What does Dragonwell tea taste like?
An authentic Dragonwell tastes like "the very essence of a lush spring meadow drenched in morning dew," according to Helen Gustafson, the famous San Francisco Tea Lady.
It has a delicate sweet taste with a hint of chestnut notes. It feels full and round in your mouth and leaves a refreshing aftertaste.
The aroma has been compared to orchids, honeysuckle, and to rich sweet corn, by different people.
What does it look like?
Leaf appearance: This tea is dried into long, flat, narrow leaves (bud and leaf set). They are a beautiful jade green color.
Brew: The liquor in the cup is a clear pale yellow. The leaves will stand up straight during steeping.
The lucky tea
Dragon Well tea is the luckiest tea for any occasion.
This Chinese green tea, one of China's 10 Famous teas, is traditionally served to Emperors, Kings, Queens, and Presidents.
With good luck, you can find it for your own royal celebrations.
When do you serve Dragon Well Tea?
It enhances soft cheeses like Brie and Camembert. It is also good with antipasto and seafood chowders.
It will stand up to main dishes containing curry or smoked meats, but is too fragile for chiles or Tex-Mex.
It can be served with complex desserts like cakes and pies, as well as fruit desserts.
Because of all the prized qualities of this tea, it is frequently served alone.
How to make Dragon Well tea
Steep two teaspoons of Dragonwell leaves per cup in water from the Tiger Run Spring in China, or from a good well water blessed by a lucky dragon.
If you can't get that, use high quality water (no chlorinated water, please) at about 160F, before the boil.
Steep for about two minutes, drink, repeat two times with fresh water, and count your dragon blessings.
Serve from your specially seasoned Dragon Yixing teapot.
Legend of the Lucky Dragon
As early as the Three Kingdoms (221-280 AD), there was a temple with a well at what is now Dragon Well.
People believed a dragon lived nearby and would go there to pray for rain.
Dragons are the luckiest beings as they are King of Water and could save the crops from failure, thus saving the people's lives.
Legend tells the story that during one severe drought, a Buddhist monk summoned a lucky Dragon who brought rain to fill the well which saved the villager's crops.
The well was named Dragon Well, and the tea growing there was considered very lucky.
What is its history?
This tea was mentioned in the Cha Ching, the monumental Classic Of Tea written by Lu Yu in 780 A.D. during the Tang Dynasty.
But it was not named Dragon Well tea, or Lung Ching, until the Southern Song Dynasty (1127-1270 AD). By the Yuan (1270-1368 AD) and Ming Dynasties (1368-1644 AD), it was famous throughout all China.
During the Qing Dynasty, Emperor Qianlong (1735-1796 AD) vacationed at Dragonwell four times to drink the tea. At WuLong Temple, he named 18 Imperial Tea Trees.
Today, inside a fence at the foot of Lion Peak next to pine trees over 300 years old, the original 18 Imperial Tea Trees are still standing, and a very lucky tea is still made from the Imperial leaves.
Heads of State
Dragon Well tea was served to Elizabeth II, Queen of England when she visited China.
It was also served to U.S. President Richard Nixon during his famous meeting with Mao ZeDong.
It is rumored that Nixon wanted to take home 1000 Kilos of Dragonwell.
It is also rumored that he could only get two kilos.
How is it made?
The leaves are plucked only during two weeks in the spring, at the beginning of the soft spring rain and before the heavier grain rain, usually late March to early April.
They are hand processed with ten traditional techniques that do not roll or twist the leaf, but keep the leaf flat.
There are around 25,00 bud leaf sets per pound of dry tea.
What is the best grade of Dragon Well tea?
During the Qing Dynasty, 13 villages produced this tea which was graded Lion, Dragon, Cloud, and Tiger, with Lion being the best.
The flagged spear or Qiqiang uses only one bud and leaf which are the more desirable younger portions of the Camellia sinensis (tea) plant. When the older second leaf is included, it is called sparrow's tongue.
With standardization by the Chinese government, the highest grade will carry a gong mark indicating Tribute tea.
Over the centuries, Dragon Well tea has become known for the Four Uniques: a beautiful jade green color, a mellow chestnut-like taste, a fragrant sweet aroma, and a beautifully shaped leaf.
Where is it produced?
Dragon Well village on Fenghuang Hill, west of West Lake, Zhejiang Province, China
Dragonwell is also produced in an area called Nine Crooks and Eighteen Gullies which includes Lion Peak.
Many new areas are producing their own version "in the style of Dragonwell tea," but as of 2001, they cannot claim to be Dragon Well legally.
Other names include Dragonwell, Lung Ching, and Longching.
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This page was last updated by Sharon Jones.
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