The aroma is absolutely electrifying. It's definitely got one of the strongest of all green tea aromas. And the taste is refreshingly brisk and vibrant, with a very smooth, velvety length to the flavour. We're off to the Far East to experience a really beautiful cup that is also one of China's top ten green teas.
WHAT IS IT?
Long Jing is considered to be China's most famous green tea. It's revered for its vibrant emerald colour, aromatic sweet flavour and strikingly attractive flat leaf - features we'll look into in more detail shortly. This variety mainly grows in Zhejiang which is in the Eastern Costal Province of China. Here, countless centuries of skill have gone into developing this pan-fried, artisan tea - which you can now enjoy on Tea Tasters.
There's a mystical story about the Hangzhou region that gave rise to Long Jing's alternative name 'Dragon Well Green'. Legend has it that the many lakes around Hangzhou were home to a dragon. There was also a tunnel in the bottom of a well which led to the nearby coastal sea waters. Here, the dragon would move to and fro at his own pleasure - something we're about to experience with this very special tea.
THE STORY BEHIND LONG JING
Long Jing was first mentioned as far back as China's Song Dynasty. It was during the more recent Huang Dynasty, however, that Emperor Huizong visited the Hangzhou lakes area. There he noted the exceptional flavour and taste that these unique tea bushes produced. In fact, it's said today that 18 of those original bushes the Emperor came across are still harvested today.
To achieve exactly the right quality of flavour in Long Jing, it's paramount to pluck or harvest the early leaves at the right time. In this part of China this is the fifteenth day before the Spring Equinox - around March 20th. Plucking then continues right the way through spring and into the summer months.
SERVING, BREWING AND TASTING YOUR TEA
Before we start brewing, let's have a look at exactly how this Green Tea is produced. Generally, the leaf or the bud and the top leaf is plucked and then left to wither - either in a warm room or outside, for between 6 and 12 hours. This is to reduce some of the moisture content. The leaves are then pan-fried in a large, red-hot wok. After about 15 minutes they're taken out and allowed to cool - losing between 20 and 40% of total moisture volume. The leaves then go through a second series of pans to produce the lovely, elongated flat shape that you see now.
So let's get a brew on and discover the delightful flavours that await by emulating how Jong Ling is typically drunk in the Xizang provinces - using our traditional tea tasting crockery, Chinese style.
First, boil some water and let it cool for about four or five minutes until it reaches between 75 and 80°C. This temperature is critical for perfect tasting green tea. Pour the water on one heaped teaspoon of leaves and allow it to diffuse for three or four minutes. Of course, if you're using a teapot at home, one heaped teaspoon of tea for each person is about right - plus one more for the pot and good luck.
We're now going to pour the tea into glass cups. These only become fashionable in China over the last 150 years when clear, delicate glass was perceived as a rich person's status symbol. As you can see, the leaves do take a while to fall to the base of the cup. This isn't a problem though. In China, the glass may be topped up several times over the hour to ensure the flavour is properly released by the leaves.
Now, let's look at the gorgeous liquor. See how it illuminates the cup with a pale, but vibrant yellow. The leaf has also started to plump out a bit where it has regained some of its moisture. The aroma is absolutely electrifying too. It's definitely got one of the strongest of all green tea aromas. And the taste is refreshingly brisk and vibrant, with a very smooth, velvety length to the flavour.
This just happens to be the best time of year to drink Long Jing - or Dragon Well Green - as the end of March is when spring teas are released from China.
We hope you enjoy it.
LONG JING VIDEO
Our fabulous master blender Mark talks us through the wonder of Long Jing.
Watch now >