Longjing tea

History

Longjing green tea (龙井茶) is China's national pride. Due to its exceptional properties, flavor and aroma, it is recognized as the country's main green tea. Growing in different regions, the Longjing green tea has various types, but especially appreciated by the connoisseurs is the famous tea from Hangzhou (Zhejiang Province), called “Dragon Well”.

The name “Dragon Well” is associated with different historical and folkloric descriptions. One of them regards the behavior of the tea leaves in water, which based on their movement, resembles a dragon – a specific feature of the leaves is that they can rotate and twist as if playing with the water.

The name of the “Dragon Well” tea comes from a famous well, the water of which had healing power. People also believed that a dragon lived in this well and they communicated with it.

There are countless mystical stories regarding the name of the tea. One of them is about an immortal in the mountains of Hangzhou who dug a special well for his dragon. Just before he rose to Heaven on the back of the dragon, the immortal left people a very important knowledge of the curing properties of some medicines. Stored in the well, where the dragon lived, the knowledge was used for the creation of a special tea, which had curing powers.

The tea became popular diring the Qing Dynasty (1644 – 1912), when Longjing was certified Guncha (Gong Cha, Imperial Tea). The name "Imperial Tea" appeared in honor of the Emperor Kansi (Kangxi). His grandson visited the Hugun Temple (Hu Gong) on the Shifenshan Slope (Shi Feng Shan, Lion Peak), and he revealed the best tea bushes. That's how the first 18 imperial tea bushes appeared. They are now re-created on the West Island.

These bushes are producing tea leaves during the whole day. That’s why, no matter the “golden price”, the tea is always sold out before it grows. There is also one more fact that appears to be the best recommendation for Longjing. For over thousands of years, Chinese emperors had been buying it as a gift for other high-ranked people and rulers. These are the best highlights for the uniqueness of this type of Longjing.

Predictably, that kind of popularity has created the conditions for a large scale of fakes and falsification of Longjing. Today, no more than 30% of all of the Longjing that is on the market is real. And if we talk about the Imperial Longjing, it is even less – no more than 5%. Very often, it does not even get to the public sale, because the experts and the elite of the Chinese society buy it all.

Features

A special Longjing feature, unlike all other green teas, appears to be its property to accumulate energy and through brewing, transform it into power. That’s the type of tea with inner strength. Longjing is able to ferment itself and ferment water during brewing. In reality, the real Longjing possesses immortal functions. It is practically not susceptible to dying, unlike other green teas. The basic art of producing this tea is to allow the process of fermentation to continue, even after brewing the tea.

Probably, this is the only green tea, possessing power for a whole year. It is a well-known fact that depending on the quality, the green tea freshness cannot last longer than three to six months. The Imperial Longjing, better known as Xi Hu Longjing, can store power for a whole year. Its natural ferments are powerful and need to be carefully preseved.

Against the large amount of low-quality tea, grown in the wrong place or simply forged tea, it is easy to recognize the real Imperial tea. You just need to drink real Longjing for a while.

The real Longjing has good conjunctive and cleansing qualities. As a tea, it is good not only for individual use, but also as a carrier of energetics and crystals. Thus, it is very appropriate in terms of the project “the Nutrition of the Future”.

Growing areas

The true Longjing is associated with the mountain of Hangzhou. There is a variety of minerals in its soil. Therefore, the Longjing from the province of Yunnan, Guyzhou, Anhui and fifty more places, cannot replace the Xi Hu Longjing or the Longjing from the West Lake. This is a completely different green tea.

The greatest danger is when a tea is grown in the wrong place and the laws of its preparation are violated. Even at the West Lake, one tea cannot be compared to another.

There is a total of 18 officially classified places where Longjing is grown. Recently the Chinese government decided to protect the production of true Longjing. It denoted, according to historical data, 18 zones for growing the tea which has the right to be called Longjing. This doesn't mean that Longjing grown in other provinces should not be considered as tea. Only at these places, the tea possesses four basic qualities: an emerald-green color, the aroma of dew, a sweet taste, a jade appearance – a precise configuration.

The Dragon Well is growing in the highlands, where the climate is mild and there are plentiful rainfalls all year round. The main growing areas of Longjing according to the experts are the West Lake (Xi Hu), the Shifeng Peak, the mountain in Yunxi County, areas around the village of Meijiawu and the Hupao County. The main influence on the quality of the tea brings the harvest which is done in different periods.

The best quality tea is harvested before the Qingming festival and is called Mingqian. Actually, this is a real Imperial tea, which is very difficult to find and it costs a lot. Usually, it is sold out in advance. The producers have only a few days to harvest this tea.

Another quality tea is considered the one that is harvested before the rainy season.This tea is called Mingqian and Yuqian.

