Dating back almost 4000 years ago, green tea has been, and continues to be, a staple in China. With many varieties available, each has its own unique taste, smell, and look. Although it was first created accidentally, green tea quickly made its way into the heart of China, which enabled it to spread across the globe and, eventually, lead to it being consumed worldwide.
One green tea variation that is popular in China is Longjing tea. Also known as Dragon Well tea, it has distinct characteristics and varieties. Being one of the “Ten Famous Chinese Teas,” Longjing is deeply rooted in Chinese society and is a beverage of historical importance.
Popular & Legendary
The origins of Longjing tea are often explained in connection to a legend. Dating back to the Tang dynasty (618-907), this green tea was and still is produced in the Chinese province of Zhejiang.
Although it had been harvested for centuries, it was not until the Qing dynasty (1644-1912) that it gained the title of Gong Cha, or imperial tea. As the story goes, emperor Qianlong was given a cup of Longjing tea when he was visiting the Hu Gong Temple.
After tasting this regional variety, the emperor fell in love with the flavor and aroma. Because he felt so passionate about this tea variety, he gave special recognition to the tea trees that grew outside of the temple and proclaimed that they were regal and dignified. This, in turn, led to the popularity of Longjing tea.
Longjing tea’s nickname, Dragon Well Tea, comes from the area where it flourishes. There is a popular legend that describes the events that lead to this namesake.
In a small village at the base of the Wengjia Mountains, there is a deep well that is filled with spring water. Long ago, the village was plagued with drought. The local people prayed to a noble and wise dragon that they believed to live close to their village. They wanted the dragon to bring rain to help restore the dry land. Not long after, the villager’s prayers were answered and the area was hit with a heavy rain storm.
During this time, the well water started to rise and mix with the rainwater. The mixing of these two water sources caused swirling and movement in the well. Witnessing this, the villagers thought that the dragon had come to help and was living in their well. As a result, the village was renamed Longjing after the dragon, and the tea produced in this area was named after the village.
Harvested and prepared almost completely by hand, these delicate shoots are plucked during two different harvests. The first is early, taking place before the April rains that happen sometime around the first five days of the month. The second harvest takes place in the middle of April after the first initial rains have occurred, but before the next wave of rain takes place.
After harvesting, Longjing tea is dried and flattened to reduce moisture content and enhance flavor and aroma. Once they are dried, the tea is then fried. This removes any remaining moisture, allowing the leaves to be flattened and prepared for tea brewing.
Brewing Longjing Tea
For the best results, it is recommended to enjoy this type of tea by brewing it from loose leaves. Like other green teas, temperature control is necessary and directly related to how the tea will taste. If the water is too hot, the leaves will burn and taste bitter. For this type of tea, it is suggested to use a water temperature between 170°-180°F.
In just six steps, you can brew loose-leaf Longjing tea at home. All you will need is a pot or kettle to boil water, tea cups to drink out of, a tea strainer for removing tea leaves, water, and loose tea leaves.
- Boil some water (preferably spring) and let it cool for about two minutes. (Be sure to check the water’s temperature to make sure it cools to somewhere between 170°-180°F. before using it.)
- While the water is cooling, pre-heat your cup with hot water. Discard the water before proceeding to the next step.
- Measure out 1 tsp of tea leaves and put them into the cup.
- Once the water has reached the correct temperature, pour between 8-10 oz on top of the tea leaves.
- For the best tasting results, the tea leaves should steep for two to three minutes.
- Once the leaves are finished steeping, remove the leaves with a strainer and enjoy your green-tinted brew!
Appearance, Aroma, & Taste
Before brewing, these tea leaves are smooth and light green in color. Unlike other varieties that are rolled and curly, these tea leaves are flat and spear-shaped. The smell given off by the leaves is mildly sweet.
After brewing a cup of Longjing tea, the popular beverage is known for being subtly sweet. Depending on the variety, some of this tea has a grassier taste while others present a toasty nut flavor.
Nutritional Facts & Caffeine
This green tea variety has little nutritional value. In one serving, there are zero calories, fats, carbs, and proteins. In general, the caffeine content of green tea varies depending on leaf production methods and how the tea is brewed. With that being said, the amount of caffeine in one serving of green tea ranges from 12-75 mg.
Depending on the area of production and how the leaves are handled after harvesting, different Longjing teas can be produced. Some of these varieties include:
- Shi Feng Longjing
- Tiger Spring Longjing
- Meijiawu Longjing
- Qiantang Longjing
“The Tea” on Longjing Tea
Longjing tea, also known as Dragon Well Tea, is a popular green tea variety. With deep roots in Chinese culture and history, this tea is legendary. Depending on the type of Longjing brew, this normally sweeter-tasting tea can also have a more vegetal taste with hints of roasted nuts. With the leaves and buds being hand-picked earlier in the season, this imperial tea is considered a higher-quality tea.