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Alex_Hart

西湖龙井茶 West Lake Dragon Well Tea

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Alex_Hart

As requested and thanks for abcd's beautiful posts, I'd like to give an (amateur) introduction to 龙井茶, or Dragon Well (green) tea. Sadly, I am new to the world of tea, and I don't have a real camera, so bear with me! Further, Dragon Well tea has a long (royal) history full of legends and myth, and I am ignorant of many of these stories. I will begin with the background before jumping into the tea itself – feel free to skip ahead, the earlier sections are unimportant if you just want to see and drink the tea.


Introduction: Etymology
龙井茶, literally Dragon Well Tea, derives its name from a (water) well in 龙井村 on the outskirts of Hangzhou 杭州 in 浙江. Legend goes that Hangzhou had a dry spell that ran for several years, depriving much of the area of its water and emptying wells all across the city except for one. That this well never dried up was attributed to a dragon who came from the sea and lived in its depths, continuously refilling the well. The well has since been developed and now has a stone wall surrounding it – you can still see it in the old village. 


Actually, there are now two towns that bear the name Longjing and you should be careful when setting out. The original “Old Longjing” (where the famous temple once stood and was recently rebuilt) and other “New Longjing” (constructed around 2002/2003 for tourism purposes and largely filled with hotels and restaurants). Look for the one with the temple and the well. If visiting, also try to check out the 茶叶博物馆, a nice museum down the road from the original well devoted to the history of tea. They often have tastings of tea you can find in the gift shop at an inflated price.

 

Region
龙井茶 actually refers to two regions. When making a purchase, the first is simply referred to as 龙井茶, but should be more accurately called 浙江龙井茶. The second is referred to as 西湖龙井茶. Both are from the province of Zhejiang 浙江, but the latter comes from the areas immediately surrounding 杭州 and its famous West Lake 西湖. Whether there is actually a difference or not often depends on who you ask, but 杭州人 are extremely defensive when it comes to the nuances they consider particular to the area around 西湖 in 杭州. They hold the terroir and even the particular kind of moisture in the air (once described to me as “the wet air that comes off Xihu西湖 and mixes with that which comes off Qiantang River 钱塘江) to make a unique tea, similar to how the Burgundians would refuse to call a wine grown from burgundy grapes the same if it was grown in Napa, California. 
    
Within the realm of 西湖龙井are several mountains. The most famous ones are 狮峰山、龙井村、云栖、虎跑、梅家坞. When walking around Hangzhou, many tea stores will have 狮、龙、云、虎、梅 on a large poster outside or in the window to advertise which village their tea comes from. The most famous three are 狮峰,龙井and梅家坞. The latter two are very nice locales to relax for a day, sipping tea and strolling through the tea fields if visiting. If you like 麻将, you can play with views of the rolling hills covered in tea while sipping on one grown within walking distance. 梅家坞 is also called an "oxygen bar" as the air is considered so much cleaner than the rest of Hangzhou.


The vast majority of people outside Hangzhou will actually be purchasing Zhejiang Longjing – I’ve heard more than one tea store owner say that there is no real Xihu Longjing tea sold outside Hangzhou as the area is simply too small to produce any exportable amounts and is instead sold for a (large) premium within the city, and to friends. A store owner in Shanghai who makes an annual trip to purchase bulk Xihu Longjing to sell to Japanese tourists told me that Xihu Longjing is the most commonly counterfeited tea in Shanghai – a city less than an hour away by 高铁.
 

Seasons
When speaking of Longjing, people say “雨前是上品,明前是珍品.” The best 龙井 is 明前茶, or that which is picked before 清明节. For a good example of 明前龙井茶, you can expect to pay at least 2,000 kuai /斤. You can generally pick up 50g tins for around 200 kuai – almost every home in Hangzhou seems to have one for when guests arrive. When pressed, locals will generally admit to buying 雨前茶, or tea picked before the heavy rains arrive (generally April/May) for themselves. Several local tea shops have told me you’d be hard-pressed to tell the difference unless an expert in tea, and the price can often fall quite a bit. One reason to buy earlier tea is that the colder weather prevents bugs from eating the tea leaves, but as warmer (and wetter) weather approaches many of the farmers begin using pesticides. Since this tea is from later in the season, it’s generally not worth remaining organic anyway - it's no longer a premium product. Some organic teas do exist, but they are often grown alongside those which have pesticides. Earlier teas tend to be simply drunk while some suggest later teas need to be rinsed (extremely briefly) with hot water prior to steeping to remove the pesticides.


