Dragon Well Tea (aka Longjing Tea) is the most famous Chinese green tea and it has earned the ‘China Famous Tea’ title. It contains vitamin C, amino acids and has one of the highest concentration of catechins among teas. It has a gentle and sweet flavor and a fresh aroma.
Dragon Well Tea comes in seven grades: Superior, Special, and then 1 through 5. The quality is most apparent after infusion: high quality Longjing teas have tender whole leaves that are all of a similar size, shape and color, while lower quality leaves vary in color from deep green to almost blue.
Where to buy
You can buy Longjing Tea in any tea shop or through a number of online vendors. If you are unsure where to begin, you can check out some of my recommendations below.
How to Prepare Dragon Well Tea
Chinese green teas are generally much easier to brew than Japanese varieties and Longjing is no exception. Like most other green teas, Dragon Well tea should be steeped in cooler water than black or oolong teas.
A temperature of 80°C (176°F) is a good starting point. To get this temperature, you can just use a simple stove-top kettle to bring the water to a boil and then let it cool down for about two minutes.
For Chinese teas, the temperature is not as important as it is for Japanese teas. As long as it is a bit below boiling, it should be fine. If you would like to be more accurate in judging the water temperature, you can simply use a thermometer.
If you plan on trying a lot of varieties of tea and/or coffee it might be worth it to invest in a water boiler/warmer or an electric kettle with a variable temperature setting. Personally, I recommend this Cuisinart kettle, because it has presets for every type of tea, so you always get the perfect temperature:
Many Chinese will brew Longjing in a plain 8oz glass. Many restaurants in China do this as well. In tea shops, however, you will usually be served Dragon Well in a traditional lidded cup called a gaiwan and that is what I’ll use for these instructions.
- Fill your gaiwan (or glass) about halfway with hot water to pre-heat it. Tilt the cup a bit so that the water creeps up the side and then rotate it so the inside gets wet all the way around. Then pour the water out.
- Cover the bottom of the gaiwan with a shallow layer of dry leaves. You will need approximately 1 teaspoon. Use twice this amount if you are brewing your tea in an 8oz glass.
- Fill the gaiwan about one third of the way with hot water. The temperature should be below boiling; around 80°C (176°F) is ideal.
- Tilt the cup a bit and rotate, so that the leaves get wet all over. Then add more hot water until the gaiwan is 80-90% full.
- Place the lid on the gaiwan and let the tea steep for 2-3 minutes. It is ready to drink when most of the leaves have sunk to the bottom of the cup.
- When you get down to about one quarter of the tea remaining, refill the gaiwan with hot water of the same temperature as before and let it steep for 3 minutes.
- You can get 3-5 infusions out of most Dragon Well Teas. Increase the steeping time 30 seconds to one minute for each infusion. How many infusions you do depends entirely on your taste. Experiment.
Use the amounts given in these instructions as a rough guide. If you find the resulting tea too weak, add more tea leaves; if it is too strong, reduce the amount of leaves used. Similarly, try increasing or decreasing the steeping times.
If the tea is too bitter, reduce the temperature of the water. Basically, you’ll want to keep experimenting until you come up with the perfect brew for your particular taste.
This video shows how to brew Longjing tea. If you’re curious about the glass teapot with strainer in the video, this post reviews the best ones.
Many people already have an account with Amazon.com so it is probably the easiest place to buy tea online. Their selection of Dragonwell tea leaves a lot to be desired, but this one from Serendipi Tea is pretty good. More importantly, it comes in a 4 oz box that only costs around $11, so you can try some without spending much money.
Personally, I prefer to buy from specialty tea shops online. The best deal I’ve found so far is the inexpensive Dragonwell from Art of Tea. This excellent tea has a fresh, clean aroma with a gentle, mellow flavor. It’s a great purchase.
If you’re looking for the absolute highest quality, Generation Tea is a company that specializes in the highest grade Chinese teas. Their 2016 West Lake Royal Longjing Green Tea4 is as good a Dragon Well as you will find and incredibly rare. You’ll have to deal with their ancient website, though. It’s not pretty.