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Xi Hu Long Jing-TOP10 Chinese Tea Series January 3, 2010

Filed under: green tea,long jing,tea,top 10 Chinese tea — cnesgreen @ 8:34 am

Xi Hu Long Jing-Dragon Well
Number 1 of the TOP 10 Chinese tea!

General Introduction


Other names:
Dragon well, West Lake Dragon well, Xi Hu Lung Ching, Lung Ching



Longjing is a China historical tea. The making of Longjing was dated back to 1,500 years ago.

It is said that Longjing was recorded as early as Song Dynasty in the world first tea book, 

Cha-Jing (The Tea Scripture written by Lu Yu).

Once upon a time, it was named following the name of mountains: Xiang-lin-cha, Bai-yun-cha, and Bao-yun-cha.

Longjing tea was blooming during Yuan and Ming Dynasty. 


It was named as Longjing since Song Dynasty.

The name of Longjing was well-known during late Qing Dynasty. 


It is said that during the Qing Dynasty, Emperor Qing-Long visited the Shi-feng Mountain, and was served with Longjing.
He was very impressed with its beautiful appearance, elegant fragrance and mellow taste.
The monk who served the tea explained and brought him to the tea garden, at that time, there were planted 18 tea trees.
While he was enjoying plucking the tea leaves, urgent news arrived saying his mother had fallen ill and urged him to return to the palace.
During his visit to his sick mother, the scent of tea leaves that he kept in his pocket emitted strongly, and attracted his mother’s attention.
Without second a thought, he served the tea to his mother, and she enjoyed its pleasant taste and flavor very much. After drinking for several times, her sickness was cured.
The Emperor was very grateful to the tea, and granted the 18 tea trees as the Imperial Tea Tree.

Since then, Longjing became the tribute tea to emperors.

Up to date, the 18 tea trees remain at the Shi-feng Mountain.

By far, Longjing held its first place in the Top Ten China Tea.

It has been the Nation Tea (Guo-cha), and was always selected as a gift tea served to foreign guests.

Year after year, its fame as the Queen of Green Tea is what every tea connoisseur is fond-of.

Tea Growing Area:


The original Longjing came from the production area at Longjing Village, which is situated at the shore of Xihu(West Lake).

In history, Long Jing was produced from five different areas:
Shi-feng Mountain, Mei-jia-Wu area, Weng-jia Mountain, Yun-qi area , and Hu-pao area.

Today, Longjing is categorized into 4 different groups:
Shi, Mei,Xihu, means West Lake, and Longjing from other places is called Zhejiang Longjing.

The tea growing area is surrounded with fog throughout the year.

One of the essential factors for good Long Jing is the mellow taste. This taste originates from the amino acid called theanine.

Young buds contain high level of theanine, but it is converted to polyphenol such as catechins when tea leaves receive sun light.

On the other hand, less sunshine will preserve high levels of theanine in leaves as bio conversion is not effectively taking place.

The area is often covered by fog, which blocks the direct sun light on tea leaves.

Besides, the soil has strong water holding capacity and good penetrating character; this is important to retain sufficient moisture in the soil.

In addition, the soil is quartz sandstone which provide an acidic pH, which is suitable for growing tea tree.

Best Longjing tea is Shi Feng Longjing from Shi Feng Mountain (Shi Feng Shan).


Processing

Withering

Tea leaf after plucking is moved into well ventilated room.

Tea leaves are spread in a layer of 3-5cm and it is left for 6-12 hours.

This process reduce moisture until 70%.

Tea leaf reduce greenish aroma and bitterness and increase relative percentage of amino acid.



Pan Frying-Inactivation of Enzyme


During the first pan frying, the purpose of Shaqing is to inactivate oxidative enzyme such as polyphenol oxidase (PPO) with heat, as well as forming the preliminary shape of Longjing.

With high temperature, it takes a very short time to heat the tea leaves and inactivate oxidative enzyme.

When the temperature reaches 80-100 degree C, place about 100 g of tea leaves into the pan, and fry by hand.

At the start, the main hand-gesture is to grasp the leaves up to about 10 cm in height away from the pan and slowly sprinkle the leaves to vaporize the moisture from the leaves.

After frying for 3-4 minutes, the leaf turns soft.

By then, the hand-gesture is changed to put-over, press or holds down, shivering and fling or throws off.

Progressively increase the pressure by hand. This step is important to form the preliminary shape of Longjing. The leaves are straightened into narrow-shaped strips and flattened.

The skillful tea master has to carefully manage the timing of action and pressure induced by hand:too much pressure, incorrect hand motion and if pressed too soon, tea leaves become dark in color;

on the other hand, if leaves are not straightened and flattened indicates that the hand pressure applied is insufficient and/or the pressing is carried out too late.

