Lung Ching or Longjing tea (龙井茶) translates to ‘Dragon Well’ and is named after the village where it grows in Zhejiang province. It is by far one of China’s most well known and loved teas. This green tea is known for its four signature qualities or ‘four treasures’; a bright green colour, a dense scent, a saturated flavour and a beautiful shape. Tim and Lenka had the pleasure of visiting the Lung Ching village a few years ago.
A legend is born
During the Qing Dynasty (1636–1912) Lung Ching was granted the status of Gong Cha, or imperial tea, by the Kangxi Emperor. It is said that the emperor went to the Hu Gong Temple under the Lion Peak Mountain (Shi Feng Shan) and was presented with a cup of Lung Ching tea. In front of the temple stand 18 tea trees and upon drinking the tea that they produced he was impressed with its beautiful appearance, elegant fragrance and mellow taste. So great was his joy at drinking the tea that he gave these trees their imperial status.
Other stories tell how the Emperor didn’t declare the status of Gong Cha during that visit. Rather that during his time there, the monk who had served him the tea, showed him the 18 trees and whilst the Emperor was plucking their leaves news arrived that his mother had fallen ill. Whilst visiting his mother the strong scent of the leaves wafted up from his pocket and caught her attention. Without a second thought the Emperor made his mother a cup of tea and she found, like her son, that she enjoyed the pleasant flavour very much. After drinking the tea several times she was cured of her illness and it was then that the Emperor granted imperial status to Longjing tea as a sign of his gratitude.
Those 18 trees still live today and the tea produced by them auctions at incredibly high prices! Such an honor has confirmed Lung Ching as one of the most famous teas in China.
However, even before the Kangxi Emperor tried Lung Ching, the tea grown in the Longjing area was already famous. During the Tang Dynasty (618–907AD) it was known as Fragrant Forest Mist and was likened to the beauty of a woman in a famous Chinese poem by the Song poet Su Dongpo. The name Longjing, which is already centuries old, is taken from a well that contains relatively dense water, and after rain the lighter rainwater floating on its surface sometimes exhibits a sinuous and twisting boundary with the well water, which is supposed to resemble the movement of a Chinese dragon.
The well itself (as seen above) may seem very unassuming and very still. However, whilst Tim and Lenka were visiting they were shown an example of how strong the currents are within it. If you stir the seemingly still water one way it will after a time stop and start swirling the other way!
Lung Ching Production
Historically Lung Ching was produced in five main areas within Zhejiang province: Shi-feng Mountain (Lion Peak), Mei-jia-Wu area, Weng-jia Mountain, Yun-qi area and Hu-pao area.
Today it can be produced from a number of Zhejiang’s tea producing counties. To qualify as Lung Ching, the tea must be produced within a 168 km² (65m²) of the National Designated Protected Zone in which the tea can be labeled as such. It must also be produced in the traditional hand-panned style.(1) There are now four categories of Lung Ching: Shi, Mei, Xihu (meaning West Lake) and Zhejiang Longjing (The name given to Lung Ching from other places). However, the highest priced Lung Ching is still produced on Lion Peak.
Production of the Lung Ching from Lion Peak is not as vast as one might expect. It is not uncommon for a household to pick their own tea and process it at home (as shown below). The process of pan frying the leaves requires a lot of skill and time and the price of the tea reflects this, as it’s not only the location it’s grown in, but also, the quality of the finished tea that determines the final price. Given how desirable fresh Lung Ching is within China alone, these teas are often bought, for incredibly high prices, on the same day as their production finishes by wealthy citizens or merchants.
Preparation of Lung Ching Tea:
It is believed that to produce the best tea from Lung Ching leaves one must brew the tea using water from the nearby Dreaming of the Tiger Spring, a famous spring in Hangzhou. The water from the spring itself seeps out from quartzite and is regarded as among the finest in China.
If, like myself, you don’t have access to this particular spring water I find that filtered water is best for brewing not only Lung Ching, but all teas!
Want to try Lung Ching tea?
We sell a medium grade Lung Ching for £6.30/100g. Find it here!
1. Battle, Will The World Tea Encyclopaedia P.113 ISBN 978-1-78589-313-1
Hupao (“Dreaming of the Tiger”) Spring (Hupaomengquan) in Hangzhou, China – https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Dreaming_of_the_Tiger_Spring#/media/File:Hupao.jpg