Over the Labor Day weekend, I gifted a friend green tea samples from Life in Teacup. No tea order is complete, however, without some samples for myself (as well as some bonus samples from Gingko – I can’t remember which were which). Gingko has quite a selection of Long Jing and I thought it time to give some a try and get to know this famous variety a little better.
To explore, I began by brewing each sample in small quantities, side-by-side, using two methods, to see how each tea responded and to see what method I preferred. The methods were Gingko’s grandpa style and Brandon’s “Double Brew” style. After the first two teas, I decided the Double Brew was for me, upped the brewing vessel size and finished the last two in that manner. I really enjoyed the soft, very sweet, strong green flavors that develop with that gentler method. My taste in greens definitely leans Japanese, so those kinds of flavors were more apparent with the lower temperature brewing. I don’t think there’s anything wrong with the hotter and longer grandpa-style, it made good tea too, just different tea that didn’t quite fit my palate – more mineral, more water chestnut (I loathe water chestnuts), more firing expression.
Follows are my notes on the four teas as well as a few somehow-not-abomindable smartphone photos. My pick of the litter would have to be the 2011 pre-Qingming Da Fo, even though, as I note, I think the pre-Qingming Shi Feng is of a higher quality.
2011 Pre-Guyu Long Jing Village Shi Feng [9/12]
The two methods created very different results. The Double Brew was intensely sweet, subtle and airy. Delicate and fluffy. I really like this, it was akin to many Japanese greens and required concentration. The “grandpa” style also made a nice brew with this tea, a hearty, chunky thicker brew that released the dry chestnut edges of this tea. I think this leads me to a matter of preference. I generally don’t get that excited about those dryer, toasted, mineral-heavy notes in Chinese greens, so I’m interested in the method that produces a sweeter, softer brew.
2011 Pre-Qingming Da Fo – first day harvest [9/13]
My first Long Jing with puffballs! So excited! The constrast in flavors revealed by the two methods was very strong. While the warmer, Grandpa-style emitted artichoke and overcooked peas, with some lemon within, the Double Brew gave an intensely sweet brew, with soft, young Spinach and distant pine. What’s surprising to me is that the Grandpa-style method drained these leaves quickly, leaving them much less durable and more or less exhausted by the second steep. The Double Brew went on longer, continuing to yield a delightfully sweet, gentle beverage. Whatever method used, this is great Long Jing, in my estimation. I much preferred it to yesterday’s version and rank it as the best I’ve had. Very, very flavorful and nicely rich.
2011 Pre-Qingming 800m High Mountain – first day harvest [9/14]
A few fuzzies attached to the leaves, but not many. This particular tea has a lot going on for it, but, in my opinion, it isn’t quite as good as the Da Fo. There’s a lot of breadth here, but not as much depth. Some solid sweet corn, a bit of sweetgrass, and some light grain sugars. Nearly spicy notes kick up in the backend. A good tea, but not stunning.
2011 Pre-Qingming Long Jing Village Shi Feng [9/15]
I can sense that of the four Long Jings I drank, this one is probably regarded as being the best and having the highest quality. I’m not sure it’s my favorite, I think I preferred the Da Fo, but I would need to do a side-by-side of the two to be entirely conclusive. Again, a taste preference for the green, thicker, heartier qualities.This tea exuded delicate finesse, a bit of finicky resistance, and a balance of bittersweet and tropical fruit. Lots of lychee, pineapple, and pear came through and then was counterbalanced with an herbal, almost minty bittersweetness that cleaned the palate nicely. Not as sweet, not as supple, and definitely requiring more attention, as there was a tendency for bitter, even with the gentle double brewing.