Click HERE and HERE to see Master Luo demonstrate West Lake Long Jing firing technique.
2010, the beginning of May.
Finally Master Luo’s Long Jing arrived, with the written dates and varietals taped on the packages. We tasted the each one and thought of more questions:
Q: Have you finished all the firing work for this year?
A: Yes. Finally.
Q: How do you feel?
A: Released. I just recovered from a high fever and a slipped disc. I lay still in bed for two days and couldn’t move.
Q: I am so sorry to hear that. Are you feeling better now?
A: yes, much better. It is like this every year, don’t worry, I am all right for the moment, but not sure about the future.
Q: We have tasted your tea, both No.43 pre-Qingming and the “Old Tea Tree” from the 5th of April. They are both stunning but different.
A: Thank you. You are right. I picked and fired No.43 on the 28th of March. It tastes slightly orchid like. “Old Tea Tree” got some soya bean flavor.
Q: When is the earliest picking for “Old Tea Tree”? Is there a way to find some of those?
A: (Laugh) Not quite possible. I can kind of guarantee you that.
A: The earliest picking of “Old Tea Tree” was on the 4th or the 3rd of April this year. The total quantity of that tea in my village is only about a half kilo. We normally give it away to our important friends or clients as a valuable present. I can’t believe anyone will sell it, especially overseas or in Europe, unless someone has a very very special contact. But remember, the quantity is TINY.
Q: Because of the weather change, there has been terrible damage to the Long Jing production this year. Do you think people are going to change back to growing “Old Tea Tree”?
A: Very unlikely. Because it will take a long time before the bushes are ready to produce tea. It would take about 5 years.
Q: How old is your “Old Tea Tree”?
A: They are from 150 years to 200 years. They are grown from seeds. There are a few varieties within West Lake Long Jing “Old Tea Tree” – Da Zhong Pin, which is grown from seeds, my bushes; Chang Ye Zao, came after Da Zhong Pin, it is grown from cuttings, and Huang Ye Zao, it is grown from cuttings too.
Q: How interesting!
A: There is a new Long Jing varietal from Tea Research Institute of China in Hang Zhou, they ask me to take a look at it. It is a very interesting varietal, because it tastes the same in spring and in summer, always sweet. The institute has 3 or 4 mu of it, they have been growing it for 2 years. Very interesting, I will send you some to taste.
Q: Thanks! It sounds amazing. Are you going to grow some those trees too?
A: The colour is not pretty. (Laugh) Also it produces too little tea.
Q: Can you taste any differences between the teas in Mei Jia Wu and Long Wu or other villages?
A: yes, of course. The water, the soil is different.
Q: And the Long Jing from the outside West Lake area?
A: Of course, remember the emperor Qian Long pointed out – there is only 10 li (5 km) Long Jing. You have been here, you know, it is just from Long Jing village to Mei Jia Wu to the traffic light outside Song village. After that traffic light, you will be able to see “Qian Tang River”. Normally if the same person fire the leafs from West Lake area and the leafs from the outside, you won’t be able to see any differences on the looks, but when you brew it, the tastes will tell you the second one is not from West Lake. When we taste those kind of teas, we often make a joke:” It tastes like it has been blown by the wind from Qian Tang river.”
Q: (laugh) that was a good joke! So tell me how much No.43 did you lose this year?
A: A lot.
Q: So sorry to hear that.
A: It’s ok, don’t worry about that. I didn’t lose that much. We say this year “the lazy ones” benefit more, and the diligent ones lost. I am one of the lazy ones.
Q: because “the diligent ones” stimulated the bush’s growth for the buds coming earlier in order to have a very early first picking, which could bring in a great profit. But this year, the early buds were frozen. Those people lost most. You see, I am one of “the lazy ones”.
A: Why don’t you use growth stimulant on your the bushes?
Q: I don’t like them. I like natural things. I like my bushes to grow naturally.
A: You mentioned the leaves were not pretty this year. How important is the look of the leaves for you?
Q: it is very important. As you know, you have to judge West Lake Long Jing from 4 things: Colour, fragrance, taste and shape. I did my best to correct and to improve the shape, but still they don’t look as nice as usual.
Q: You have fired and tasted the teas from the tribute Long Jing bushes. How good is it?
A: The same as my old tree tea.
Q: Are you going to fire the tribute bushes again?
A: Yes, next year. You should both come and watch.
Q: We would love to!