18 habitat of high quality Longjing tea

  • Neighborhood of Xi Hu (杭州市西湖区(西湖风景名胜区)
  • Xiaoshan Zone (萧山区)
  • Binjiang Zone (滨江区)
  • Yuhang Zone (余杭区)
  • Fuyang City (富阳市)
  • Lin'an City (临安市)
  • District Tonglu (桐庐县)
  • Jiande City (建德市)
  • District Chun'an (淳安县)
  • District Shaoxin, Shaoxin City (绍兴市绍兴县)
  • District Xinchang (新昌县)
  • Shengzhou City (嵊州市)
  • Zhuji City (诸暨市)
  • Shangy City (上虞市)
  • Yuecheng Zone (越城区)
  • District Pan'an Jinhua, Pan'an Jinhua City (金华市磐安县)
  • Dongyang City (东阳市)
  • District Tiantai, Taizhou City (台州市天台县)

Harvest

The harvest of tea leaves is a special process that is correlated with the characteristics of the weather. It is believed that a celestial dragon must personally indicate the correct time of the harvest – a dry and crisp morning.

The correctly picked leaf is already a tradition dating back to the days when the Longjing was pressed and made to a flat cake. This is very important for the buds which usually have two or three leaves near them. The farther the leaf is harvested from the bud, the less valuable it is.

Eight preparation methods

The magical work with the geometry of the leaf begins after the tea is harvested,. The leaf must be thin and must have an axis and rich color.

When the packing of the leaves begins, it all depends on the tea master, how he manages to “clog” the power of tea in the leaf. The leaves are started to be sealed, or dried. The temperature in the jar, where the drying takes place, depends on the quality of the leaves and the hand work of the master who is “baking” the tea. The next step is the acquiring of the Art of Eight Methods.

  • Listening and understanding the quality of the tea
  • Laying the tea in the jar
  • Shaking the tea, without allowing it to constantly touch the jar
  • Harvesting the tea and keeping the power of tea leaf
  • Blowing through the tea, giving it to breathe during the sealing
  • Pressing down the tea and creating a single essence from the batch, thus supplying more power
  • Sealing the tea with the knowledge of when the process ends
  • Taking the tea out of the jar and completing the process

The tea master uses all these methods according to the level of humidity and leaf colours. The better the tea, the more dependent on the master. The most interesting thing is that the real master can bake a low-quality tea in a way, that even an expert won't be able to identify it by sight.

For this purpose they create an artificial oiliness by editing oil into the jar. The walls of the jar are specially oiled with it. For example, a well-known fact is that the best Longjing, the Xi Hu tea, possesses oily properties. That's why, very often they try to make a fake Longjing, in similarity to the real one. Today, as result of this, a large quantity of tea made by the Longjing technology is called by the same name.

There are about 150 manufacturers at present who have the appropriate plantations and observe all rules of producing Longjing. And still, there are about 500 manufacturers producing low-grade Longjing made, of course, not by the rules.

Early spring harvest

This is the tea from young leaves, very small in size, which in reality are buds. Or buttons, which is a bud with leaves. There are only five to seven weeks to harvest this sort of Longjing.

The first two weeks of the harvest is the high class tea. After that the quality gradually falls and the tea bush is given a year to rest. This contributes to a special property of Longjing and its power (usually the different types of green tea are harvested from three to five times a year). And not in the last place, the hand making of the tea makes this type a truly unsurpassed one. A person must be trained for at least three to five years, in order to learn how to produce it!

The fact, that for 1 kg of good tea it is necessary to spend at least five to six hours, speaks for itself. Another important thing for the tea is its place of origin, but more important is who and how made it.

It is also very important to understand that the “hands of the master” is not just the art of making, but also the art of teaching. But if you want to support it, you need enough money. That's why the high price of the tea from the Lion Peak is justifiable, as is the need of preservation of the masters and traditions.

The process of harvesting of tea should not be underestimated. It is believed that the leaf wilts if harvested without soul and without proper attitude.

Overall, 100,000 buds of Longjing give only 1 kg of tea. The next important thing is to harmonize the tea, which means properly dry it. For this purpose it is dispersed at about 2 – 3 cm bed on the floor of a room, and is left there for about 10 – 15 hours. During this period, the primary energy Chi should leave. This is the Chi which can kill the tea after that. The Chi is removed by roasting the tea in the pot at 80 – 100 degrees. The task is to save the energy of the leaf, which can later be fermented, i.e. to receive the energy of Chi-Jing.

In fact, out of the five primary pots should get one and polish its surface. The art of the master is of a particular importance in this case. He must constantly “listen” to the leaf. It is also important to remove the primary flavor, the aroma of Chi. When the tea is ready, it is being packed in thick paper and covered with lime.

Aroma

Longjing has a strong even densified flavor. The revealing of the aroma is the art of treating Longjing. The result should be a pure, delicate and fresh floral fragrance. The richness of this fragrance is revealed with every single brewing.

