Long Jing, AKA Dragonwell Tea, is easily the most revered tea in China. It’s a nutty and aromatic green tea with a very long and famous history. Not only is it world-renowned, as it is the king tea of China, it demands some of the highest prices on the market for any tea. In some years, the price of Long Jing will out beat the price of gold per kilo! So what’s the fuss? Is it just hype that gives Long Jing its fame?
Connection to History and Literature Xi Hu Long Jing as a famed terroir among aristocrats started in the Tang Dynasty. And the green tea's prestige solidified when it became a favorite of Emperor Qian Long in the Qing Dynasty. There were eighteen tea trees reserved for the Emperor’s private enjoyment and some believe they are still there today. 1500 hundred years ago, Lu Yu already highlighted the terroir in Long Jing in his famous Classic of Tea, and it is rumored that Mao Zedong served this tea to President Nixon when he visited China in 1972. All of this adoration has led Xi Hu Long Jing to consistently rank at the top of China’s list of prestigious and historically famous teas.
The Chi of Just
Long Jing tea is said to have 中正之氣 (Zhong Zheng Zhi Qi), the chi of just, a regal character that led the connoisseurs to crown it the king tea of China. It’s a long-standing tradition in Chinese tea culture to project the elite's ideology through tea, for it’s a virtuous drink for virtuous men. A well-made, true-terroir Long Jing is nutty and floral, powerful and rounded, weighty and assertive. It stimulates with ardent aroma and graces with blooming tannins. The virtue of Long Jing has continued to inspire its admirers with the chi of just.
Understanding The Value of Terroir
The rigorous pursuit from generations of Long Jing lovers has brought meticulous standards around the tea's cultivar, processing, and terroir. As with all historically famous teas in China, there's a hierarchy in prestige. This practice is much like that of Champagne or other fine wines. Though Long Jing is made throughout China’s many tea regions, the most famous are:
- Yue Zhou Long Jing
- Qian Tang Long Jing
- Xi Hu Long Jing
The best Long Jing comes from Xi Hu, or West Lake, in the city of Hangzhou. But, we don’t stop there. Even within the namesake terroir Xi Hu, tea from different villages is further divided into five rankings:
- 🦁 Lion's Peak (Where Tea Drunk's Long Jing is from!)
- 🐲 Dragon
- ☁️ Cloud
- 🐯 Tiger
- 🍅 Plum
When tea is sold, it is generally marketed as coming from the most prestigious location it can accurately claim. For example, tea from Lion’s Peak village in Xi Hu will make that clear on its packaging, but tea from the Plum village will likely market as Xi Hu Long Jing.
One can say it’s history and culture that elevates Long Jing to demand such high prices and praise. But no historically famous tea can achieve such long-lasting fame without showcasing its worthiness through prestigious terroir, desired cultivar, and spectacular processing. We romanticize Long Jing and we root this appreciation in factors that are grounded and can be explained. For example, there are many cultivars available in the Xi Hu region, including the most common Long Jing 43 and Wu Niu Zao. However, these clone varieties do not carry the same sentimental value we connoisseurs seek to connect with past drinkers. It was the teas that were made from heirloom tea trees planted with seeds and occupying the lot that is best angled to the sun that we want to compare tasting notes with those from ancient sippers.
Long Jing is not supposed to be drunk as soon as it’s processed. It should go through a patient-demanding step called Shou Hui where the made tea is sitting with limestone for a minimum of three weeks before eager tea lovers can enjoy its true beauty.
At Tea Drunk, we ameliorate by treading conservatively, striving to preserve as much as we can of Long Jing’s terroir, cultivar, and processing, to reminisce, protect, and forge ahead.
For our 2022 vintage, we bring you the heirloom Long Jing from the top-ranked Xi Hu terroir, Shi Feng Shan (Lion’s Peak), that has sat with limestone for a minimum of three weeks before reaching your cup. This is one of the world's rarest teas! Sip today and may the chi of just be with you.Shop Tea Drunk's Lion's Peak Xi Hu Long Jing