Our Long Jing is fired by Master Luo, three time winner of the Long Jing Firing King (Chao Cha Wang) competition and the youngest of the 16 Grand Firing masters appointed by the government to pass on traditional methods to the next generation. Master Luo has five acres of land in Meijiawu in total – four of them for the in-demand #43 cultivar which is picked early, and one acre reserved for his 150-200 year old Da Zhong Pin bushes. Only 15kg of this Old Tree Long Jing is handmade by Master Luo each year, of which we buy 3-4kg. In 2015 he won the Long Jing Firing King title for the third time and has had the honour of firing the famous 18 Imperial Long Jing bushes. The second time he won the Long Jing Firing King title his prize winning tea sold for around £12,000 for 100g.
The skill and technique of the firer is of the highest importance when it comes to making good quality Long Jing, and Master Luo uses a technique inherited from his grandfather Ying Zhi Sheng that makes him unique among his contempories. During the harvesting season Master Luo will fire all day in 100g batches, making up to 2-2.5 kilos in a day. In the 40 minutes it takes to fire a batch of tea Master Luo reckons the difference between making a great tea and an average tea is only around 30 seconds.
The day on which the tea is picked and fired also has an effect on taste. Earlier picked teas tend be softer and have some umami, while the later teas are nuttier and slightly more robust in taste. Although the earlier picked teas fetch the higher prices our preference (and Master Luo’s preference) is for the later picked teas. This year we are offering the chance to try four teas fired on separate dates, so you can taste the difference the date of picking makes to the flavour of the tea.