Quality loose leaf teas are at the heart of what we do at REAL. Our sparkling teas are unique in that they aren’t flavoured, instead we rely on the quality of our loose teas and a slow, natural fermentation process to produce a liquid with incredible depth and complexity.
Now is the perfect time to showcase the exquisite Longjing tea that we use to create our Dry Dragon sparkling tea. Longjing is a pan roasted green tea that offers a unique toasty, vegetal fragrance which, after fermentation, produces citrus notes with a delicate leafy undertone.
As another harvest draws to a close we want to share with you the significance that Longjing plays both in our fermentery and the rest of the world.
The History of Longjing Tea
Many of us will drink multiple cups of tea a day without giving the tea leaves themselves a second thought. However, when you stop to consider where they come from and the significance they hold, you will be astounded by the fascinating history and ceremony that surrounds tea.
At REAL we use exquisite teas that originate from ancient growing regions across the world. These are expertly sourced and carefully selected each harvest year in order to deliver the quality and depth of flavour that we strive for.
Longjing is widely regarded as one of the oldest and most beloved teas in China where it has been cultivated for many centuries. First mentioned in Lu Yu’s Cha Jing, ‘The Classic of Tea’, Longjing has an incredible history and is even thought to have originated the tea ceremony during the Song Dynasty.
When is Longjing Harvested?
While tea harvests vary, for Chinese green tea the general rule is that springtime, before the Qingming festival, traditionally produces the best tea. Longjing is grown in the Zhejiang province of China and is harvested from late-March to April. Whilst the Qingming festival does not specifically involve tea, it has become a signifier of the green tea season as it falls on the 15th day after the Spring Equinox each year and therefore coincides perfectly with the Longjing harvest.
The Qingming festival took place on 5th April this year and is an important traditional Chinese holiday. Qingming 清明节, is also known as Tomb Sweeping Day where people spend the day paying respect to and cleaning the tombs of their ancestors, spending time outdoors and flying kites to carry misfortune away into the sky.
The Longjing Harvest Process
The skill with which Longjing is harvested and processed is incredible and is testament to the quality of the final tea leaves.
It is essential that the Longjing does not grow too fast as when the tea bud becomes too big it begins to lose complexity in the brewed flavour. The cool air on the mountainous slopes of Hangzhou in the Zheijiang province provide well drained soil which, when combined with the cool, misty air given off by the nearby West Lake slows the rate of growth. This means that the tea bushes have time to develop richer and more complex flavours before they are harvested.
In order to make green tea, the leaves must be baked just after being picked to prevent oxidation and transformation into a black tea. Skilled artisans carefully pan-fry the characteristically flat, yellow-green tea leaves in a wok using ten different hand motions that have been learnt and rehearsed over many years of work. A gorgeous, sappy scent is released by the leaves during this delicate process which is only finished once the leaves are nearly brittle enough to break when touched.
Longjing Tea and Chinese Legend
It is not surprising that Longjing is one of the best loved teas in China, in fact the love of Longjing goes way back.
It is said that Emperor Qianlong of the Qing dynasty is responsible for the popularity of Longjing. He is thought to have been taking part in the harvest one year when he was called away to visit his mother who had fallen ill. He happened to take some of the Longjing that he was picking with him when he visited her and, after trying some, she made a speedy recovery. Following this, Emperor Qianlong gave Longjing special imperial status.
Longjing is also known as Dragon Well tea, this is where our REAL Dry Dragon sparkling tea gets its name! This colloquial name most likely originates from the local village in Hangzhou which is home to an eponymous well whose waters apparently twisted and danced like a Chinese dragon after heavy rainfall.
Here’s to the end of another great harvest!