Spring in Hangzhou is endless beauty, Longjing tea is the essence of this beauty. But while good scenery is often found, good tea is hard to find. As one of the top ten famous teas, Longjing tea, there are too many Longjing tea choices of varying quality in the market. People who are not deeply involved in tea business can hardly spot the differences. Therefore, many people buy the so-called Longjing tea without realizing that what they end up drinking is not the “real Longjing tea”. So, what kind of Longjing tea is the real Longjing? Is it true that Longjing tea hardly ever leaves Hangzhou? Is the quality of handmade tea reliable?
As a Longjing tea maker, I think it is my duty to bring you to know the truth about Longjing tea. Here are the 10 facts about Longjing tea that I have organized.
Table of Contents
1. What is authentic Longjing tea?
Authentic Longjing tea refers to the Longjing tea made from three tea tree species, Longjing No.43, Longjing Old Tree species and Longjing Longleaf, and the tea should be from within the 168 square kilometers of West Lake District of Hangzhou City.
2. What is the difference in flavor between Longjing Old Tree and Longjing No.43?
The Old Tree variety(群体种) is an old variety with individuality, the leaves are not uniform in size, but the aroma is rich and high. Longjing 43 is a new variety cultivated by Tea Research Institute, the buds of Longjing No.43 often come out a week or two earlier than Longjing Old Tree, the budding rate is high, and the buds and leaves are uniform and good-looking, but the aroma and flavor are relatively homogeneous.
Longjing Old Tree and Longjing 43 to make the tea have their own advantages and disadvantages, but because No. 43 buds earlier, has a better appearance and is more expensive (the earlier the Longjing tea is produced, the more expensive it is), many farmers have therefore switched from the Longjing Old Tree to Longjing No. 43. Now No. 43 accounts for a high proportion (about 65%) of tea trees among the longjing tea.
3. Only less than 1% of people can drink authentic Longjing tea?
The tea plantation area of Xihu Longjing tea is about 20,000 acres in total (including Grade I and Grade II Xihu Longjing Protected Areas).
The average spring tea production of one mu is about 20 kilograms, and the annual production of West Lake Longjing is about 400 tons. But the total sales of Longjing tea in Zhejiang Province in 2022 is 25,000 tons. The whole of China’s Longjing tea sales reached 100,000 tons, the authentic West Lake Longjing products accounted for less than 4‰. So it is true that only less than 1% of tea drinkers can drink authentic Longjing tea.
4. Is it easier to buy authentic Longjing tea via the big tea brands?
True and false. Big tea brands are definately selling authentic Longjing tea, its just most of the teas are outside the west lake area.
Many tea brands tend to set up a plate on one of the tea garden from core longjing tea origin claiminng its their tea garden, but they dont actually own the garden, most possibly they will buy big tea farms outside west lake area, like in Fuyang, Xinchang and most of the tea they are selling are from these places because of an obivious reason – cost.
5. How and Where to buy authentic Longjing Tea??
There is so much information about the most famous Chinese tea: West Lake Long jing tea online, that you may feel overwhelmed and clueless to buy one small batch to try. As a Longjing Tea producer and vendor, I’ve got a few tips to share if you want to make sure you are buying authentic Longjing Tea：
- check product picture
I’ve seen a lot of websites offering Long jing posting a picture of overdue Long jing as the tea color is dead yellow, the cultivars and grades aside, the basic request of any green tea will be fresh, you don’t want to source Long jing from such a vendor.
- check if the vendor mentioned the cultivar
According to China’s national standard GBT 18650-2008 (Product of geographical indication. Long jing tea), there are 3 cultivars listed as Long jing tea: Long jing #43, Long jing Qunti, and Long jing Longleaf(which is very rare), as Long jing #43 and Qunti tastes quite different, it is better to know which cultivar you are buying before you place the order, and if the seller didn’t mention the cultivar of the tea, there is a big chance the tea you are buying is not authentic Longjing tea.
- check the Origin of the Tea
According to China’s national standard GBT 18650-2008 (Product of geographical indication. Long jing tea), there are 3 tea origins of Long jing Tea: West Lake Origin, QianTang Origin and Yuezhou Origin.
