Long Jing, Guaranteed origin

July 17, 2009
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Long Jing (commonly called “Dragon Well”) is China’s most prestigious tea. Cultivated near Hangzhou (capital of Zhejiang and famous for magnificent Lake Xi Hu), this green tea with its long, flat leaves offers up a sophisticated liquor with delicate herbaceous, floral, and fruity notes. Given its immense popularity, the Long Jing name is unfortunately over-exploited and most teas sold under the name don’t even hail from the original terroir. Therefore, it’s important to make a clear distinction between Xi Hu Long Jing and Zhejiang Long Jing.

Xi Hu Long Jing teas, cultivated in the original zone, are entirely processed by hand: from the picking to the final sifting. Mostly, they come from two opposite mountainsides: famous Shi Feng (Lion’s Peak), charming site of Long Jing village, and Meijiawu, the neighbouring village. The spring harvest is split into two categories: the most prestigious is Ming Qian, an imperial harvest which takes place before the celebration of Qingming around March 20. Two weeks later, the high quality Yu Quan harvest is done. The Long Jing Shi Feng and Long Jing Meijawu teas in our catalogue fall into this category.

As for the Zhejiang Long Jing teas, they are cultivated all over Zhejiang province and are generally picked by hand but are processed by machine. They may be good quality but they do not generally possess the distinctive aromatic characteristics of the guaranteed origin Long Jing teas. The Yuzan from our catalogue is a lovely example of a Zhejiang Long Jing . . . however, despite its fairly close resemblance, we are very careful not to automatically give it the same designation! My suggestion is to try a side-by-side tasting with another Long Jing from our catalogue.

Long Jing is China’s most imitated tea and it is interesting to note that most of the Long Jing teas on the market actually come from other provinces such as Yunnan, Sichuan, and Guizhou. Generally speaking, they are but pale imitations.

The Long Jing Shi Feng teas in our catalogue are produced by the Tang family, who make only 400 kilograms of this vintage per year, and they are all processed by hand. And sadly, even in Long Jing, more and more producers are using machines for the initial wilting in order to shorten the time spent on manual drying (where the leaves are panned in large heated woks to halt oxidation). That is why it is important to us, during our springtime buying visits for our catalogue, to personally ensure that traditional technique and artisanal quality standards are fully respected in regard to all the teas we purchase.

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