Last year, I talked to the farmer at our Dragon Well (Long Jing) farm near Hangzhou over a glass of spring tea, about what an amazing job he has done. Typically, with his diligent and modest attitude (he's one of the last people I know who needs to be modest), he asked me what more he could do to make the tea better.
We went through everything, noting how he had over the years developed outstanding tea bushes from nurturing the soil through more than a decade of organic farming on previously wild land. This shows itself in the fat, juicy buds on the tea bushes which produce so much flavour and body in each cup. He has carefully nurtured saplings from wild seeded trees. He has also made sure the tea keeps its freshness through having vacuum packing and cold storage on site.So what more could be done? The shaping could be improved. The firing could bring out the aroma more in order to make the very most of the great raw tea leaves.I said, to make the tea as good as any Dragon Well in China, I suggested he brought in a top master to make the shape of the leaves during firing perfect. This meant taking on one of the top firing masters in the province. I suggested this hoping (but not expecting it) it would happen.
When I arrived at the farm for the beginning of the spring picking this year, I saw someone I had not met before - Mr Chen. He was expertly pressing and turning leaves in his wok, effortlessly, with a look of relaxed focus and care. I chatted to him and got to know about his history. He had been brought into fire tea in the mei jia wu and shi feng - two of the traditional, oldest Dragon Well areas. He agreed with what I think, that the tea leaves here are better in quality than in West Lake with a much fuller thicker flavour by virtue of rich soil which has not been over farmed and fertilized. Sadly, this over production has really damaged the quality of the tea from West Lake, something which I can't see changing due to increasing demand.The next day I tasted the tea Mr Chen had fired with expectation. The look of the leaf was exactly what I had wanted. Beautifully consistent, incredible classic Dragon Well aroma and the taste, thick and full. We compared it to some top mei jia wu dragon well and it won the test. This was a really great feeling of achievement. More than 10 years of work on the land, investment in a new factory with state of the art equipment for packing and storage. Finally the investment in the skills of Mr Chen, an expert in the age old skill of hand firing the tea in a hot wok.
Our new dragon well will be available at the end of the month. We'll let you know as soon as its in!!! If you want us to tell you when it arrives, just email us though the JING tea website via contact us.