Taste

The Japanese tea Gyokuro can take place among the green teas. It contains a large concentration of catechins. The catechins are antibacterial substances which destroy viruses and bacteria and restore natural molecular bonds. The process of restoration of molecular bonds creates a sustainable sweet aftertaste, that is a cell reaction to the restoration.

Longjing should possess power and lubricity, which is to display the reaction of tongue and palate to the tea. The taste of the tea is ranging from herbal and floral to honey-walnut. Mostly the result depends on the temperature of the brewing. A small change of even five degrees can show quite different notes. For example, to increase the bitterness. The high quality Longjing should leave a sweet aftertaste.

Consumption

The consumption of Longjing is mainly an experience. You need to start a friendship with the tea in order to understand it. It is not about the ceremony itself, or the temperature of the tea, or even about the teapot or the cup you use to drink it. You need to observe all of these things. The appearance of the leaf should give you a clear understanding of the way to treat it. And of course, the most important thing is not to kill its spirit. That's why the brewing of Longjing should be at 65 – 70 degrees Celsius.

The tea is also drunk at a temperature of 65 – 70 degrees Celsius. Another very essential thing for Longjing is the quality of water which the tea gets into contact with. It must be drunk exclusively from small cups, which are porcelain or glass. Earthen cups could change the taste of the tea. Also, it is necessary to look at the tea's behavior, carefully examining it through transparent glass.

The ability to open up and increase Longjing's power is of great importance as well. Therefore, it is necessary to stretch the time of brewing little by little. But we must not forget that it all depends on the quality of the tea and the temperature of the water. You could brew the tea five times, or even fifteen if you want. But if the tea cannot be brewed no more than five times, then it is not a real Longjing. If you do only one brewing, you have to drink at least 150 – 200 ml and the drinking should last for 30 minutes.

Longjing should not be mixed with other drinks or food. The tea is brewed in a teapot and the preferable amount is 5 g. The water from the first brewing is poured out and we enjoy the flavor.

Classification

Since ancient times, the tea was classified according to the five principles of the Usin system and was called “the tea of the five elements”. Its special features are his symmetry and axis. The classification of Longjing tea is similar to the Taoist system, that is the tea is classified by one of the five levels of fermentation.

The strongest fermentation takes the tea from a Chi-state to a Jing-state, what in fact allows us to consider Longjing as an energetic. On the question: Do we really have the right to call it an energetic? We can definitely answer: Yes! This is the main thing which distinguishes Longjing from other green teas. Also, each one of the five categories may have its own subcategories.

For example, according to one of the classifications, the first group (group B) may consist of one to three types of Longjing. This tea is not fermented and is the so called “taste” Longjing. The second group (B – A) is a transitional Longjing. It can consist of two subtypes. Usually, this Longjing is from a late harvest.This group is also considered as taste Longjing.The next A category consits of: three subtypes which differ in flavor and taste; two AA subtypes including four types, which differ in their energy characteristics (i.e. fermentation); and a group of AAA (only one type that can be obtained from the previous four).

Another way of classification of Longjing is by using the ancient categories: short, long, square, round, united. This type of tea is also divided by the melodies it plays and is classified by the level of playing with the water (from one to seven levels). In fact, the real value of the tea for ancient people will always be unapproachable for us. And no matter what classifications we make, our understanding for it will always be conditional. The structure of leaf and the time of its harvest are of great importance for the classification of Longjing. The first harvest of Longjing can be four times more expensive than the later harvests.

Classification by the degree of tea ripeness

  • Harvest of tea buds (most expensive)
  • Harvest of buds with one leaf (the bud is bigger than the leaf) (very high grade)
  • Harvest of unopened buds, covered with two leaves (high grade)
  • Harvest of half-opened buds with leaves bigger than the bud (middle class).

Quality

It is useful to know the tricks Chinese manufacturers sometimes use, in order to be able to recognize a real Longjing from a fake. The most counterfeited type of tea is the Longjing from the Lion Peak (Shifengshan). Some unconscientious manufacturers intentionally roast other types of tea in a certain way in order to obtain a yellowish-green colour, which is typical for Longjing. Many traders mix a small amount of high-quality tea with low-grade types and sell this mixture as a tea of high quality. Others, take fresh Longjing leaves from the places they grow and treat them violating the laws of preparation by making the the process poor and simple. There are also cases when oils were used, but they were described above.

The certificate of authenticity issued by the Government of Hangzhou can serve as a certain guarantee of quality. The right to receive it have nine thousand manufacturers in the region. This is a label with the serial number of the batch. A password is laid on under a silver band and the buyer after wiping it off can verify this password on the site.

