Authentic Longjing tea has to be farmed in the Zhejiang province or even in the West Lake area of Hangzhou, depending on how strict your definition is. The terroir conditions in the southwest area of West Lake are ideal for Longjing tea. Temperature, light and humidity are perfect there and the mild climate with its often rainy weather also promotes flavor.
The best picking period is from late March to April. The first picking occurs before Qingming, which approximately falls on April 5th every year. This period comes with best quality for brewing. According to Chinese agricultural calendar, it rains from 1st to 4th April and when the rain subsides temperatures rise and the plants grow faster. If buds become too large, it results in less complex flavor when the leaves are brewed.
After picking the leaves are dried on bamboo screens for a half a day, decreasing grassy taste, enhancing the aroma and preparing the leaves for roasting.
Longjing tea is mostly handmade. It goes through a process of roasting leaves in large pans or woks to stop the natural oxidation process. Roasting includes techniques like buckling, grasping piling, pressing, throwing and tossing the leaves.
There are many different variants of Long Jing tea which differ mainly by their harvest area and time.
- Xihu Long Jing — This Long Jing is the most famous of all China Famous Teas. It is grown in the Zhejiang Province near Xihu (West Lake).
- Shifeng Long Jing — This is a Xihu Long Jing from Shifeng Shan (Shifeng mountain) with a fresh taste, sharp and long lasting fragrance. The leaves are yellow-green in color.
- Meijiawu Long Jing — This is a Xihu Long Jing from from the Meijiawu village. It is well-known for its jade green color.
- Bird's Tongue Long Jing — It has a more intense aroma and taste of sweetness than the better known Pre-Qingming Long Jing.
- Pre-Qingming Long Jing — This is the premium, early season first-picking (also known as Ming Qian or Before Ching Ming). It's required to be produced from spring shoots prior to Qingming Festival on April 5th each year approximately.
- Yuqian Long Jing — This variant is a lower grade than Pre-Qingming Long Jing. It is picked after the Qingming festival but before the arrival of Grain Rain.
- Qiantang Long Jing — This Long Jing is from outside the Xihu district and costs less than the Xihu Long Jing.
- Tiger Spring Longjing — This is a Xihu longjing named after the best water source in Tiyun mountain range.
Name and Legends
Longjing tea literally translates to “Dragon Well”. Legends say this name comes from the idea that when light rainwater drops into the dense water of a well, it floats on the surface creating a twisting boundary resembling the movement of a Chinese dragon.