into your teapot for steeping.
Dragon Well tea leaves can be infused 3 to 5 times before losing flavor. Set the leaves aside to brew multiple infusions, just make sure to increase the steeping time with each infusion by about 30 seconds.
Drink like the emperors of centuries gone by with a cup of longjing tea. Tea drinkers will love the grassy notes, nutty undertones, and stunning green hues of Dragon Well tea. Connoisseurs will also appreciate the layered flavor profile of this Chinese green tea and the rich history of the growing region that makes these authentic and rare teas. Add this high-quality tea to your wishlist and enjoy a cup of green tea that is bursting with flavor and history.
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