Longjing tea ( pinyin: long jing cha ) is a famous variety of green tea from Hangzhou, Zhejiang Province, China where it is produced mostly by hand and has been renowned for its high quality, earning the China Famous Tea title. Longjing is divided into seven grades: Superior, Special, and then 1 down to 5.
Like most other Chinese green tea, Longjing tea leaves are pan fried to stop the fermentation process. In the world of tea, the term “fermentation” refers to the drying of the freshly picked leaves, resulting in enzymatic oxidation. This oxidation is stopped by frying or steaming the leaves before they completely dry out. As is the case with other green teas, Longjing tea leaves are unfermented. When steeped, the tea produces a yellow-green color, a gentle, pure aroma, and a rich flavor. The tea contains Vitamin C, amino acids, and the highest concentration of catechins among teas.
The name of this tea literally means “dragon well”, a well that contains relatively dense water, and after rain the lighter rainwater floating on its surface sometimes exhibits a sinuous and twisting boundary with the well water, which is supposed to resemble the movement of a traditional Chinese dragon.
Longjing tea was granted the status of Gong Cha, or imperial tea, in Qing Dynasty by Chinese emperor Kangxi. According to the legend, Kangxi’s grandson Qianlong, visited West Lake during one of his famous holidays.
He went to the Hu Gong Temple under the Lion Peak Mountain (Shi Feng Shan) and was presented with a cup of Longjing tea. In front of the Hu Gong Temple were 18 tea bushes. Emperor Qianlong was so impressed by the Longjing tea produced here that he conferred these 18 tea bushes special imperial status.
Xi Hu Longjing
Is an example of the very standard convention of naming, the Xi Hu (West Lake) is a place where this particular Longjing is grown. This Longjing, also known as West Lake Longjing is a China Famous Tea, in fact the most famous one and is grown in the Zhejiang Province near Xi Hu lake. It is grown in a designated area of 168 square kilometres. Historically, Xi Hu longjing tea was divided into four sub-regions: Lion (Shi), Dragon (Long), Cloud (Yun) and Tiger (Hu). As the distinction between the sub-regions blurred over the years, this categorisation has now been adjusted to Shi Feng Longjing, Mei Jia Wu Longjing, with the remaining known collectively as Xi Hu longjing, although the Lion variety is still considered the “crown of the longjing tea” by connoisseurs.
The premium early season first-picking known as Pre-Qingming (or Before Ching Ming) Longjing tea, requires it to be produced from the very tender first spring shoots prior to the Qingming Festival on the 5th of April each year (approximately). The production cycle is very short; only ten days before Qingming every year. Tea picked before this period is of a lower grade called Yu Qian Longjing, or “Dragon Well Before the Rain”. In this 10-day span, the sprouts at the tip of the stalks are only hand-picked by experienced workers, and then specially processed; as a result, Pre-Qingming Longjing is more expensive than “standard” Longjing tea.
Shi Feng Longjing
A type of Xi Hu Longjing. This tea is considered the highest quality in China. Fresh tasting, its fragrance is sharp and long lasting. Its leaves are yellowish green in colour. Some unscrupulous tea makers over pan-fry their tea to imitate its colour.
Mei Jia Wu Longjing
A type of Xi Hu Longjing. This tea is renowned for its attractive jade green colour. Early teas can fetch up to 6000 yuan per kilogram (2005 data) direct from the growers.
Not a true Longjing but looks like one and is commonly attributed, it is actually a Bai Pian. It comes from Anji in the Zhejiang Province. It was created in the early 80’s and is a Green tea from a race of White tea trees and is hence very unusual, it is said to contain more amino acids than ordinary Green tea.
Qian Tang Longjing
This tea comes from just outside the Xi Hu Longjing designated area, in Qian Tang. It is generally not as expensive as Xi Hu Longjing.
It was widely known that to achieve the best taste from Longjing, spring water from the “Hu Pao Quan” was to be used. Water is boiled then cooled to about 80 degrees celsius before being used to brew the tea leaves.