About a month ago, I learned that Longjing (Dragon Well) is the sweetest tea with the highest theanine content among green teas. My experience with green teas, minus the Korean sejak(*), has been less favorable than with the light oolongs, so I’ve been wanting to taste the Longjing forever, but Teance was out of it (cuz it’s rare). Today I asked Darius for the Nanjing Rainflower, they were out, but much to my surprise he said the new Longjing has come in. Yay! Fresh Dragon Well!
Pre-steeped leaves: flat (because they were pressed instead of rolled), long, faded greenish yellow with a blue hint.
About 45-second steep in 170F water. It doesn’t seem like an over-sensitive type.
The steeped leaves smells lustrous, nutty and rich, somewhat resembling the Lu Shan (a buttery Chinese green).
The color: faint greenish yellow.
The taste: Oh. Wow. Since I started drinking real teas in February, I’ve tried 32 kinds of tea (not including herbal teas and flower-infused versions), a lot of them are quite good, but on only 2 occasions did my eyes involuntarily open wide and bright: once after the first sip of the Buddha’s Hand, the other after the Fragrant Leaf Pu’er. Both are rare, fragrant, sweet, delicate but profound. Now, the first sip of Longjing made the third time my eyes widened. It’s a world different from any other Chinese green tea I’ve had. It has a unique vegetal note. It’s toasty (but not roasty), nutty, rich, soothing, lingering, fulfilling. But really, I can’t describe it. You want a tea that makes you instantly happy? This is it.
I poured the lady beside me a cup, and her eyes had the same reaction as mine. No wonder this stuff costs $65 per 2-oz bag.
To double the happiness, I paired the Longjing with a tangerine & bee pollen chocolate truffle from Coracao Confections. The truffle: not too dark, not too sweet, not too soft, not too creamy, not too melty, kinda sandy. It complements the nuttiness of the tea. The tea heightens its citric fragrance.
Still a novice, but I’m starting to understand what the old man at the Golden Tea Shop said: you’ve gotta drink the cheap teas first, then you learn, then you can appreciate the good teas that much more.
Longjing (Dragon Well): green tea, grown in Hangzhou, China, wok-fried, considered one of the finest teas.
This Longjing that I tried today: Pre-rain Longjing from Lion’s Peak in the West Lake region, handpicked from April 1-3 just before the Qing Ming Festival (Tết Thanh Minh) on the 5th and the first rain, i.e., today I tried the Ming Qian (Pre-Qingming) Shifeng Xi Hu Longjing (西湖 龍井茶). Considered “crème de la crème” by connoisseurs. Hand-fired in a wok 100 g at a time.
Legends said King Qianlong (1735-1796) was so impressed by a cup of Shifeng Longjing from a temple there (the Longjing temple) that he gave 18 tea bushes in front of the temple special imperial status. These 18 tea plants are still living and producing leaves to be auctioned every year for more value per gram than gold. Now that’s an incentive to befriend China’s president, like, really good friends.
There are fake Longjings, of course.
This post also appears on FlavorBoulevard.com
(*) Japanese green teas have their own flavor profile, comparing them with other green teas would be comparing apples and oranges