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Tea Review: Pre-Rain Dragon Well Supreme

March 10, 2009

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longjing_06The difference between Jing Tea’s Pre Rain Dragon Well Supreme Green Tea (Long Jing) and that green stuff available for under $4/lb in grocery stores labeled as “Dragon Well” is akin to the difference between an Elvis-themed wedding chapel in Las Vegas and the Cathedral at Notre Dame. In other words, don’t go to Vegas. Quite simply put, the Dragon Well Supreme is a truly remarkable and spectacular tea. Those cheap imposters, many of which aren’t even genuine Dragon Well, are sometimes palatable, but in comparison to the real thing they are mere shadows. Jing Tea’s Dragon Well, on the other hand, grown in Zhejiang province and harvested last April, upholds the noble reputation of the name.

Along with Bi Luo Chun (Green Snail Spring, 碧螺春), Long Jing (Dragon Well, 龍井) is one of the only two Chinese teas that shows up on every list of the 10 Famous Chinese Teas, and is nearly always first or second on the list. It has a rich and interesting background and a stellar reputation. Its repute is well deserved as it is quite a special tea.

longjing_08Jing Tea’s offering is an outstanding example of a high quality Long Jing. I appreciated each individual sip of the lovely brew and the complex flavors that it presented. One thing notable is its very clean taste. I can’t really think of a better way to define this characteristic than with the word “clean,” but if you’ve experienced it, you might know what I mean. As a pan fired green tea, Long Jing has a very different character from other green teas. It yields a very rich and complex liquor, and can be brewed at least 3-4 times. It is largely made up of delicate buds, which are easily seen in the full size view of the photo showing it in the gaiwan.

Long Jing has its own unique set of preparation techniques that involve brewing in a tall, clear glass. It is said to take three years of dedicated study before one is able to master this technique, which, it should be noted, is not called gongfu cha. I do not have the skill or knowledge to use the exact procedures, but I used 80 degree spring water and a porcelain gaiwan, and the tea tasted exquisite.

The National Tea Museum in Zhejiang Province (note the non-coincidence of the location) has an interesting description of the best brewing processes:

Infusing Procedure of Longjing Tea

The soaking method is used in making a cup of Longjing tea.
Two grams of Longjing tea is put in a transparent glass cup and infused with a quarter cup of about 80 ℃boiled water for 20-40 seconds so that the leaves are soaked and tea components extracted out. Then additional hot water is poured in, with the water kettle up and down continuously for three times until the cup is seventy percent full. This process is called “Three-Noddings of Phoenix” which means to pay respect to the guests and helps the leaves move up and down diminishing the concentration difference between upper and lower layers. The70% full cup means “Seventy percent tea and thirty percent affection makes it perfect”, as the saying goes.

As the tea is infused through the process of “Three Noddings of Phoenix”, the tender shoots are unfolding, looking like spears or flags flying in the water, moving up and down, with vapor above the water’s surface. This magnificent view is regarded as “tea dancing” which people always talk about with great relish.

longjing_07Learning to brew this tea properly demands quite a bit of devoted practice, but it would be well worth the effort.

There are some good additional details about Long Jing, and about this particular Long Jing on the Jing Tea website. As a sidenote, one thing that I really like about Jing Tea’s website is that there is a map accompanying each of the tea descriptions so that the buyer can see where the tea was grown. They also have an impressive selection of teas, and this particular Long Jing is one that I can not recommend highly enough.

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