After frying for 12-15 minutes, when the moisture content of leaves is reduced to 20-30%, remove the leaves from pan.



Cooling


The fried leaves are spread out to 15-20 cm and cooled down for about 40-60 minutes.

At this time, the leaf re-absorbs moisture and softens (called Hui-chao).

After cooling, the softened leaves is winnowed to remove broken and light pieces of leaves,
and hand-sorted to get rid of dull, burnt, yellow pieces, red colored leaves and stalk, stalk which is too long, and any foreign materials.

Subsequently, the sorted leaves are sifted to obtain the first batch of leaves that is retained on the top sifter, while the leaves that pass the sifter is collected and sifted again to obtain the second batch which is retained on sifter and third batch, i.e. leaves pass the sifter. 


These three different batches of leaves will be preceded for second frying separately.
Second Pan Frying – Forming the shape and drying

The purpose of second pan-frying is to form the shape and to further remove moisture.

Usually, about 4-5 batches of tea leaves from 1st heating are gathered together and proceed for second heating.

The collected leaves are about 250g in total. The initial temperature of pan is about 60-80 degree C,
fry leaves until they are heated up and softened, and down reveal (Lu-rong-mao), then increase the temperature to 80-90 degree C, and continue frying.

When down drops and leaves are tightened up to flat and smooth strips, the temperature is reduced to 50 degree C.

During frying, the pressure induced by hand is gradually increased.

It involves the hand action of put-over, buckling, rubbing, press, and push.

The gist of the matter is the leaves must always be in contact with the hands, and the tea leaves should not be away from the pan.

Toasting is continued until the down drops from the leaves, and leaf becomes flat, smooth and sleek.

When the leaves emit their own fragrance, and could easily fracture, and the moisture content is reduced to 5-6%, the frying is then sufficient.

It takes 25 minutes of frying in total.


Grade & Inspection




 


The best tea cultivar for Longjing is cultivar No.43.

The Longjing produced using this cultivar gives distinguishing character: the appearance is flat, smooth and sleek, straight with sharp-tips and bud, with delicate green color, and yellowish edge.

When brewed, it gives a long-lasting delicate fragrance with mellow taste.

Besides, the sprouting occurs simultaneously and uniformly, the bud and leaf gives an even color and size.

This is important for making high grade tea with remarkable neat appearance.

Furthermore, every year, the sprouting season of Cultivar No. 43 shifted to 7-10 days earlier than other cultivars.

In China, the earlier the Longjing appears on the market, the better the selling price.

Drinking the earliest tea during spring is the culture which people are fond of.

Therefore, this cultivar is highly appreciated by farmers.

The Longjing cultivar No.43 passes the assessment at national level, and is recognized as a fine breed.

During the early spring, one bud and one leaf or one bud with two leaves (which just starts to open up, called Chu-zhan is hand-plucked.

The length of bud is 2.5-3.0 cm.

The length of bud is an indication reflecting the degree of delicacy (Nen-du) of tea leaves.

The plucking is carried out at the earliest possible time to harvest the young shoots.

It is said that the best time to harvest the best quality of Longjing is before (Qing Ming, occurring on April 4 (leap years) or April 5 (other years) of the Gregorian calendar), the product is named as (Ming-qian Cha).

Subsequently, tea harvested before Grain Rain is considerably good quality; it is named (Yu-qian Cha).

In a day, even an expert can only manage to harvest as much as 1.0-1.5kg of young shoots.

In any event, 0.5kg contains about 60,000 pieces of young shoots.

In addition, the tea leaves must be carefully selected during plucking:
1) Pick the bud and leaf of the same size, in even and orderly form
2) Do not pluck together with the long stalk
3) Do not pluck bud/leaf in purple color
4) Do not pluck bud and leaf which is damaged by plant disease
5) Do not pluck the tiny leaf attached to bud.

After plucking, the leaves are transferred to a cool place indoors.

During the sunny days, usually in the spring season, the tea leaves are spread to a thin layer (3-5 cm) and left for 6-12 hours without turning or mixing; but if the leaves are plucked after the rain or contains much dew, the tea leaves are spread to a much thinner layer, then lightly turned and mixed for 2-3 times.

It must be carried out with much care and attention and so as not to cause damage to the leaves (damaged leaves will turn red and affect the quality of the end product).

During this period, the water content is vaporized from fresh leaves until it is reduced to about 70%.

The spreading causes the leaves to emit a greenish grassy smell, reduce the bitterness and astringent taste, increase amino acid relative concentration which improve the briskness of liquor.

Besides, it helps to avoid leaves becoming lump during frying. It improves the quality of tea made; as the color remains a delicate green with a smooth and sleek appearance.

Quality Inspection Criteria:



Dry Tea Leaf

 

  


Leaf is flat, lustrous and sleek, straight with sharp pointed tips, with the length of within 2.5-3.0 cm.
Leaf is covered with a white down that is closely well set to leaf and is hidden; it is not easily seen and will unfurl when brewed.

If of poor quality, the length is longer, shape is less flat and blunt.

When looking at the leaves, if too much ‘fish eye bubble’ (Yu-yan Pao) is found on its surface,
this indicates that the leaf is over-fried.
Even though the shape of leaf is as described above, it is not of good quality as the taste is bitter.




Color of Dry Leaf

 

 

Color of dry leaf: Yellowish green color, even, bright and lustrous.

For poor quality, the leaf is not lustrous, in darker green color with a dull appearance, and mixed with leaves of various colors.

Besides, over-fried leaf appears to be in dark grayish color.




Regularity

 

 



The good quality tea consists of pieces of leaf of fairly even size and color.

Poor quality tea contains a lot of broken pieces, and mixed with broad strips of leaves.

The leaf is a mixture of yellowish or dark green.



Cleanliness

 

 

The well-made tea must be free from extraneous matter such as fiber, bamboo or wooden flakes, sand or stone, dust.




Aroma

 

 


The dry leaf gives fresh a greenish note, while the aroma of poor quality tea is overcast and can hardly being sensed.

When brewed, the liquor gives a fresh green note and long-lasting flavor.

This is the characteristic of the most superior Longjing which is highly sought after, indicating the high quality of raw material being produced with the proper handling process.

It is also recognized as it has an aroma of chestnut. The poor quality product gives a grassy flavor which is similar to stewed vegetable or green pea.

If the leaf is over-fired, the strong firing effect or even burnt aroma is detectable.






Color of Liquor

 

 


Bright, clean and pure, with delicate bluish green color. For poor quality tea, the liquor is yellowish or dull yellowish color.






Taste

 

 


The taste is brisk, refreshing, smooth, mellow and has a sweet after taste.
If the tea is of poor quality, the taste is astringent, bitter, with greenish grassy taste.


Brewed Tea Leaf

The brewed leaves show a fresh, bright and even green color.

The leaves are well-attached to the bud, appears like the flower petals.

When touched with the finger, the leaves are thick but soft and elastic.

For poor quality tea, the brewed leaf consists of much broken pieces in dark green color or yellowish brown color.

It is mixed with a single leaf without bud.

If red color spot is found on the leaves, it indicates poor-handling –this shows that the leaves are damaged during plucking or spreading which cause oxidation of enzyme to take place before blanching.

Besides, good quality tea should not contain much insect bitten leaves which show uneven holes on the leaves.

In addition, if the leaf is over-fried at higher temperature and burnt, the holes with even shape can be seen on the brewed leaf.

The real Longjing cultivar comes with the bud closely attached with leaf/leaves to form the small and exquisite shape like flower.

The length of bud is slightly longer than the leaf.

The width of the leaf is narrower (about 0.5-1cm), while other cultivars contain leaf which is wider, bigger and longer than the bud, and not closely attached to the bud.

The real Longjing cultivar is very smooth and sleek when touched compared to other cultivars.

The brewed leaf retains a mild fresh note, while other cultivars give a greenish grassy note or sometimes give no flavor at all after brewing.


Health Benefits

Today, scientific research in both Asia and the west is providing hard evidence for the health benefits long associated with drinking green tea. For example, in 1994 the Journal of the National Cancer Institute published the results of an epidemiological study indicating that drinking green tea reduced the risk of esophageal cancer in Chinese men and women by nearly sixty percent. University of Purdue researchers recently concluded that a compound in green tea inhibits the growth of cancer cells. There is also research indicating that drinking green tea lowers total cholesterol levels, as well as improving the ratio of good (HDL) cholesterol to bad (LDL) cholesterol.

To sum up, here are just a few medical conditions in which drinking green tea is reputed to be helpful:

cancer
rheumatoid arthritis
high cholesterol levels
cariovascular disease
infection
impaired immune function



How to Brew



It is nice to brew Long Jing in long glass. It is suitable as you can observe tea leaves and enjoy how they move up and down.

Water for Brewing




Please use soft water. Usually TDS: below 130mg/liter makes taste smooth and sweet.



Temperature


Water must be boiled once in order to reduce the softness of the water.

Let water cool down until 75-80 degree C and use it for brewing.


Brewing Method

The most suitable way to serve Longjing is using a long glass.

The Long glass is often used for serving exclusive Chinese green or yellow tea.

The glass used should be clear without any decorative design, transparent, rounded and smooth, with this glass, it is best to observe and enjoy the beauty of Longjing when being brewed.

Use soft water for preparation of tea. It is suitable to effectively extract most of the substances from tea leaves.
Hard water is not suitable because it contains a higher level of mineral ions which suppress extraction of substances from leaf, subsequently, the taste become very flat and thin.

Use fresh water which has not been boiled before.

Bring the cold water to boil and cool down until required temperature.

This is to evaporate some chlorine from the water.

Beforehand, it is important to warm the glass well by rinsing it out with boiled water.

This should be done just before adding the tea leaves, so that leaves benefit from a gentle humid heat which will maximize the extraction from the tea leaves.

It is important to maintain the water temperature when brewing for efficacious extraction of substances from leaf.

The method of brewing Longjing is named as ‘Down-Tossing Infiltration Brewing’.

The leaf of Longjing is in flat shape and therefore difficult to sink when brewed.

With this brewing method, the leaf is brewed ‘twice’:

firstly, the leaf is moistened with a small quantity of water and to let it unfold followed-by the addition of water to make up a cup of tea.

The details of preparing Longjing following Down-Tossing Infiltration Brewing method is described as below:













1) Prepare 3 g of tea leaves for 150ml of water.








2) Place the tea leaves into a warmed glass. One could take precedence to smell the orchid fragrance of leaf liberated by the heat from the warmed glass.


3) Let the boiled water to cool down to 75-80 degree C.
Green tea leaves prefer a slightly cooler temperature as compared to black tea in order to minimize the extraction of polyphenol.
The optimum extraction temperature of polyphenol is at around 90-95 degree C, while amino acid can be extracted at much lower temperature.

4) Gently pour water onto the leaves. The quantity of water should be 1/3 of glass (about 50 ml), or merely enough to cover all the leaves. 






5) Sway the glass in a gentle movement to let all leaves moisten and infiltrate. It is time to briefly enjoy the fragrance but not to drink it yet.

6) After one minute, pour in another 100 ml of water. When pouring the water, raise the hot water pot upward and downward for three times to pour in the water, to allow the tea leaves to agitate with upward and downward movements.
This helps the extraction and induces even liquor in the glass.

7) Brew for 2 minutes and serve.

8) If the taste is too strong, add boiled water to the glass.













This tea can be brewed for 3 times.
In general, enjoy the pleasure of the fresh green note with refreshing taste when firstly brewed; for second brewing, enjoy the mellow taste. The following brewing is milder and has a  












thinner taste, yet gives a brisk and refreshing mouth feel.


There is another way to enjoy Longjing. 

When the liquor of previous brewing is left only 1/3 in the glass,

pour in another 100 ml of boiled water (at 85-90 degree C).

Brew for 3 minutes and it is ready.


In such a way, the taste is not diluted too much for subsequent brewing up to 3 times.



How to Store 

The higher the tea quality, the more easily it loses its flavor.

Put some effort and it should keep fresh for a longer time.

Keep tea away from moisture

Once a bag of tea is opened, please finish it within 3 months if you wish to enjoy its freshness.
From the medical point of view, it is safe to consume the tea even if it is kept for a few years.
However the freshness disappears if it is kept for too long.
Tea must be tightly sealed before it is kept.
Tea should be kept in ambient and dry conditions such as in the living room, but it must be completely away from humidity.
Tea should not be kept in the kitchen as the environment is very humid.
Avoid enclosed area such as inside the cupboard or drawer as these places are damp.
Also avoid opening the bag of tea in humid atmosphere.
It is recommended to open the bag during a sunny day or under air-conditioned atmosphere.
Once tea leaves absorb moisture, deterioration of tea will be triggered within a few days.
Tea will then give an astringent taste, sometime it tastes sour. The fresh aroma also becomes weaker.

Beware of keeping the tea in the fridge

If the tea is sealed, keep in a freezer. Cover with a box to insulate from temperature change.
Once the package has been opened, store away from light, moisture, smell and heat in an airtight container.
The quality of tea lasts longer if it is kept in the fridge. However we strongly recommend you not to keep tea in the fridge.
When tea is withdrawn from the fridge, there is usually condensation. Once tea is exposed to moisture during condensation, the quality will deteriorate within a few days. The higher moisture content in the tea leaves will trigger oxidation and it will completely destroy the quality of tea.

Here’s one frequently asked question: 

What happens if bag is sealed using tape or tea is packed in zipper bag and kept inside the fridge?

For your information, these simple sealing methods are not sufficient. When the bag is withdrawn from the fridge, it is cold inside the bag and therefore causes negative pressure.
Air will be drawn from outside and condensation will occur.
In addition, if the bag is taken in and out from the fridge very often, this will cause heat stress to the tea leaves as temperature is increased and decreased very frequently.
If tea is kept in the fridge, when it is withdrawn from the fridge, it is necessary to leave it in ambient atmosphere for more than 24 hours in order to warm up the tea leaves.
Based on our experience, 12 hours is not long enough. We may think tea is warmed up, but inside the bag, the tea leaves are still cold due to insulation effect.

IMPORTANT: Get tea with teaspoon instead of hand.

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