Five Long Jing Box Set
A boxset of all five Long Jing (Dragonwell) green teas we have received from Master Luo this year. Each has been grown, hand-picked and handmade in Meijiawu, an area within the tiny 1km by 5km Xi Hu (West Lake) area famous for Long Jing production, and hand-fired by Master Luo, three time winner of the Long Jing Firing King title. This year Master Luo has sent us three early-picked Long Jing – one made from the No. 43 cultivar and two made with the traditional Old Tree cultivars we usually buy – as well as a later picked Long Jing and a special Osmanthus scented version.
No. 43 is now the dominant tea cultivar in Xi Hu, surpassing the traditional cultivars due to its early budding and tolerance to cold weather. Because the price of Long Jing falls almost exponentially as the season goes on, it makes a lot of financial sense for farmers to grow No. 43 as it gives them over a week extra to pick premium tea before the start of Qingming festival in early April. Master Luo’s Old Tree teas are made with the traditional Jiu Keng Group cultivars that have been in decline since the emergence of the earlier-budding No.43. Although generally less aromatic and sweet than teas made with No. 43, the slower growth and longer roots of the traditional cultivar allow a deeper taste and thicker texture that both we and Master Luo generally prefer.
Unlike last year when unusual weather led to some of the 2018 tea feeling a little thinner in texture than normal, this year we have no reservations. However increasing wholesale prices for Xihu Old Tree Long Jing in China (£1000 per jin – 500g – for early old tree teas) has meant that we have had to increase our prices for the 2019 crop.
1. No. 43 Long Jing, Pre-Qingming 2019
This tea was fired on the week before Qingming festival, from Master Luo’s No. 43 cultivar bushes. The first thing to notice about the tea is its complete lack of astringency or bite, even when made with off-boiling water. While the wet leaf is aromatic with notes of citrus, almonds and white fruit, the impression of taste is that of silken flavoured water, that coats the mouth and throat with sweetness. Whether or not you prefer this earlier tea to the less grand later teas is entirely a matter of taste, but if you love green tea for its lightness and purity then this is one of our best green teas of the year – an exceptional early-fired example of China’s greatest green tea by one of the country’s most famous tea makers.
2. Old Tree Long Jing, 31/3/2019
This tea was fired on March 31st, in the week before Qingming festival, from one of the year’s first pickings from Master Luo’s old tree tea bushes. This is perhaps the most balanced Long Jing of the four we have this year, with the light citrus and umami notes of the No.43 and the fuller texture and depth of old tree teas, with just a hint of nuttiness from the firing.
3. Old Tree Long Jing, 5/4/2019
This tea was fired on April 5th, the day of Qingming festival, from tea from Master Luo’s old tree tea bushes. This tea has many similarities with the 31/3 tea, with slightly more bite on the finish and nuttiness from the firing. There is an interesting herbal quality to the tea, with notes of tarragon, verbena and chestnut, and a lovely concentrated sweetness that lasts well after the tea has been drunk.
4. Old Tree Long Jing (Pre-Guyu)
This tea was fired between Qingming (April 5th) and the start of Guyu (April 20th), and picked from 150-200 year old tea trees. This is a clean and well-balanced Long Jing, still relatively light but with a fuller body compared to the earlier teas. Although slightly more fired, giving it nutty and cereal notes, the roasted taste is not overly prominent and it still retains a sweet, vegetal flavour that can be tasted long after it has been drunk.
5. Osmanthus Scented Long Jing
When Master Luo first told us about this tea we wondered if the flowers would overpower the delicate nature tea, but we were surprised at how seamlessly the two flavours mixed together. The long, nutty sweetness of the tea is still present but is combined with the distinctive stone fruit flavour of osmanthus to create an autumnal scented tea of uncommon elegance. This autumnal tea is a great example of Master Luo’s skill as both a tea-maker and blender
Master Luo Meijiawu Village, Hangzhou, China
SIZE OF FARM
90°C, 3-4g per 150ml. 4 infusions.
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.