West Lake Origin is the core origin of Long jing Tea, only long jing tea origins from West Lake Origin can be called West Lake Long jing Tea. Qiantang origin refers to the Long jing tea origin located in Hangzhou but not in the West Lake district, including Fuyang Origin, Yuhang Origin, Linan Origin and QianDaoHu Origin etc., Yuezhou origin refers to the Long jing tea origin located in Shaoxing City including Xinchang, Shengzhou, Zhuji etc.,
In general, Long Jing Tea from West Lake origin is normally more pricy than Long Jing Tea from the other two origins. If there is no tea origin information written in the tea description, you might want to review if this is a professional seller.
If you are looking to buy authentic Longjing tea, you’d better ask the seller if they can provide the origin label along with the tea. West Lake Long jing Origin Lable is a label authorized by the Hangzhou Government issued to prove the origin of West Lake Long jing tea. The content of the label contains the words “West Lake Long jing”, tea production year, a serial number, and a QR code that you can scan and be directed to the West Lake Long jing Tea Association website, where you may input serial number on the label to see if the tea is authentic West Lake Long jing Tea.
6. Is the quality of “foreign Longjing” inferior to that of local authentic Longjing?
This is not absolute.
If the variety of Longjing tea is not right, for example, many foreign Longjing tea are made from Wuniu Zao variety, the flavor of which is bland and the aroma is also common, can’t be compared to the quality of authentic Longjing tea.
But if the variety of foreign Longjing is Longjing No.43 or Longjing Old Tree, while picking and production process is the same with traditional longjing tea making process, then it will be able to produce good quality Longjing tea.
However, the production process of Longjing tea is very complex, how you process the tea making can largely impact the taste and aroma, so the local heritage of Longjing tea makers can be more stable frying good Longjing tea as the skills are passed through generations, and such producers in the foreign areas are relatively hard to find.
7. How to Brew Longjing Tea?
- Pre-heat your gaiwan (or glass) with hot water, filling it halfway.
- Rotate and tilt to wet all sides, then pour out the water.
- Place dry leaves at the gaiwan’s bottom, around 3-5 grams depends on the gaiwan volume, double for an 8oz glass.
- Add hot water, one-third of the gaiwan’s volume, at about 80°C (176°F).
- Tilt and rotate, wetting the leaves.
- Pour more water to reach 80-90% full, then put the lid half-on.
- Steep 15-30 seconds until most leaves sink and pour the water out to drink.
- Refill with hot water at the same temperature.
- Most Longjing Teas offer 3-5 infusions. Adjust steeping time, increase the steeping time 30 seconds to one minute for each infusion.
8. What is the difference between pre-qingming(mingqian) tea and pre-guyu(yuqian) tea?
To know about Pre-qingming tea and Pre-guyu Tea, we should first know that Qingming and Guyu both belong to the 24 China’s solar terms.
Qīngmíng, is the name of the 5th solar term of the traditional Chinese lunisolar calendar, which divides a year into 24 solar terms . It more often refers in particular to the day when the sun is exactly at the celestial longitude of 15°, usually on April 5.
Gǔyǔ, The traditional Chinese lunisolar calendar divide a year into 24 solar terms. Gǔyǔ is the 6th solar term after Qingming. It more often refers in particular to the day when the Sun is exactly at the celestial longitude of 30°. In the Gregorian calendar, it usually begins around April 20 and ends around May 5.
So Pre-Qingming tea literally means tea produced before Qingming Solar term, while Pre-Guyu tea means tea produced before Guyu Solar term.
Longjing tea can be divided into Pre-Qingming Longjing tea and Pre-Guyu Longjing tea in terms of production time, these two kinds of tea have their own characteristics and qualities. Let’s take a look at the differences.
- 1. The production time
The production time of Pre-Qingming West Lake Long jing is of course days before Qingming, and due to global warming, in most years the West Lake Long Jing tea starts its harvest at mid-March around March 15-20th. While Pre-Guyu West Lake Longjing tea is harvested between Qingming and Guyu.
- 2. The appearance
Pre-Qingming West Lake Longjing tea leaves are slim, short, tender and with a color between light yellow and tender green, and is normally one bud with 1 or 2 leaves. While the tea leaves of Pre-Guyu West Lake Longjing are robust, longer and old, with a color of green or dark green, and is normally one bud with 2-3 leaves.
- 3. The taste
As the two types of tea are picked at different times, so the nutrient content of these two types of tea is also different.