The tea also differs drastically year to year – people say this year was abnormally cold and then comment on the quality or amount of tea. A common question when chatting with local tea fans is “How does this tea compare to last year’s?” Unfortunately, I am new to the neighborhood and cannot comment on this - maybe next year!
 

The Tea
Longjing of the Xihu or Zhejiang variety can be told apart by its flat, long leaves. The legend goes that an emperor visited Hangzhou and went to drink some tea. Before leaving, he took the tea and put it between the pages of his books for his long journey home. Upon arriving, the tea was flattened by the book and thought ruined, but both the emperor and his mother thought it attractive and delicious. After that, the tea became one of the favorites of emperors (I believe starting in the Ming) and he declared several of these trees to be royal property - they still stand in the old town.


龙井茶 is produced by 炒 (frying? Roasting? Stir frying?) – not quite sure how to translate this. This compares to other teas such as Japanese Sencha (蒸汽 – steam), 普洱 (日晒 –sun dried), or 安吉白茶 (烘焙 – baked).  I’d recommend a visit to Hangzhou if for no other reason than to watch the older craftsmen working their hands in a giant wok full of tea – a feast for the eyes and the nostrils! Once heard someone remark that you can tell the age of the roaster by looking at the tea leaves – an older roaster will have so many years of experience that simply through touch and smell, they know the exact moment the tea is finished and will avoid the “burnt” ends that are common to younger roasters. Machines, on the other hand, totally avoid the burned ends, but produce an inferior tea.


The most expensive Longjing is that sold with just the buds, no leaves. I’m not particularly fond of this – too 淡 for my uncultivated taste buds, and it lacks the 涩 quality that I like in Longjing. Most people I’ve met share this conclusion – and I would avoid it unless you’re really down the rabbit hole of tea drinking. Instead, find tea sold either with one leaf or two leaves, plus the bud.
Dragon Well tea differs based on the age and shape of the bush upon which it is grown. Newer teas are planted in straight rows and all look about the same size, while the older trees tend to be of a variety of shapes and sizes. You will see both in the villages, but I’m not an expert on this and can’t afford the old tree tea to compare, so I shall leave this for another day (or decade).

 

Brewing
There are three methods for brewing tea in a glass, and 西湖龙井 should be made with the 中投法. You can also make it in a gaiwan. Abcd has covered this in another post, but I will briefly summarize. You can use a tall glass or a short glass, whatever is on hand, but it should lack any coloration or decoration so as to allow you to see the tea. Water for Longjing should definitely be far off a boil – 80 degrees is all you need, more than that will destroy the tea. Gross approximations can be had by boiling and letting the water sit for a minute, or by pouring the water into another vessel before pouring it over the tea:


First, fill the glass 1/3 with water and swish it around to warm the glass. Pour this water out (preferably into a bowl to use to water your plants once it’s cool – can’t be wasting water!).

method1.thumb.jpg.0b6e56f3ccfde9d90a4b490c9adee7c1.jpg
Next, refill the glass 1/3 of the way with water. Add the tea. While I’ve heard people say 2 grams, I find this up to personal taste. My girlfriend likes very few leaves, I like a bit more. Gently swish the glass to wet all the leaves. This prevents them from simply sitting on top and not getting brewed.
 method2.thumb.jpg.2218c933f1aeeb8257638bb1143bf9fb.jpg59169efe2ee66_aboveview.thumb.jpg.998eee4603747a59cae656d149cb4338.jpg
Fourth, fill the glass, but leave enough space on top to hold your fingers – this is to avoid burning your lips when drinking, and (I think!) to let you stick your nose in and take a nice whiff.

method3.thumb.jpg.f96519add88eed0141616f2bf2705337.jpg


A big draw for Longjing is how pretty the leaves are, and so once you fill the glass you should enjoy watching them dance. The ideal is to be sitting near Xihu on a warm spring day chatting with friends: a person pours and you all continue chatting while observing your tea's infusion. Once infused, you take a moment to enjoy the fragrance before gently sipping, using your teeth to stop any debris from entering your mouth. Once the glass is back to being 1/3rd of the way full, add more hot water. You can continuously do this until it's too light for you - grandpa brewers generally add extra leaves so the first few infusions are too strong, but the latter are still nice. Not sure I'd recommend doing that if drinking at home.

