Chinese Dragon Tea: A Closer Look at Longjing Tea
If you have done any kind of research into teas, you may have come across Chinese Dragon tea.
However, despite its renown, there is actually quite a bit that people don’t know about this blend.
For instance, most people don’t even get the name right!
If you are interested in getting some factual insight into this Chinese tea, here is what you need to know.
What Is Dragon Tea?
First things first, this tea is actually known as Longjing tea.
The direct translated of this is “dragon well tea”.
This tea does go by many names, however. It is often referred to as Lung Ching Dragon Well too.
Also, dragon well tea that is sourced in the West Lake district is known as West Lake Dragon Well tea.
It is a green tea – one of China’s most famous.
The tea leaves can be identified by their bright green color and long shape.
Dragon well tea has a delicate aroma and a mellow taste.
The History of Longjing Tea
Longjing tea actually has a pretty colorful history.
It probably all begins with Emperor Qianlong of the Qing dynasty.
On one of his visits to the West Lake, the emperor personally picked the leaves of the tea bushes there.
As a result, he granted royal status to 18 tea bushes in the Longjing Village.
These tea trees exist even today.
Where is Longjin Tea Grown?
The original Longjin tea bushes are in eastern China – West Lake in Hangzhou.
Hangzhou is the capital of the Zhejiang province.
Now, Longjin is grown throughout the Zhejiang province.
However, one of the highest grades – Xihu Longjin – is only grown in the West Lake region.
Once, the different varieties of Longjin tea were graded based on their growing region in Hangzhou.
These days, most of these lines have been blurred.
Now, there are three main tea varieties – Shi Feng (the best), Xihu (the second best), and Mejiawu.
What Makes West Lake Dragon Tea so Popular?
Xihu Longchin isn’t just one of the best green teas around, it is also one of the most expensive.
A high-quality blend can sell for around $1,270 per 500 grams!
So, what is all the fuss about? Why is this tea so incredibly popular?
Well, this has to do with time-consuming and complex harvesting and fermentation methods involved with this tea.
Here is a breakdown of this…
The Harvesting Process
One of the main things to know about this green tea is that the quality is heavily dependent on time.
If the leaves are plucked too late, they deplete in value.
When it comes to Longjin tea, there are two solar terms that are important: Qingming and Guyu.
Qingming is the 15th day after the spring equinox. Guyu is the time at which the sun reaches the celestial longitude of 30° – 45°.
The best Longjin tea is known as mingqian tea. Here, the leaves are plucked and processed before the Qingming tea.
The second best, Yuqian tea, is plucked between Qingming and Guyu.
The quality of these teas begins to drastically reduce once you have passed the Guyu.
The Processing Method
The drying process isn’t any less complex. Plus, the best teas are manually processed.
First, the teas are spread out on a large surface for 8 to 10 hours. This helps to reduce the moisture content by around 25 percent.
Then, the tea is further dried in a large iron wok that is heated to a specific temperature.
Small quantities of leaves are added to the wok and fried for 20 to 25 minutes.
During this time, the leaves are processed by hand. They undergo shaking, pushing, holding, pressing, and rubbing.
Once the first round of stir-frying is completed, the leaves are spread out again. Then, they undergo a second round of frying.
The goal is to reduce the moisture content of the tea leaves to around 5 percent.
This is a skill that isn’t easily learned. Rather, it can take years to handle the leaves without crushing them or browning them too much.
The labor alone, is another reason that this is one of the most renowned teas in the world.
Brewing Longjing Tea
Considering the quality of this tea, you would imagine that the brewing process is rather complex too.
Well, you would be right.
For one thing, experts advise you to use a glass or porcelain tea bowl, specifically a chawan.
This ensures that the green tea leaves don’t turn yellow under too much heat from the water.
In many instances, people will steep the longjin tea in a large ceramic bowl known as an ou. The tea is then dispensed into smaller tea bowls.
Now, under ideal circumstances, you would use Hupao spring water – it is assumed to be some of the best water in China.
Barring that, you can use purified water, but steer clear of mineral water as it can alter the taste of longjing tea.
The water is first boiled and then allowed to cool to around 185°F or slightly cooler.
Around 2 to 3 grams of tea leaves are added to the water. The leaves are steeped for 2 to 3 minutes.
Cooking with Longjin Tea
Longjin tea is typically prized as a beverage.
Nevertheless, it isn’t uncommon to also find it as a cooking ingredient, particularly in upscale restaurants in China.
It is typically used in a broth for meat or shrimp.
The Longjing Tea Benefits – What is Dragon Well Tea Good For?
Green tea has a number of benefits. And, longjing, being a type of green tea is no exception to this rule.
As such, there is a good chance that drinking dragon well tea could offer the following benefits:
All green teas have polyphenols, but there is evidence that early-picked, higher-quality Longjing has an even greater content.
As such, it is possible that it could be better at preventing oxidative stress as well as a wide variety of medical conditions.
Has Genoprotective Properties
In particular Longjing tea has genoprotective properties.
This essentially means that it prevents or limits damage done to DNA.
In addition to preventing numerous health problems, this green tea may have specific anti-cancer properties as well.
Of course, in general, green tea could potentially help prevent several different kinds of cancers.
Improve Brain Function
Green tea can help to boost brain function and aid in tasks like productivity.
At the same time, it can also reduce the risk of anxiety and boost your overall mood.
It is also possible that it could help to prevent brain diseases that are linked to aging.
Could Reduce Risk of Cardiovascular Disease
Green tea works to attack the risk factors associated with cardiovascular disease.
In particular, it helps to lower LDL or bad cholesterol levels.
Could Prevent Onset of Diabetes
Green tea can help to regulate blood sugar levels and even improve insulin sensitivity.
Thus, it may be able to prevent diabetes or at least help to control the associated symptoms a little better.
May Help with Weight Loss
Green tea makes it far easier for you to burn off fat at rest and during exercise.
Thus, this can magnify any diet or exercise plans that you have put in motion.
Many scientists assume that green tea could help you to live longer and healthier lives.
This is evidenced by cultures that drink green tea on a regular basis.
So, this is what you need to know about Chinese Dragon Well tea. As you can see, there is a lot more than meets the eye.
Dr. Dheena Sadik
Consultant Nutritionist and Dietician
Dr. Dheena Sadik is a consultant Nutritionist and Dietician. She has over a decade of experience in the health and fitness industry. However, her love for tea began long before she understood the health benefits of tea. Growing up in Sri Lanka, Dheena had the privilege of being surrounded by the world-famous Ceylon tea. This is what got her started on her exploration of the various types of tea. She has now extensively tasted and examined teas from all over the world.