What Should It Taste Like: Dragonwell

by Jason Walker on February 20, 2013

in Chinese, green, origin

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IMG_0002Part of a series: What Should It Taste Like?

When tasting a new tea for the first time, a series of conflicting thoughts and feelings can occur.

On the one hand, there is the desire to start with a blank slate of expectations, and simply receive the tea for what it is.

But once you have to decide if the tea is a better than another tea, a set of defining characteristics and expectations help in the evaluation process.

Some frequently occurring characteristics do arise in describing dragonwell flavors. One of the most often used is “chestnut.” The wok-firing process that helps flatten the leaves and preserve the green character of long jing tea does endow many longjings with a nutty character. Toasty and nutty flavors can range from chestnut to cashew to freshly cooked rice.

IMG_0006Vegetal components are also regularly noted. Some associate the taste with green beans. Others feel the taste calls to mind leafy greens or sweet pea.

Other valuable elements in the dragonwell’s profile should be considered. Astringency levels are minimal in finer dragonwells. Even when over-steeped, better quality longjings have an astringency closer to having your tongue dusted with powder. Bitterness in good dragonwell should be essentially non-existent.

Many good teas are expected to create a sweetness, and longjing is no different. Like other fine teas, the sweetness is expected to concentrate mostly in the back of the mouth and upper throat. This has traditionally been preferred over sweetness concentrated near or under the middle of the tongue.

The longer the sweetness and light astringency pleasantly reside, the better. The importance of aftertaste should not be discounted.

IMG_0001A dragonwell’s profile can be shaped by several factors, one of which is its source. The running joke (that isn’t a joke) is that there is more dragonwell sold than the traditional dragonwell area (Hangzhou region) can produce.

Harvest time is another factor. Ming Qian (before the Qing Ming Festival) harvests are often lighter, some would say faint, in flavor profile. That is why others prefer the relatively stronger characteristics of longjing harvested closer to GuYu.

Thirdly, cultivar can be a major consideration. Gingko Seto has written extensively about the potential differences in Long Jing #43, Jiu Keng (九坑), and Wu Niu Zao (乌牛早) cultivars.

Ultimately, choosing any tea should be about finding a tea you appreciate. But when trying to choose a tea you have never tried, sometimes it helps to know what you should expect.

 

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