 

A note of warning: water is critical. Tea fans will say the best water is mountain water while the worst is well or river water, but Hangzhou natives will be even more particular and seek out water from 虎跑梦泉, Tiger Dream Spring, which is said to produce a particularly sweet cup of tea due to its mineral content. There are actually several springs scattered around the 龙井area and most will do, but the water is of questionable value today. Hangzhou locals now swear you can only use 农夫山泉, a brand of water sold across China. They specify that it must be the one sold in Zhejiang (which is sourced from 千岛湖), and my teacher says she’s met a lady in Beijing who actually has it sent to her rather than drink her local 农夫山泉. Those less picky can use any bottled water or high quality tap water.


Finally, don’t be worried to dry other drinking vessels. I only included glass because it is the second most used method here (after grandpa brewing – see abcd’s posts). I actually prefer to use a gaiwan because I find the fragrance is more easily appreciated using the lid to trap it. Same as above, but let the lid sit over the tea. When ready, lift the lid and keep its cavity pointed down until you reach the nose, then lift and smell. 

 

Comparisons
I have three varieties of Longjing at home and will show you them both dry (before brewing) and after brewing. 
This is a nice example of 西湖龙井; you can expect to pay at least 2,000 kuai for a 斤, or around $285. I am not sure of the mountain, but note the yellowish green leaves. This is a characteristic most associated with the tea from 狮峰山, though I can’t say for sure. It is a 明前茶 and was picked in the few days before 清明节. This was given to me by a tea house owner friend. It is a fragrant cup, grassy (often described as bean-y) with sweet undertones to the smell. It’s beautiful in the cup –the leaves dance up and down. The flavor is delicious – slightly astringent but sweet, and tastes a bit desserty. 
You can see that once I remove the leaves, they are largely 一芽一叶 and 一芽两叶. Since most of them are in one piece, it was probably handpicked and hand roasted – machine picking/roasting tends to break up the leaves. The leaves together with the stick also tend to create a beautiful cup of dancing tea leaves (see picture) as the leaves tend to sink and the sticks tend to float, which creates Longjing's famous dancing effect.

teahouse-dry.thumb.jpg.eae785a7c037b34456858f893ae297d5.jpg610419707517922403.thumb.jpg.9befca571c096eec84af48f195ad3027.jpg746082757743877380.thumb.jpg.c294b0a3d2c85d9dcbae852125d9019e.jpg

This second sample is from a different friend. Her friend owns an organic tea farm in the town of Longjing and gifted me this tea as a way of introducing her friend's goods – the market price is similar to the one above. Note the leaves are a darker green – both these teas were picked before 清明节, and the darker color might be attributed to the mountain, or to the roaster. Somebody more experienced can generally tell the two apart, but I can't. Perhaps hard to see in this picture, but there is also a tiny amount of white fuzz on some of the leaves. This tea has less fragrance than the first cup, but is slightly more caramel-y in flavor. You can tell that both of these were hand roasted as there are some pieces slightly burned and the pieces remain largely whole. Another nice cup of tea.
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This is a “cheap" or "middle of the road" 龙井. It is 雨前 but 清明节后, so it is picked later in the season than the other two teas. After the above tea was gifted to me, I felt I had to make a purchase. The gift was a good quality tea and I didn’t worry about it originally, but I regreted buying this tea after receiving it. I wanted an everyday tea and asked for something in the price range of 300 kuai; this tea was 500 kuai for 250 grams, which was subsequently lowered to 400 kuai for the “friend price.” That’s around $50-60 for 250 grams of tea. This tea is nothing to write home about and I think it points to something important when it comes to Longjing – cheap Longjing from Xihu isn’t worth it. The fragrance is muted and no specific smells stand out – it lacks the sweetness of the other samples. You can also see both in the glass and once the leaves are spent that there are numerous sticks, which makes for an unpleasant drinking experience and carries very little in the way of flavor, but makes the bag heavier for selling purposes. It’s still not as bad as the Longjing you find in supermarkets – I’ve seen these sold where half the bag is made up of sticks, and the leaves are chopped to bits. Still, there is none of the dancing that I saw in the last two cups – the leaves sink almost immediately while the sticks float even if you leave them in the water. None of the leaves have even the slightest hint of being burned, but many are destroyed. Probably machine roasted or picked. Not many buds either.

