The World Is a Tea Party Presents: Your Guide to Some Teas of China – Longjing Green Tea


Longjing Teas (Lungching, Dragonwell, 龙井茶)


One of the best known Chinese green teas among aficionados and newbies alike.

Click on each photo to see details:

Longjing Tea is praised for these qualities:

  1. bright, greenish color
  2. delicate, elegant, and long-lasting fragrance
  3. refreshing, brick, mellow, and sweet taste and aftertaste
  4. pretty appearance

“Longjing” means “Dragon Well” and refers to the tea plant, the temple, and the spring near where this tea plant was originally discovered. These are on the shores of West Lake (Xi-hu), at Hangzhou City, Zhejiang Province (“Chingkiang”, 浙江省), China. This is still where the best version comes from, superior to other versions now being produced around China.

The tea has been produced for over 1,500 years (about middle-aged in terms of tea drinking in China overall, which goes back about 5,000 years). It was mentioned in Cha-Jing, the first tea book, written by Lu Yu.

Year-round fog in the area where the tea plants grow helps impart a mellow taste due to theanine, an amino acid. The low amount of sunlight keeps the theanine from being converted to polyphenols such as catechins that can cause bitterness. The soil is also good for holding moisture, so the plants get plenty, and has an acidic pH that is good for tea plants. The best cultivar is known simply as No. 43 and produces the right shape and size of leaf bud sets for the best quality Longjing teas.

The Longjing Tea Cultivar No. 43

The best tea cultivar for longjing. The leaf buds sprout earlier (about 7-10 days) than other cultivars and simultaneously and uniformly over the tea plants so they are even in color and size, making a high grade tea with a neat appearance. Harvest is usually pre-Qing Ming (Festival Honoring Ancestors 清明) which is usually on April 4th or 5th.

The dried tea leaf buds are flat, straight, and sleek with sharp-tips and delicate green color with a yellowish edge. They are about 2.5 to 3cm long, showing the high degree of delicacy. The liquid infused from those leaf buds has a long-lasting delicate fragrance with mellow taste.

Plucking standard:

  1. Bud and leaf of same size, even in form
  2. No long stalks
  3. No bud/leaf in purple color
  4. No bud/leaf damaged by plant disease
  5. Avoid the tiny leaf attached to bud

Producing Longjing Tea

Withering
  • Goal: reduce the greenish aroma & bitterness and increase the relative percentage of amino acid.
  • In a well-ventilated room tea leaf buds are spread in a layer about 3-5cm high for 6-12 hours.
  • Reduces moisture to 70%.
Pan Frying
  • Goal: inactivate the oxidative enzyme such as polyphenol oxidase (PPO) and form the preliminary shape of the leaf buds.
  • Pan is heated to 80°-100°C.
  • Leaves are added into the pan and stirred around by hand.
  • Hand movements are carefully learned and carried out.
  • Leaf buds turn soft after about 3-4 minutes.
  • Frying continues and pressure is applied to flatten the buds.
  • 12-15 minutes of frying reduces moisture to 20-30%.
Cooling
  • Leaf buds are spread out for about 40-60 minutes.
  • Some moisture is reabsorbed from the air.
Winnowing, Sorting, Sifting
  • Winnowing: remove broken and light pieces of leaves.
  • Sorting: remove dull, burnt, yellow pieces, red colored leaves, stalk, foreign materials.
  • Sifting: divide leaves into batches; the first is retained on the top sifter, the second is retained on the second sifter, and the third passes through the sifter.
  • Each batch undergoes a separate second frying.
Second Pan Frying
  • Goal: Form the shape and remove more moisture.
  • About 4-5 batches of tea leaves from the first heating (and retained in the top sifter) are combined and undergo a second heating.
  • Pan is heated to 60°-80°C.
  • Leaves are added and heated through.
  • Heat is increased to 80°-90°C.
  • Leaves are fried more with increased hand pressure.
  • When leaves are flat, smooth, and sleek, the frying is done.
  •  About 25 minutes in all.

Quality Criteria of Longjing Tea

Criteria Top Quality Poor Quality
Dried Leaf Buds Size and General Appearance
  • Flat, lustrous, straight, sharp pointed tips.
  • About 2.5-3cm long.
  • White down shows when buds are unfurled during infusing.
  • Usually longer.
  • Infuses bitter tasting liquid.
  • If over-fried, generate too many “fish-eye” bubbles on water surface during infusing.
Dried Leaf Buds Color
  • Yellowish green color.
  • Even, bright, lustrous.

 

  • Darker green color, dull
  • Mixed with leaf buds of various colors.
  • If over-fried, a dark grayish color.
Dried Leaf Buds Regularity
  • Good quality tea has leaf pieces that are even size and color.
  • A lot of broken pieces mixed with broad strips of yellowish to dark green leaves.
Dried Leaf Buds Cleanliness
  • No extraneous matter.
  • Fiber, bamboo or wooden flakes, sand or stone, dust in with leaf buds.
Dried Leaf Buds Aroma
  • A fresh and greenish note.
  • Duller, fainter aroma
  • Grassy flavor.
  • Possibly a burnt aroma.
Liquid Color
  • Bright, clean, pure.
  • Delicate bluish green color.
  • Yellowish or dull yellow color.
Liquid Taste
  • Brisk, refreshing, smooth, mellow with sweet aftertaste.
  • Long-lasting aftertaste with notes of chestnut.
  • Astringent and bitter with greenish grassy taste.
Infused Leaf Buds
  • Fresh, bright, even green color.
  • Well-attached to bud, like flower petals.
  • When touched, are thick, soft, elastic.
  • Few or no insect bites.
  • Slightly longer than leaf which is about 0.5-1cm wide.
  • Smooth and sleek.
  • Mild fresh aroma.
  • Many broken pieces, dark green color or yellowish brown color.
  • Mixed with separate leaves without a bud.
  • A red spot on leaf buds due to damage during plucking or spreading which causes oxidation before pan frying.
  • Over-fried at higher temperature are burnt, holes with even shape can be seen on infused leaf.
  • Leaves are wider, bigger, longer than bud and not so closely attached to it.
  • Less smooth and sleek than real longjing cultivar.
  • Greenish grassy note or sometimes no aroma at all after infusing.

Some Longjing Teas

Click on each photo to see details:

See also: Flavors Compared: Chinese Green Tea vs. from Japanese Green Tea

See also: The Tea Provinces of China


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