The first thing that you should pay attention to when you are buying tea is the spear like form of the leaves. A dry leaf of the supreme quality Longjing is straight, flat, plane, continuous, with a smooth surface and length of 1.6 cm. Too long or too short leaves may indicate the low quality of tea.

It's needed to be payed attention also to the cleanliness (the leaf should not be dirty or narrow) and the colour of the leaf, which determines the level of chlorophyll in it. Yellowish-green colour gradating in vermilion is an indicator for best quality.

The next important factor is the volume. Consequently, the more volume it has, the better Longjing. Remember: Longjing is harvested in the spring! Аny type of Longjing can be used the first three months. After this period, only the high quality Longjing can be used. If you come across a parched Longjing, better not take it because it's not worthed.

Another aspect requiring attention is the elongation and symmetry of the leaf. It is particularly important that the tea leaf is long, which indicates high-quality. It should not be broken and there should be any crumbs in the tea package.

If the tea is harvested after July, its colour should have shades of vermilion. This is the time when the young and fresh Longjing, the requirements for sealing of which are reduced, can no longer perform its functions.

As for the characteristics of flavor, it is the most difficult aspect for definition. Because it all depends on the freshness of the tea, the time of its harvest, and the way of its preparation. Therefore it is better to learn how to determine the quality of tea only by the look of it. Besides, the young Longjing can trick you with its flavor, and the high quality Longjing can hide it from you.

The next step is to define the properties of the tea by the quality of its brewing. The quality Longjing does not sink, it “plays” with water and can float on the surface. The tea leaves should not be kept long in the water, they need to be poured out. This can definitely be used to determine the quality of the tea. Pour 80-degree Celsius water into the teapot and look at the behavior of the tea leaves. If the leaves become pale and weak, it is an old Longjing.

Last but not least is the taste. First of all, the oiliness should be observed. The more oily, the greater the influence of the soil (minerals). But the oiliness should be commensurable with the aftertaste. It means that, if the primary taste predominates the aftertaste, then the tea does not have enough delicacy. But once again, the problem could be in the way of its preparation. The young tea (usually a bud with three petals) is good in the first three months. This is either the primary tea or the tea from West Lake.

Of course, the most interesting of all is the helix-Longjing. Usually, it is harvested at the southern slope of Hangzhou. A master can create a special tension inside this particular tea, while drying it. In fact, this tension allows the tea to “play” with the water.

In order to get a real orientation in Longjing is needed to understand its basic classification, which means to know what type of tea you are buying. And remember – the earlier the Longjing, the higher its quality . The time of the tea harvest determines its class. And if it is possible to request a certificate of authenticity, be sure to do it. But don't forget that you are dealing with China, where the share of the tea from West Lake is only six percent of the total harvest of Longjing. The original high quality Longjing must be grown at a higher altitude, on the Lion Peak (Shifengshan).

Benefits

It is even difficult to assess the true benefits of Longjing tea . It depends on the nutrition and the quality of man's life, in the first place. The tea contains a large amount of theanine which is very important for the neutralization of the adverse effects of caffeine and the nutritional properties of the tea. Longjing also contains four types of catechins:

  • EGCG (epigallocatechin gallate – a strong antioxidant that slows the aging process and prevents the appearance of cancer)
  • ECG (epicatechin gallate)
  • EGC (epigallocatechin)
  • EC (epicatechin)

Longjing also contains caffeine, gallic acid, and their compounds. The earlier the Longjing is harvested, the higher its indicators. The tea's indicators are also under the influence of the level of theogallin, 2-O-arabinopyranosyl-myo-inositol, six other minor compounds of sugar, and the level of butyric acids and sucrose.

Price

One and the same type of Longjing can cost from 200 to 3,000 yuan per 500 grams. This is a special feature of today's tea business and that's why the tea should be bought only from specialists. It is probably best for you to find people dealing with tea deliveries, because the tea will certainly cost cheaper than it does in China. There they have long focused on the quantity of the tea, not on the quality.

It is also important to be acquainted with the total production of Longjing for a certain year. For example, the year 2010 was very bad according to the production of high quality Longjing and the market was flooded with low quality tea.

The next important thing to understand is whether the tea is industrial or author's.But that's only if you are ready to buy an expensive and high-quality tea. And even then it's not always justified, because it is important to understand that good tea requires a special rhythm of perception. If you are ready to spend time in meditation with it, that's one thing. But if you are not ready, then you just have to focus on the quality rather than the subtleties, which also need to be revealed. If you have no experience with Longjing, then you'd better buy it only from tea houses and always ask them to teach you how to treat it.

How to store Longjing

Longjing's storage is an important process. First what we need to do is to make sure that there is no extra moisture in the tea. Secondly, Longjing should be stored in a refrigerator. If the tea has high content of moisture, it must be dried using lime or charcoal.

 

19 april 2012

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