I have plenty of teas in the house that I bought for cheaper and make a much nicer cup of tea. Recently purchased 50 grams of a Wuyi Rock Oolong which was 800 kuai/jin (a little over $100) and I reach for it every day but stop myself for fear of running out – this Longjing has largely been relegated to what I grandpa brew throughout the school day. Note that this Longjing actually costs more than the Oolong. If on a tight budget, I’d ignore the Xihu Longjing and explore the broader area of Zhejiang – many other towns make beautiful cups of green tea that don’t come with the glamour of a 西湖 tea. Hope to come back to one of those in a later post.
cheap-dry7699.thumb.jpg.e8c3f4b9e3d3954a01375e35a9c869b4.jpg117250821482997765.thumb.jpg.b065fe7e5a99849eead5f547c04e6a8f.jpg701368365195420431.thumb.jpg.f7c5e410f43aaba3e3e41383a44156e8.jpg

 

Conclusion 

While I've had little luck in the way of finding budget 龙井茶, I would still recommend to invest in a small tin of the good stuff - it's a wonderful tea to drink, and one of the ten most famous teas ( @abcdefg has posted about some of the other most famous teas - you can find his posts here https://www.chinese-forums.com/forums/topic/54133-tea-articles-a-users-guide/ ). It's a sweet and fragrant tea and properly brewed (i.e. at a low enough temperature) should please even those who grew up adding sugar to their teas. It's also easy to brew - I've almost never seen it served in anything other than a plain old glass, except maybe in a gaiwan or a small 景德镇 cup (supposed to elevate the color of the tea, though at the expense of the dancing).

 

There is also actually a shop on Taobao owned by a famous tea factory in Hangzhou - I'd have to ask my teacher if somebody was interested in the link. 

 

 

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Shelley

Thank you for your efforts. Excellent write up. Its so nice when the detail and reasons for things are explained.  I think I am now off to have some tea, a red tea, my favourite.

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abcdefg

Thanks for that fine write-up, @Alex_Hart, it makes me crave a glass of Xihu Longjing right now. There is really nothing else quite like it. And the thought of it stirs up memories.

 

The first time I had the real stuff was on a trip to Yuxi, southeast of Kunming 8 or 9 years ago. It was one of the few Chinese tea I knew by name and when a waiter recommended it in a pleasant open-air cafe beside that sunny lake in Ni Er Park, I took the plunge. I recall being upset that the glass had so many tea leaves all floating around loose like that; it was difficult to drink without it getting into my teeth. I fished some out with a pair of chopsticks and put them in an ashtray so that the drink would be easier to handle. Pretty sure I scandalized the staff and won their "most ungrateful customer of the month" contest. 

 

First time I visited Hangzhou, some years later, I knew about this famous tea and wanted to try it once more. Had been reading up. Took one of those infamous big-bus "idiot tours" with all the mandatory time-waster shopping stops and two young guides who took turn shouting at everyone through megaphones, but I didn't care since it included a visit to a "Longjjng factory" as well as to a Hangzhou silk factory. I bought beautiful overpriced scarves for lady friends on three continents and for all my female relatives. Also bought small tins of very serviceable Longjing tea for everyone on my "Christmas-is-anytime" gift list.

 

Was staying at the old Marco Polo Hotel (the original "Merchant Marco" on Pinghai Road, Shangcheng) and a tea shop down the street recommended I make a pilgrimage to 虎跑泉 Running Tiger Spring to try the best Longjing-brewing water at its source. Went there next morning and was met by a stream of skinny guys in undershirts filling five-gallon plastic Jerry cans and carting them down the mountain on three wheeled bikes. Had a short glass of Xihu Longjing there brewed with the magic water, and it changed my life. Turned me into a tea nut, and there was no looking back from then on.

