Dragon Well Tea – China’s Most Famous Green Tea

Dragon Well – aka ‘Longjing’ – is China’s most famous green tea. Produced in and around the stunning and rich area of West Lake, Hangzhou in Zhejiang province for hundreds of years. As well as production of this iconic tea, the surrounding villages draw visitors for its numerous temples, traditional arts and crafts displays and peaceful walks in the surrounding hills.

Orthodox West Lake Dragon Well production focus on a small group of famous areas – including Shifeng or Lion’s Peak, Meijiawu village, Wengjia mountain and Longwu village. Our top grade of Dragon Well is sourced from Waitongwu village, a small place in the Longwu area.

With any such heralded or prestige item, however, comes the risk of forgery and imitation so it takes a confident tea taster to ascertain the true authenticity of Longjing when sourcing.

Grades of Dragon Well Tea

All our grades – and we have three – are classified as genuine Dragon Well according to the EU PDO registered for this tea in 2011. Within China itself there are two classifications, separating Dragon Well from the West Lake area, from tea produced outside this traditional and small production area but still within Zhejiang province. Tea grown outside Zhejiang province cannot be sold in EU as Longjing, nor within China as Longjing. You can grow the same cultivars and process the tea leaves in identical ways regardless of location but will not taste the same, which is why there are tight controls in protecting this beautiful, ancient tea.

Why 3 Grades? What Makes Them Different?

We provide three different grades to make delicious Dragon Well accessible to all who want to enjoy it and the core differences are picking date, cultivar, processing and origin (yes, even if they are from the same province). The only other variable is how much temperature is used in the firing, which gives varying degrees of roasted flavour – a balance between green, vegetal and roasted, nutty flavours. We believe too much roasting kills the vibrancy of the leaf, so prefer lighter roasting profiles (and tend to request this from our producers).

Our Three Dragon Well Grades

Dragon Well Tea on Bamboo Drying Tray

Dragon Well

Cultivar: Qunti Zhong

Origin:  Chun’an

Farmer: Mr. Chen

Picked: Spring (pre-rain)

Our entry to Dragon Well, it’s becoming increasingly difficult to find authentic teas of this character at such an accessible price. It’s a good thing we have Tom on the ground speaking with local friends to be able to source such a great example of Longjing for you to enjoy.

The leaves are processed at the local cooperative, where the cost of the machines is shared by a village, all of whom own small gardens. This Dragon Well presents tasty hazel-sweet notes as a result of light pan firing.

Organic Dragon Well Supreme

Cultivar: Longjing #43

Origin: Jiande

Farmer: Mr Song

Picked: Spring (pre-rain)

Young, plump buds are picked early – pre-Qingming – for this tea. Using the Longjing #43 cultivar – which was selectively bred from the original Quinti Zhong by the Tea Research Institute to maintain its most desirable characteristics. The taste of this tea is excellent and good value because it’s not from the West Lake (where prices are high and sometimes unsubstantiated), and because we have a long term relationship with the farmer: Mr Song. His gardens are beautifully diverse and his conscientious approach to sustainable, organic tea farming renders the Dragon Well that sits at the top of our range this year: unmistakable chestnut roast and  decadent creaminess.

Dragon Well West Lake

Cultivar: Qunti Zhong

Origin: Longwu

Farmer: Mr Shen

Picked: Spring (pre-rain)

Of origin from the West Lake, this grade is the best expression of traditional Dragon Well character. The classic taste of chestnuts is created by expertly pan-frying the leaves. You can look for other markers of high grade tea, such as plump buds and early picking . The aromas are subtle and the most telling quality is the thick, syrupy texture: if you know your Dragon Well,  you can tell it’s from West Lake and grown from the original cultivar.