May 21, 2010

2010 Pre-Qing Ming Dafo Long Jing

 Tis the season for what is one of my all time favorite Chinese green tea's, Long Jing a.k.a. Dragon Well. Even those unfamiliar with green tea's are likely to have heard of Long Jing. There is no other tea on earth that smells as good as Long Jing, at least in my opinion. A lb. of this Dafo Long Jing was delivered just a few days ago (I know...a whole lb?) I had some steeping in a gaiwan in the kitchen and while side tracked in another room the rich and nutty aroma that is unique to Long Jing wafted down the hall to remind me that it was ready. The aroma is very intense and it permeates the entire room but this tea is way too expensive for such negligent brewing. In the summer months I,m all about fresh and clean green tea's. Oolong's and Puerhs are for the most part relegated to Autumn and Winter, they can be just a little too heavy in hot weather.

 This "Dafo" Long Jing is not grown in the officially designated county of Xi Hu, but just outside of it, in Xin Chang county. Tea's grown in Xi Hu county are the cream of the crop Long Jing's. But of course there are different grades of tea from Xi Hu and I would rather pay for a prime grade from a lesser esteemed region than a lower grade from the primo region. People that are interested in pinching pennies yet still want a high quality tea have been appreciating Dafo Long Jing for years. Usually about half the price of the tea's grown in Xi Hu. The designation of "Pre Qing Ming" means that it was picked before the rains. The very first pick of the year is the one that is most prized.  As you can see in the pics the dry leaf is well made, almost paper thin bud and leaf sets that were pan dried, the old fashioned traditional way, by hand in large wok's.

I think that green tea's are the hardest of all tea's to brew well. The slightest change in brewing parameters can yield very different tastes and aroma's. The skill required to brew these tea's to perfection every time is not a skill that I claim to have mastered but sometimes when everything is just right, water temp. infusion times and all the other variables are in sinc it's easy to realize why this tea is so famous. It's simply some of the best tea there is. This particular Long Jing requires a very specific water temperature of 185-187 degree's. Water either hotter or colder and the tea's aromas will not bloom nearly as well. Also needs a little more leaf than tea's from previous years. Growing conditions were not good this year and it shows in a lot of the tea's on the market. The Pre-Qing Ming Long Jings will brew a more light and delicate cup than the all leaf Long Jings. But don't confuse light and delicate with weak and thin. These Qing Ming tea's flavors are much more focused and complex. Each of the tea's flavor componants are apparent, they don't become muddled and blunt. The world is full of thousands of supposed Long Jing's and most of them aren't even from Zhejiang province. But if you buy from vendors that know their stuff and you are willing to pay for it, finding the real thing isn't that much of a challenge. But having said that, the only Long Jing that we are ever going to see is what is available commercially. I don't think we are ever going to taste the cream of the crop by shopping online. But that's o.k. by me, as long as I can continue to get tea's of this quality then I,m a happy camper.

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