Dragon Well Tea Buying Guide

The saying goes "Tea before Qingming, as precious as gold," and Dragon Well teas from different regions vary greatly in price. Following the principle of "buying the right one, not the expensive one," this is a concise guide for ordinary tea enthusiasts.

Concise Guide to Getting Started

  • Wonder where to start if you want to get West Lake Dragon Well Tea?
  • Wonder why such a big price difference while all called Dragon Well tea?
dragonwell tea garden
dragonwell tea garden

⚠️ Not all Dragon Well teas are of the same quality

  • The saying goes “Tea before Qingming, as precious as gold,” and Dragon Well teas from different regions vary greatly in price. Following the principle of “buying the right one, not the expensive one,” this is a concise guide for ordinary tea enthusiasts.

Harvested Time

  • Qingming and Guyu are two important solar terms for West Lake Dragon Well Tea, representing pre-Qingming and pre-rain. These are crucial reference points for assessing value.
  • The picking time for Dragon Well tea generally starts around March 20, this batch of new tea, with plump buds and rich content, is tender and fresh. However, due to the short picking period, the prices are usually around a few thousand yuan per kilogram.
  • After Qingming, the raw material becomes coarse and old. Consequently, prices gradually decrease, but the taste is incomparable to pre-Qingming tea.

Dragon Well Tea Production Regions

Dragon Well tea has become a geographical indication product. According to the scope approved by “GB/T 18650-2008 Geographical Indication Product Dragon Well Tea”, Dragon Well tea is divided into three production areas: West Lake, Qiantang, and Yuezhou. Only tea produced in the West Lake region can be called West Lake Dragon Well Tea. Currently, the production of West Lake Dragon Well Tea accounts for only about 3.5% of the total Dragon Well tea production in Zhejiang Province.

Despite the abundance of teas labeled as West Lake Dragon Well Tea in the market, the actual production is limited, leading to significant price differences compared to other Dragon Well teas.

Aroma is a crucial factor influencing the quality of tea. Good Dragon Well tea is characterized by a tender, clear, and bean-flower fragrance with a lasting and rich aroma. Do the aroma components of Dragon Well tea from the West Lake, Qiantang, and Yuezhou regions show significant differences? Scholars have conducted research to address this question.

  1. West Lake Dragon Well Tea:
    • Dominant Aroma Components:
      • (Z)-hex-3-en-1-yl acetate (18.10%)
      • Farnesol (6.29%)
      • (Z)-but-3-en-1-yl acetate (4.46%)
      • Jasmine ketone (2.43%)
      • Leaf alcohol (2.41%)
  2. Yuezhou Dragon Well Tea:
    • Dominant Aroma Components:
      • (Z)-hex-3-en-1-yl acetate (8.93%)
      • Farnesol (8.29%)
      • Octanol (3.91%)
      • Isobutyl acetate (3.71%)
      • (Z)-but-3-en-1-yl acetate (3.26%)
  3. Qiantang Dragon Well Tea:
    • Dominant Aroma Components:
      • Farnesol (8.84%)
      • (Z)-hex-3-en-1-yl acetate (8.45%)
      • (Z)-but-3-en-1-yl acetate (3.27%)
      • Nonanal (2.14%)

Comparative Analysis:

  • Ester Content Ranking:
    1. West Lake
    2. Yuezhou
    3. Qiantang
  • Alcohol Content Ranking:
    1. Qiantang
    2. Yuezhou
    3. West Lake
  • Ketone Content:
    • Similar, around 4.3% in all three regions.

Key Aroma Components Analysis (Ranked):

  1. West Lake:
    • Dominated by esters, particularly (Z)-hex-3-en-1-yl acetate.
    • Highest in trans-2-hexen-1-yl hexanoate among the three.
    • Leads in several key aroma components.
  2. Yuezhou:
    • Higher content of several key aroma components, including fourteen alkane and benzyl alcohol.
    • Prominent in certain esters and alcohols.
  3. Qiantang:
    • Highest content of farnesol.
    • Leads in specific esters and alcohols.

In conclusion, the ranking highlights the distinctive aroma profiles of Dragon Well teas from West Lake, Yuezhou, and Qiantang regions, showcasing variations in ester and alcohol content. Practical tasting experience remains crucial for accurately discerning and appreciating the nuances of Dragon Well teas from different geographical origins.

Production Volume

According to the “2018 Work Report” of the West Lake Dragon Well Tea Industry Association in Hangzhou:

  • The total tea yield in the entire production area is 575 tons.
  • The first-tier production area (scenic area) has an annual output of 129 tons (about 258,000 catties).
  • The second-tier production area (West Lake area) has an output of 446 tons (about 892,000 catties).

Varieties

Dragon Well Tea No. 43

  • Regarding pre-Qingming premium West Lake Dragon Well tea, Dragon Well 43 is used to make pre-Qingming Dragon Well tea. The leaves are tall and slender, neat and uniform, with a slightly yellowish-green color. The aroma is clear and high, and the taste is tender and fresh. Dragon Well long leaves make Dragon Well tea seedlings peak in emerald green.

Dragon Well Group Variety (Qunti)

  • The West Lake Dragon Well Group Variety is featured in green color, fragrant and sweet taste, and beautiful shape, the taste of “Old Dragon Well” excels in its multi-level taste and diverse comprehensive quality.

Both No.43 and Group Variety have distinct personalities and excel in their uniqueness. Dragon Well tea made from group varieties and asexual line varieties each has their own characteristics, making it difficult to simply compare their quality.

Craftsmanship

  • Currently, it is generally believed that the overall traditional handcrafted process of West Lake Dragon Well tea is superior in quality. However, for efficiency, there are also semi-manual and machine processing methods for West Lake Dragon Well tea. Machine-made tea is efficient, fast, and has good appearance and stable quality, meeting the demand for large quantities. Handmade tea requires high-level tea masters for manual production. Although the appearance of tea leaves is not as good as machine-made tea, the taste and aroma are more likely to be better. Handmade production is slow and time-consuming, often resulting in prices several times higher than machine-made tea.

In summary, exploring the rich variety of Dragon Well tea involves understanding the unique characteristics of different regions, the influence of production methods, and the nuances of aroma components. Whether choosing West Lake, Yuezhou, or Qiantang Dragon Well tea, a combination of knowledge and sensory experience is essential for tea enthusiasts to fully appreciate the intricacies of this renowned Chinese tea.

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