 

That one glass of tea cost 50 Yuan, with a thermos of hot water set on the outdoor table for refills. I figured it was overpriced, but I sprang for it anyhow in one of those "seize the moment" moves that I don't in the least regret. On two later trips, I went into the hills where it was grown, usually just before Qingming Jie, and chased down what seemed to be the good stuff.

 

Found that if I bought a decent amount, the seller would throw in some other lesser Longjing, maybe from a relative's field a couple hills away, or even some from last-year's crop. That let me compare grades of it back home and kind of train my palate. I would drink two glasses side by side, labeled on the bottom, striving to tell them apart.

 

The way you suggest brewing it is exactly the way I like to do it too. A classic approach. Appreciate your article and photos. Keep up the good work!

 

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Alex_Hart

@Shelley I was rather partial to red tea in the beginning - Shou pu'er is actually the first tea I drank where I thought "tea bags aren't all there is to tea?" But green tea is my favorite in warmer weather - find some of the others too winter-y. 

 

@abcdefg Nice story! I remember when the Chinese press/social media was raving because Obama was able to drink tea using his teeth as a filter. Made for some funny headlines.

 

So many lady friends? :P I've bought four for my mother and grandmother - the silk here is beautiful, though one has to be careful. Local spot sells with a very nice mark-up because Xi's wife bought a scarf there once.

 

That's actually a pretty standard price around Hangzhou for Longjing - I've seen it go upwards of 70 kuai.

 

I wanted to go chase down some in Longjing, but was rather worried about whether I could actually find some. Last time I went to Longjing, people were trying to sell the 250克 bags for 800 kuai - the tea didn't look great. I only later realized I was in the "wrong" Longjing - will need to check again next year as I now have too much green tea in the house, but not enough Pu'Er!

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Shelley

I don't like pu'er. My tea tastes are quite conservative. I discovered this sometime ago when @abcdefg started a tea post. I when out and bought as many different teas I could find in my local chinese shops and markets (not many) here in the south of UK and some I had been brought back from China as presents.. I tried them all and decided green tea (mild ones), lapsong, and standard ordinary red/black tea were for me.

 

I have found I like to drink green tea from small tea cups with a teapot and hot water to top it up. There is something about drinking it while it is still quite hot that to me improves it. so it keeps warm better in a teapot.

 

 

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Alex_Hart

That's a shame, though I wouldn't give up on it! I've had really disappointing cups of pu'er - muddy and compost-y, or so bitter that there was no other flavor, but I've had lots of disappointing cups of green tea as well. There are also so many kinds of pu'er - I know a lot of people say that young 生普洱 hits them like a punch in the jaw, while aged teas go down like silk. When traveling in Yunnan, several locals claimed only 生普洱 could be called 普洱 (regardless of its age), while others claimed that nothing but 生普洱 that has been aged at least 10 years could lay claim to the name ("otherwise it's just green tea"), but most people I've met from outside Yunnan prefer 熟普洱. It's an interesting world in its own right that I'm sure you'd grow to enjoy, especially with the guidance of Master Abcd :lol:

 

Sounds like 功夫茶 then? I've never tried drinking green tea this way, but it's how I consume most of my tea at home - with a gaiwan if I'm drinking oolong, or a clay pot if brewing pu'er/black tea. Not sure if you're referring to this kind of arrangement or a traditional western pot (which are much too large to do the short steeps in 功夫茶). Since the gaiwan or clay pot can generally only hold around 100-150 mL (I think it's mL), they never hold enough water for it to get cold. I remember that you have the right sized pot from when you answered abcd's post about this type of brewing, https://www.chinese-forums.com/forums/topic/48844-warming-up-to-pu’er-a-beginner’s-guide-普洱茶/?do=findComment&comment=373143

 

Speaking of gongfu cha, actually had a 3 hour Oolong tasting class today in 茶文化课 (which made me really want to go visit Fujian - my former roommate was actually from 潮州 and first introduced me to this style of brewing tea) and one of the teacher's little tricks was to slip in some cheap teas - one 铁观音 was 30 kuai (around $7?) for a 斤 (500 grams) from the local supermarket, another was a 奶香乌龙茶 with 奶粉 milk powder added to increase the "milky" taste/smell - smelling the unbrewed leaves was enough to make me think of 奶茶. Thought it was fun - one student very seriously declared them the best two teas she's tasted all semester. The 大红袍 and 东方美人 came afterwards and two of the students asked if they could have another brew of the 奶粉 tea. 

