Sourcing Tea in China – Chapter 5
Long Jing “Dragonwell” Green Tea – Authentic & Wild
Jan 29, 2014
Many of China’s classic teas are tied to a legend or story and/or derive their name from such. Often, as for example in the case of Tie Guan Yin Oolong Tea, these are mythical stories reminiscent of fairytales. In other cases, such as in the case of the story of the origin of Lapsang Souchong Tea, the stories could just as well be historical, or not, for that matter, and in other cases again, such as with Long Jing Tea, there’s actually nothing really mythical about the story of a tea’s origin or discovery.
However, all three cases tend to have one feature in common: there’s always a „original location“, and whether mythical or not, given historical or fictional backgrounds that usually reach centuries or even millenniums back in history and due to the relationship that we built to such locations via the tea typically coming from there, they are not only particularly appealing to us, but always have something awe-inspiring, too.
The main reasons for this might for once be the time passed, which hardly any building or other man-made work has survived, while the tea bushes or trees, even after hundreds or thousands of years are still the same and in the same places, and second it is the exotic culture, and even more so the tea culture of ancient China (in this regard see also Da Hong Pao or Pu Erh tea), whose fascination and appeal has hardly been diminished even by decades of communist rule and the many other factors of change and disruption of traditions coming with modern times.
So, the original Long Jing “dragonwell”, located at the village of Long Jing, near the city of Hangzhou in the Westlake region of the Chinese Zhejiang province, with its water bubbling from a dragon’s mouth, is still in place today, and so are the 18 original Long Jing tea plants said by legend to once have been granted imperial status by Qianlong, grandson and designated successor of Qing dynasty’s Chinese emperor Kangxi (period of reign 1661-1722), upon his excitement when he came by this place during one of his travels and was offered green Long Jing tea from these tea plants to try. It is since this time that the tea from these tea plants is referred to as Long Jing tea (Long Jing = dragonwell).
As much as these stories and the original locations related to them might excite us, only few of us, say: only the wealthier among us might ever get to try the tea from one of those 18 original Long Jing tea plants, or the tea from one the 5 (in words: five) original Da Hong Pao tea plants at Wuyi mountain, or the Pu Erh Tea from the more than 3500 year old world’s most ancient tea tree near Kun Ming in Yunnan province, due to the staggering prices these teas derive from their factual rareness. Now fortunately, the less rich of us won’t have to be left desperate by this, as really things aren’t that bad after all: offshoots can be taken from tea plants and be replanted in other locations, and so Chinese tea cultivars are typically spreading not only in a wider radius around the original locations, but often across the border of the original province and beyond the borders of China itself, and today – in the backdrop of globalization – even to more distant countries around the globe.
This way, it’s been quite a while since Chinese tea cultivars have made their way to Taiwan and India, Taiwan has exported the results of the country’s Oolong cultivar research in the form of specially adapted hybrids to the most diverse countries (e. g. Thailand), and most recently, we have even been reading about superior qualities of particular Chinese teas being cultivated in south India. It’s been long since Pu Erh tea was only produced in the Pu Erh region, Taiwanese DMS Cha Nang Ngam Cing Xin Oriental Beauty Oolong is so famous that many people think it might actually originate from Taiwan, and today there is even Bai Mu Dan white tea coming from places such as Bihar. And these are only a few examples for the spread of individual tea cultivars that produce a comparable tea under comparable climate and geological conditions in other places on earth.
At this, the question frequently posed in tea forums, whether and under which conditions a tea is still to be considered as “authentic”, is actually rather redundant: if it is the same tea, then it must surely be authentic, and if it is not the same tea, then it surely is not, and this notwithstanding its geographical origin in the first place. In other words: a tea that is processed like a Pu Erh tea, behaves like a Pu Erh tea, and tastes like a Pu Erh tea, should be allowed to be called a Pu Erh tea even it doesn’t come from the Pu Erh town or region, and the same surely applies to a Long Jing tea just the same.
Of course, though, a tea‘s exact place of origin will always matter or at least be of substantial interest to tea lovers, and many might even have a significant preference for buying tea from their respective regions of genuine origin, and this is why the statement of a tea’s exact geographical place of origin in our opinion is basically a must and/or indispensable requirement for every tea offer. And, of course, identical cultivars will develop different features such as different taste nuances in different places and under different conditions respectively, which is an additional and by no means insignificant argument in favor of the necessity of identifying a tea’s place of origin. Nevertheless, we do not think that the namely identity and/or „authenticity” of a tea can be tied to a certain radius drawn around the location of its genuine origin. In fact, such requirement might even be rather counterproductive, as it would make any reasonable allocation and identification of a tea much harder, without actually offering any benefits.
Especially in the world of online trade and with very popular names such as Long Jing Tea, the old proverb also applies to websites in a transferred sense also applies to websites, and that’s why it might just happen that any rather random green tea is referred to as Long Jing tea in a tea shop’s – or especially in an online tea shop’s – presentation. Particularly in online tea trade, promotionally effective, unprotected names and attributes are used time and again to enhance the status of a tea that “technically” doesn’t really deserve that name or attribute. One more reason to buy tea from identified trusted dealers only! On the other hand, the delimitation and identification of especially of the very characteristic and narrowly defined Long Jing tea is actually rather easy even for the layperson: for once, there is the typical homogenous shape of the dried Long Jing tea leaves, then the consistent bright green to yellow color of the wet tea leaves, and last but not least the Long Jing tea’s typical chestnut flavor, complemented by a distinct floral note, features that in this specification and combination are so unique that confusing a Long Jing tea with any other type of green tea will hardly be possible.
Now, our Wild Spring Long Jing Tea comes from a place not far from the genuine Long Jing location and is also “technically” and judged by quality an authentic and genuine Long Jing tea, and even an exceptionally good one: harvested only once a year, in the beginning of April, at the best harvesting time for Long Jing, in a tea garden located at an altitude of more than 1300 years (“high mountain Long Jing“) that has been abandoned during the 1980’s and grown wild ever since, from over 100 years old Long Jing tea bushes that have not been cut back in decades, this Long Jing tea has a particularly strong “Qi Cha”, revealing in a particularly pronounced taste as well as in a potential for a number of infusions that is quite unusual for green teas: our Wild Spring Long Jing Tea, traditionally handpicked (picking standard: only the young spring’s fresh buds plus their two pertaining uppermost leaves) and manually roasted in a wok pan will produce 4 full value infusions already with western style preparation, while even more infusions can be achieved in a Chinese Gong Fu Cha, or tea ceremony, focusing on highlighting individual taste components by applying particularly short steeping periods.
If I’ve managed to make you curious about Long Jing tea, or in particular our Wild Spring Long Jing Green Tea, you will find more information and illustrations – and an order function – in Siam Tea Shop, by clicking the following link: