Tuesday, May 03, 2005

Dragon Well - Long Jin - facts and experiments

Last Sunday, tea master Teaparker introduced us to the Mainland's popular Long Jin tea.

- The original Long Jin comes from Hsi-Hu, in Hangzhou, Zhejiang Province. There are 5 locations in Hsi-Hu producing Jin-Pin (top quality) Long Jin. One of them is Shi Feng.
- The harvest season lasts 1 to 2 months.
- The most expensive Long Jin is picked before Qing Min Jie (pronounce Tching Min Jiey), the tomb sweeping festival (the equivalent of Christians' November 1st). That's when the tea buds are smallest. 1001 Plateaux has a video of how Long Jin is picked. You'll notice they only go for the small buds.
- The price difference (in China) between a Long Jin (or even Bi Lo Chun) picked before and after the festival is roughly 3 to 1!
- Because this tea commands high prices, even in China, there are countless fakes from other regions.
- Real Long Jin is fried without gloves. The one in this second video is fake then. If it is performed by a beautiful girl on a tourist street, then it is fake too.
- Count 500 USD for a pound (500 gr) of top pre festival Long Jin this year in China. If you pay less, you're sure you don't get the real stuff. But if you pay more, you're not sure either!
- For beginners like me, best is to start with post Qing Min festival Long Jin. This is what we had Sunday, and it was already good enough to make me 'drunk'!
- Good Long Jin has no hair floating in the glass. But good Bi Lo Chun has lots of hair.

As for the experiment, we used a glass, 2 gaibeis and a tea taster to prepare our Long Jin.
- The best way to brew remains the gaibei. Glass has the advantage of letting you see the tea leaves, but their color then fades.
- The worst result was with an tea taster used for oolong competitions. The tea was overcooked.
- Against all modern recommendations, teamaster Teaparker says to use water that just boiled to prepare Long Jin (or Bi Lo Chun) tea. He referred to Lu Yu who said that the wrong water or the wromg temperature can ruin a good tea. He also referred to scientific research that found that between 80 degrees and 100 degrees Celcius, the amount of substance released by tea leaves increases by 100%. In other words, the higher the temperature, the more taste you get out of your tea. Not necessarily only good tastes, though. Bitterness is more likely to come out at high temperature. But good teas are supposed to taste just good and not turn bitter. So, for high quality teas, you have to use 100 degrees. If your tea can't stand the heat, maybe he's not so high in quality... (which explains why retailers and the entire world continue to say that you have to use 80 degrees warm water on green tea). However, since green tea is more fragile than oolong, for instance, you have to pour the hot water carefully on the gaibei's wall, not on the leaves directly.


Trajan said...

did you made some test and try to prepare long jin with this high temperature ? I am afraid, i will overheat the tea. For sure i will try asap.

Stephane said...

Yes, we tried with water just after it boiled. However, be careful to pour slowly and on the walls of the gaibei, not directly on the leaves. Besides, steeping time will be shorter (or use less leaves) since the hotter temperature will steep more 'juice' from the leaves!

Trajan said...

well, i try this method with 3 teas :
- 2 different dragon well, one supposed to be better thant the other.
- pi lo chun
Dragon well supported both temperature, one with little more bitterness, all was correct, but the best for me was not the one we could suppose. Support 3 brew.
For the pi lo chun, well, high temperature released just bitterness, bad experience. At 55/65°, it taste really better, i think quality is not the specificity of this pi lo chun to support this treatment. Support 2 brew, but second one was still really bitter with high temp and 3 nice brew with 55/65°(maybe little bit more or less i have no instrument for mesure ;))

fabrivelas said...

Hi Stéphane,
don't you reduce the temperature when you pour the water carefully down the walls of the gaiwan? I guess that accounts only for about 5°C and therefore is still much hotter than "required" for most green teas.

Stephane said...

Yes, pouring on the wall means I reduce the temperature. However, the important thing is the slow pour. It's like when you take a bath. You feel OK as long as you slowly go down in the hot water. However, you would feel 'burnt' and very uncomfortable if you were to jump in a hot bath. Green tea leaves are also very sensitive and release their substance better if they are not shocked by a quick flow. However, if they are of high quality, they can be brewed at a high temperature.

sacundim said...

Well, I just recently got some tea that my local Northern Californian Asian supermarket sells as "Pi Lo Chun" for about $3.75 an ounce. As you can see from my wording, I'm don't expect it to be very authentic, but it's definitely a good, drinkable tea.

I just tried brewing it at 195F at the same times I'd use at the lower temperature, and the results were excellent but very different. At the higher temperature the tea has much more body. I didn't find it unequivocally better, though—both methods have their merit. But I still do have to try a shorter infusion at the higher temperature.