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Shelley
36 minutes ago, Alex_Hart said:

Not sure if you're referring to this kind of arrangement or a traditional western pot

I meant a small chinese teapot (the hot water pot is a bit bigger) with small chinese teacups, the sort with no handles and really only contain a couple of good mouthfuls, but sipped lasts a few minutes, then top it up again and so on.

I don't like any tea I drink to be too stewed, so i always remove the leaves as soon as it is the strength I like so it doesn't go bitter. I also never use boiling water, only water that has been boiled and has cooled to between 90 and 95 deg centigrade or so.

 

You mention Oolong, I had forgotten I have a very nice one that I like.

 

I didn't like the tingly mouth sensation and buzzy nature of Pu'er. I know its not always like that but I would rather avoid it.

 

I agree its worth not giving up but here in the UK my choices are limited and buying online uncertain.

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Alex_Hart

Ah nice - yes, that's how I like my tea as well.

 

I see - I've heard about people's physical reactions to pu'er, but haven't experienced it myself. I wonder if this is also what people call 茶醉 tea drunkenness?

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abcdefg

Oolong is great stuff! I had fun exploring it in Taiwan year before last. https://www.chinese-forums.com/forums/topic/49780-a-taste-of-taiwan-oolong/ 

 

My Fujian trips were before I really knew much; I stumbled around trying Tieguanyin here and there, but the best Fujian teas in my cabinet were purchased later, and in that huge Guangzhou wholesale market (Fangcun 芳村)。

 

@Shelley -- I tremble at the thought of giving unsolicited advice, but I think the biggest "tea favor" you could do yourself at this point is to take the plunge regarding purchasing tea on-line. There are quite a few reliable merchants, prices are reasonable, shipping is at minimal cost or even free, guarantees and refund policies are exceedingly generous.

 

It would open so many doors beyond what you are able to find locally on the shelves there in the south of England. You could very well have several exciting "ah-ha moments" in which you were simply stunned by what the good stuff really tastes like. Especially true now that you have acquired solid brewing skills and have the proper equipment. You have paid your dues; you deserve some better leaf.

 

Quote

...but here in the UK my choices are limited and buying online uncertain.

 

Nowadays, buying on-line is much less uncertain than buying off the shelves of a supermarket or Chinese grocery store.

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Alex_Hart

Or in a Chinese tea shop! I fear fakes and scams are rife if you have yet to build some rapport with a tea seller. 

 

Do you find you get better tea at the location where it's grown or at those sorts of wholesale markets, abcd? Other than HK and your local Yunnan wholesaler, any particular place in China truly awesome for buying tea?

 

There is a large event in Hangzhou this week which my teacher has suggested I visit - quite far though. http://mp.weixin.qq.com/s/z-uQasSMrBkoOHC-PowT4A

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Shelley
8 hours ago, Alex_Hart said:

what people call 茶醉 tea drunkenness?

Yes, I think so.

 

@abcdefg Don't worry, your advice is always welcome. I am more than capable of not taking advice when I want:shock::P Yes I still get emails from the chap you gave me a link to, but feel daunted by the choice and not being able to smell and look properly I really am floundering around in a whirlpool of choice. I wonder if I email him and tell him what I already like, would he suggest things that I might like? It might be worth a go.

 

 

 

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abcdefg

@Shelley -- Since we have talked back and forth about tea here in the pages of this forum for the past several years, I have some thoughts on what you might like. Why don't we see if we can figure something out, since I have no economic interest in your decision. 

 

You like red tea and you like a smoky lapsang, but you don't like Pu'er. You like green tea if it is mellow and not overly astringent. You don't drink your tea strong and prefer tea that isn't over-steeped, or as you put it, "stewed." You like to get the tea brewed and then off the leaf. You like it hot, and not lukewarm. You enjoy some Oolongs, but I think they are probably not the roasted ones.