We know that tea polyphenols are the main component of bitterness in tea, and amino acids are the main component of fresh taste in tea, so the phenol to ammonia ratio is an important parameter to reflect the taste of a tea. The higher the phenol to ammonia ratio, the higher the bitterness of the tea, and the lower the phenol to ammonia ratio, the higher the freshness of the tea.
As Pre-Qingming West Lake Long jing tea leaves are fresh and tender, the phenol-ammonia ratio is relatively low, while the Pre-Guyu West Lake Longjing tea leaves are relatively less tender, and the phenol-ammonia ratio is higher, so it results in that the taste of Pre-Qingming West Lake Longjing tea is sweeter and lighter, while the Pre-Guyu ones are with stronger bitterness yet has more tea flavor.
- 4. The price
The price of West Lake Longjing fluctuates with production, so generally speaking the later the tea season, the cheaper the price of West Lake Longjing tea. Pre-Qingming Long jing tea is generally much more expensive than Pre-Guyu ones because of the lower tea production. Best quality Pre-Qingming West Lake Longjing tea can be 10 times more expensive than Pre-Guyu West Lake Longjing tea.
9. How to differentiate between machine tea and handmade tea?
The shape of machine-made tea is generally forked, with the leaves and buds having a forked angle; this is because machine-made tea is flattened by a rolling wooden plate, while handmade tea is straightened up via tea makers hand skills, usually with a bump in the middle, not a completely flattened.
The average score of tea made by machine can be 80 points, while the quality of handmade tea is difficult to stabilize, and the tea made by good craftsmanship can reach 100 points, while the poor may be less than 60 points. Mechanization helps to meet the volume of the market, but also helps to standardize the tea. Standardization is the trend, but handmade will always have a market.
10. What are Longjing Tea benefits?
- Rich in Antioxidants:
Antioxidants play a crucial role in maintaining overall health and well-being. Longjing tea, renowned for its rich antioxidant content, offers an impressive array of benefits. One such group of antioxidants found in this exceptional tea variety is catechins.
These powerful compounds are known for their potent free radical-scavenging properties, effectively neutralizing harmful molecules and reducing oxidative stress within the body. Additionally, Longjing tea contains polyphenols, another class of antioxidants that provide numerous health benefits when consumed regularly.
- Boosts Immune System:
Longjing tea holds within its leaves a multitude of vitamins and minerals that bolster the immune system’s defense against illnesses. With a generous dose of vitamin C, vitamin E, and zinc, this exquisite brew becomes an ally in warding off potential threats to our well-being.
Vitamin C acts as an immune booster by aiding the production of white blood cells while vitamin E enhances their functionality. Zinc further fortifies immune function by supporting cellular metabolism and promoting antibody production.
- Enhances Digestive Health:
Longjing tea contains compounds like caffeine, theanine, and catechins that work harmoniously to improve digestive health. Caffeine stimulates gastric acid secretion, aiding digestion by breaking down food efficiently. Meanwhile, theanine promotes relaxation and soothes inflammation in the gut lining.
Catechins found abundantly in Longjing tea possess anti-inflammatory properties as well as antimicrobial effects that support a healthy gastrointestinal environment. Together, these components contribute to improved gut motility and reduced digestive discomfort.
- Promotes Weight Loss:
For those striving towards shedding extra pounds, Longjing tea can be an effective ally in the journey. Its thermogenic properties promote weight loss by increasing metabolism and facilitating fat oxidation. Research suggests that regular consumption of Longjing tea may boost fat-burning potential, making it a valuable addition to a balanced diet and exercise routine.
- Supports Heart Health:
Longjing tea, belonging to the green tea family, has been associated with various cardiovascular benefits. Studies have shown that the catechins found in Longjing tea can help reduce LDL cholesterol levels, known as “bad” cholesterol.
By inhibiting its oxidation, these compounds contribute to improved heart health. Furthermore, regular consumption of green tea has been linked to improved blood pressure regulation, potentially reducing the risk of hypertension and related complications.
- Enhances Mental Well-being:
Longjing tea impresses not only with its physical health benefits but also its positive impact on mental well-being. L-theanine is an amino acid uniquely found in this remarkable brew that promotes relaxation without causing drowsiness.
It stimulates alpha brainwave activity, leading to a state of calm focus and heightened cognitive performance. Scientific studies suggest that L-theanine may improve mood regulation, reduce anxiety levels, and enhance overall mental clarity.