From the Zhejiang province of China, comes one of the countries most famous teas. The Chinese name of the tea is Longjing, which can be translated into dragon well. As a green tea, it is heated soon after it is picked in order to halt the fermentation process. Because it is a Chinese green tea, it is pan-fired rather than steamed. This makes the rolled up leaves very flat as they are pressed against the bottom of the hot pan. This is the easiest way to identify the leaves of the Dragon Well loose leaf tea.
Consumers often refer to them as “spear shaped” and this characterization can help greatly in the identification process. This tea has a wonderful and unique taste and aroma. The color of the brewed tea is a greenish yellow and there is a somewhat floral taste to the tea along with a slightly bitter aftertaste. Overall the tea tastes great and is one of the more sought after varieties. It also has a higher catechin content as compared to other green teas so it is a great source of antioxidants.
Dragon Well tea comes in 6 separate levels of quality. The highest quality is Superior grade, the next highest is 1 and so on all the way down to 5 being the lowest quality. In addition to these different qualities there are also different types of Dragon Well tea. These types are characterized mostly by where they are grown. Different levels of elevation and moisture/precipitation can lead to different tasting leaves.
Historically, the production of Dragon Well has been divided up into 4 different sub regions. The regions are Lion (Shi), Dragon (Long), Cloud (Yun) and Tiger (Hu). Now this division has blurred and morphed into Shifeng Longjing, Meijiawu Longjing and XiHu Longjing making up the rest of the varieties. The most standard form of Dragon Well is XiHu Longjing. This tea is grown by Zhejiang’s West Lake and is a very common form for consumption.
Pre-Qingming Longjing is a premium variety that is picked in a very early season. It is produced from the first spring shoots that sprout after the Qingming festival. The window for picking this tea is only 10 days out of each year.
Meijiawu Longjing Is grown around the Mejiawu Village and is notable for its distinct jade color.
All of these varieties are very good in taste and quality and will make little difference to a novice tea drinker. The more experienced tea drinkers may want to experiment with a few different varieties before they pick their favorite. When looking at quality, the best thing to check for is the uniform color of the leaves. If the leaves all look the same, it is more likely to be a higher quality tea. If the tea leaves vary from light green to blue-green, sometimes that can be indicative of a lower quality tea. This means that corners were cut at some point in the production process.
This tea can fall into the more expensive end of the spectrum. From certain distributors, you can find this for the same price as many other green teas, although premium distributors may sell this for much more than what you are used to paying.
I recommend buying from Tealyra. I have had many buying experiences from this store and they have never really steered me wrong. I have had low quality Dragonwell before and it was not a fun experience. In order to form a good opinion about tea, you need to give it a chance and spend a little more to get a good experience. This tea isn’t that expensive and might even quickly become one of your favorites like it did for me.
The recommended temperature for preparation is 167-176 degrees F (75-80 C) for about 2 minutes. You can steep longer if you are a single steep person like myself. If you are really serious about getting a good taste, steep the tea in a slightly porous Yixing clay teapot. This will only make a difference for the true tea aficionados and can be purchased at a reasonable price. As an added bonus, the tea leaves can be eaten after they soak. Just don’t eat too many!