 

Anything you would like to correct or add to that? Seems to me that you have the red tea department covered, and that what you lack is a better green tea. A green tea is especially welcome in the warmer months of late spring and summer.

 

I'll be that you would like the flavor of a decent Longjing, especially if you were to brew it in a gaiwan or small teapot instead of using the "leaves directly in the glass" method. If you could find one that is middle-of-the-road in terms of price and available in a small quantity so you could try it out, that might be worth a shot. It's not an "aggressive" tea; it has a subtly grassy and almost floral finish; it's very "fresh" tasting; it's easy to like, rather than being an acquired taste. I would not suggest buying some exotic high grade usually reserved for the Emperor. Do that later if you really fall in love with it.

 

The other tea I'll bet you would like is a white peony, bai mudan, recently discussed. It's usually not as costly as Longjing.

 

Relevant confession: I seldom buy the top grade tea myself. Have found it is seldom worth it and that I am hard pressed to tell the difference. Sometimes I find the top grade kind of "anemic." More expensive grades of tea are often made with more buds and less leaves. I think the leaves contribute to a fuller flavor and make for a better balanced brew, especially when I don't want to fuss around with it too much. I prefer a tea which is easy to make.

 

Not sure who to buy from, what on-line tea store to use. My experience there is extremely limited since I have the luxury of being able to just walk across the street and purchase face to face here in China. Maybe someone else can help on that score.

 

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Shelley

@abcdefg I think you have me tagged about perfectly.:P I can buy on line from Julian Tai http://www.amazing-green-tea.com/

I am sure you recommended him as being in the UK so not difficult to order from.

I look forward to your recommendations and @Alex_Hart feel to join in.

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Alex_Hart

I agree with abcd - I find a lot of foreigners who don't particularly like Chinese tea (bitterness being the #1 reason) hit it off well with Longjing. Unless really overusing tea leaves, I rarely find it to be a "bitter" tea. I also would second abcd's preference for not top-of-the-line Longjing, though I wouldn't aim for the cheapest one either. I like the leaves and buds to at least be in one piece rather than broken up like in the last pictures I posted above, something very common with cheaper Longjings, and find leaf heavy samples tend to lack the sweetness of others.

 

I also like Jingshan green tea - it is another Zhejiang green and lacks the high price tag of Longjing. It's a big favorite among Japanese tourists as they believe green tea was originally brought to Japan from monks studying in Jingshan. The temple there gets quite busy during the Japanese holidays. Not sure about availability in UK. I see that site has Anji Baicha Anji White tea, but the seller calls it white tea - not sure, but my teacher calls it a green tea. Regardless, also worth considering - different flavor from Longjing (which is usually described as bean-y).

 

Not sure how available it is there, but might want to look into aged white teas, too. Recently tried it for the first time and liked it - price was quite reasonable. Teacher says green teas are bad for women and bad stomachs in Chinese medicine, while white teas avoid this. 

 

Does the UK do sample pack type things? Saw some American tea sellers have such things - idea being you try 5 teas and come back to buy larger amounts of the one you like. Perhaps contact the seller and ask if they could set up such an arrangement?

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Shelley
3 minutes ago, Alex_Hart said:

Does the UK do sample pack type things?

Good plan, I will get emailing.

I was told that white tea is a modern invention and is really green tea in a new guise, any ideas about this?

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abcdefg

I like the writing and the approach of Julian Tai on that website, but I have never personally bought from him. So I cannot truly give an unrestricted endorsement.

 

591af3fb119c0_greentea.JPG.31f30cf74b9ef071ab726daf865b6048.JPGOf the light body green teas listed on the left, the two that I think would suit you best are Dragon Well and Anji Baicha.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Looks like he offers five grades of Dragon Well. Here's an explanation:

 

Quote

 

Which Grade? Which flavors you like will determine which grade to buy. If you are not sure which grade to buy, I recommend getting the 4-in-1 Sampler to start off.

What's in the packet?

Drinking a high grade can be economical. It takes 3 infusions to soak up the large amount of nutritions present in early harvested tea buds. A 50-gram package can make you 50 cups of tea. To put this perspective, 3 grams of tea leaves a day give you 300 milligrams of antioxidants - equivalent to the amount of antioxidants found in 500 grams of red wine and 1000 grams of apples!

