Monday, January 13, 2014

My Cuppa: I am Tea, Hear Me Roar!

Hope you enjoyed my last post on the legends of Longjing (Dragon Well). If you haven’t read it, what are you doing here? Go back and read it!

Now, I’m going to go through what’s involved in processing Longjing and how you can enjoy this beautiful tea. As I mentioned in a much earlier post on tea production, the manufacturing process will have a great impact on a tea’s uniqueness in appearance, flavour, and aroma.

Longjing is produced in the Hangzhou area of the Zhejiang Province in China, though you can find cheaper imitations in other areas which will affect the quality as well as the price tag of the tea. The tea is harvested in the early hours of the day beginning around April. The top two leaves as well as the bud are required to create Longjing. After plucking, the leaves are spread upon bamboo trays for withering. Once the leaves have lost some of their moisture and become much softer and pliable, they are then roasted in a wok to prevent further oxidation. In order to achieve the unique appearance of Longjing, experienced tea masters work their hands in a set of steps called the “8 Hand Movements”. This procedure requires the tea master to grasp, toss, shake, pile, throw, buckle, press, and grind the tea leaves in the wok and sometimes running the leaves through a roller until they take their shape. Apparently Longjing was designed to resemble the flat sword-shaped leaves Emperor Qianlong retrieved from his sleeves when tending to his ill mother at her bedside.  

The 8 Hand Movements of Longjing.

Roasting will also reduce additional moisture still remaining in the leaves. After roasting is complete, the leaves are placed on bamboo trays and allowed to cool down for about an hour. The leaves are then sorted according to size, removing any stems or broken leaves, before going through another cycle of roasting to further reduce the moisture content to 5%, a final cool down, and sorting. Longjing is ready for the market!  

Dry Longjing Tea Leaves.

To prepare this fine tea, I follow these steps:

1.   For 1 cup of water, measure out 1 teaspoon of Longjing tea and place it in a teapot.

2.   In a kettle, bring water to a full boil and allow it to cool down to 75°C.

3.   Pour water over the tea leaves and infuse for about 1 ½ - 2 minutes.

4.   Pour the liquor into your cup and enjoy!

The tea leaves produce a golden-yellow, pale-green colour. Depending on your senses, you may detect sweet, delicate, vegetal aromas. I found the taste mild, sweet, and a bit nutty. There was no aftertaste or astringency. 

Longjing Liquor!

We’re not done yet! Tea leaves go a long way. With additional infusions, the leaves will continue to unfurl, releasing their aroma and flavour. For each infusion, I extend the brew time 30 seconds longer than the previous brew time in order to capture the flavours. I find I’m able to produce 2 more infusions before the leaves lose their flavour and can be discarded.

There you have it, the delicious legend in a cup!

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