Dragonwell, or Longjing, green tea, is said to be the most popular tea in China. And for good reason. It has a delicious aroma, mellow grassy flavor, and a slightly sweet aftertaste. If you’re new to green tea, she’s a great one to start with.
The Story Behind Dragonwell
With dragons holding a place of honor in Chinese culture, you can be sure a tea named after them holds a place of equal honor. In the village of Longjing during the Qing dynasty (1636 – 1912) there were three wells. The tale was told that if you peered into the wells you could see dragons circling in the water, with a dragon even living in one of the wells. More realistically, but no less beautifully, the water from these wells had a different density so that when it was swirled in a cup it looked like there were dragons swimming in the water.
The tea is named after the village according to this lovely story:
Still to this day, Dragonwell plays a part in modern love stories. In Hangzhou, China, where the village of Longjing is located, a bride brews a cup of this tea for her new in-laws during their day-long marriage ceremony. This part of the ceremony indicates that the marriage had deep roots and will be healthy, just like the roots of the tea plant.
Because it is such a well-known tea, there are different grades. You can tell a high quality Dragonwell tea by long leaves that are pretty uniform with a tight, flat shape and light green color. A darker green color of the tea leaves indicates there is more chlorophyll present, which increases the grassy taste of a tea. In a good quality Dragonwell, the leaves will stand up in the water while brewing.
Brewing Dragonwell Green Tea
As with all teas, your taste is your best indicator. If you like it, that’s all that matters. But if you want to start with some guidelines:
- start with cooler water, no more than 176° F
- use about 1 tsp. of tea leaves per 8 oz. of water
- let the tea leaves swim in the water for 2 – 4 minutes
- steep the leaves loose in the water, filtering them out as you pour the tea into your cup
You can really see the beauty of the leaves as they steep if you use a glass teapot. Dragonwell is also a great candidate for Yixing clay teapots. The oils from the leaves will start infusing the unglazed clay so that over time you will be able to brew tea without any new leaves. The only hard and fast rule with Yixing teapots is that you must use the same tea, and only that one tea, in the teapot. Otherwise you’ll get muddled flavors.
With such a long and storied history, you have to try Dragonwell at least once.