Two Flavors

Beginners think of Dragon Well tea's chestnutty roasted flavor. A more experienced green tea drinker will understand she has two distinct flavors: artificial and natural.

Roasted and Toasty

The roasted flavor is overwhelming in the first month, then gradually disappears towards the end of the season. It is more apparent in the lower grades (A or B), where the leaves are roasted longer with heavier hand pressure.

The taste is an extrovert toasted aroma that is the strongest in the first infusion, then fades away quickly.

Natural Sweetness

The higher grade (such as King, Jipin, AAA) leaves undergo minimal processing to preserve their goodness. They are roasted for a shorter time using lighter hand pressure. This natural inner essence is exquisite, floral and long lasting, peaking only in the second and third infusion.

4-in-1 Sampler - 50 grams (Spring 2017)

The 4-in-1 Sample contains 12.5 grams of B grade, A grade, AAA grade and Jipin grade.

B Grade - 50 grams (5 April 2017)

Picked during the Pre-Rain season, she is often sold as a "disguised" higher grade in Hangzhou city. She may lack the exquisite sweetness of a higher grade, but retain the richness and potency of a mid grade.

A Grade - 50 grams (28 March 2017)

The last Pre-Ming harvest, she is a firm favorite of many customers.

AAA Grade - 50 grams (25 March 2017)

If you love the subtle and rich taste of a high grade green tea, then AAA grade is a good place to start. An early harvest, she has a creamy texture and many exquisite layers of aroma.

I love to drink her in the morning. She left me feeling calm and refreshed for the rest of the day. A special treat, the quality is coming very close to the "best in the world".

Jipin Grade - 25 grams (18 March 2017)

Harvested in the first 2 to 3 days of the season, she is the bestseller for a long time. In the mind of many customers, the best green tea in the world.

King Grade -12.5 grams (18 March 2017)

Exceptional and out of this world, the King grade is picked on the first day of the season by the bosses, then pan-roasted tiniest amount at a time.

Chinese green tea, being non-steamed, usually yields a yellowish liquor. But this King grade has a delightful emerald. Mouth flavors are less rich than Jipin grade. What's fascinating is the nose flavors - a penetrating orchid almost like an oolong in disguise.

The tea garden harvests only 2 kilograms each year.

Authenticity Certificate

The Hangzhou City Government issues authenticity certificates to the 9,000 tea gardens in West Lake. They are available to buyers upon request.

 

 

Source: http://shop.amazing-green-tea.com/dragon-well-tea.html

 

I would not buy more than 50 grams for a start. Sharing a parcel with a friend would let you share the postage. Otherwise, it looks like it costs $5 US. It seems that they have a 60-day guarantee:

 

Quote

If for any reasons you are not thrilled or excited by your tea, I will return 100% of your money back.

 

Happy shopping!

 

Footnote: It sounds like I'm shilling for the guy, but I'm really not.

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Shelley

Hmm straight away I am put off by the "chestnutty" flavour, because of my nut allergy.

I will have a good look round the site, seems sampler packets are available, postage for me shouldn't be too bad we are less than hundred miles apart.

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abcdefg
15 hours ago, Shelley said:

Hmm straight away I am put of by the "chestnutty" flavour, because of my nut allergy.

 

Hope that unfortunate wording does not turn out to be a deal breaker; but I understand your concern.

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Alex_Hart

Haha - agree with abcd! I've seen chestnutty used to describe creaminess in coffee crema - perhaps the same here!

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Alex_Hart
Quote

I was told that white tea is a modern invention and is really green tea in a new guise, any ideas about this?

I'm not sure about this. I read online something similar, but my teacher said white tea is closer to what Chinese used to drink as 'medicinal tea' due to it having undergone a little bit of 发酵 (I thought this meant oxidation, but my dictionary says fermentation?), apparently making it easier on the stomach and healthier than green tea (which has the 发酵 arrested by roasting or baking). She describes it as popular in 农村 for stomach ailments and for women, who are apparently not meant to drink that much green tea according to Chinese medicine. Can't say I know much about this - my girlfriend (Zhejiang native) had also never heard of it, and drinks green tea year-round with no problem.

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