Friday, November 17, 2017

Friday Roundup: November 12th - November 18th

2017 Little BingDao Sheng Puer from Bana Tea Company

Char at Oolong Owl wrote a review of a puerh cake that I've had my eye on. We have many of the same boxes that we look to check off when purchasing tea. It will likely have to wait until after my wedding next year though as that is eating up quite a bit of the tea budget.

The 2017 San Francisco International Tea Festival - The Tea Letter

The San Francisco International Tea Festival 2017 - The Tea Squirrel

It's still tea festival season. This week brings us reports from a couple of my favorite Bay area bloggers. Anna had the pleasure of taking a puerh seminar with Roy Fong while Mike took home an impressive haul.

Teabento Pika Cha

Ricardo at My Japanese Green Tea reviewed a kamairicha from Teabento, a company whose teas I've been enjoying lately as well. This uncommon type of tea is pan-fired rather than steamed during processing.

A Mabian, Sichuan Tea Flight

Geoff at Steep Stories of the Lazy Literatus has a nose for sniffing out unusual teas. Sichuan is known for its green tea and heicha but thanks to West China Tea Company he was able to try a white tea, yellow tea, and black tea.

Afternoon Tea LA Style

Tiffany at #SheBlogsTea wrote about her experience at a very cool sounding tea spot at the W Hotel in Hollywood. I very rarely visit California but this is definitely a place I'd like to see when I do.

Thursday, November 16, 2017

Meet the Tea: Dragonwell

Dragonwell, aka, Longjing, is a green tea that hails from the West Lake region of China's Zhejiang Province. It is well known for both the flat shape of the leaves and its distinctive chestnut aroma. The taste is mellow and sweet, making it a perfect starter green tea. Floral notes and a crisp vegetal character are also to be expected but a well made dragonwell will have no bitterness.

There are several legends that surround this famous tea. In a city by the same name, there is a well that was said to be inhabited by a dragon. The local people would pray to it for rain when there is a drought. I have heard from several people who have visited the well that after rain, the lighter rainwater floats on top of the dense well water creating a rippling effect. It is this curious phenomenon that is believed to be the source of the legend.

Another story tells of Emperor Qian long visiting a temple and watching the ladies picking tea. He enjoyed it so much that he decided to give it a try.While he was picking the tea he received a message that his mother was ill. In his haste to leave he shoved the leaves into his sleeve. When the Emperor visited his mother, she noticed the smell of the leaves and he had it brewed for her. It is said that the distinctive flat shape of Long Jing is designed to mimic those leaves.

Leaves that are destined to become Dragonwell are roasted within a few hours after plucking. As they are heated on the wok-like roaster the tea maker firmly but gently presses them against with sides of the pan. Repeating this step many times effectively folds the leaves into a sword shape. Although this step was traditionally done by hand, machines are often used now in order to increase production.

Eric from Tea Geek posted a great video of his experience making Dragonwell in Hangzhou last year.

There are five mountain peaks in the West Lake region where Dragonwell is made. Not all tea companies will reveal where their dragonwell is from but the good ones will give you very specific information.  In order of desirability they are:
  • Shifeng - Lion's Peak
  • Longjing Village - Dragon's Peak
  • Yunxi - Cloud Peak
  • Hupao - Tiger's Peak
  • Meijawu - Plum Peak

The plucking standard is another important factor in Dragonwell. Higher quality examples are comprised almost entirely of terminal buds. Larger leaves that are more than "two leaves and a bud" are generally considered to be a sign of a poorly made tea. The first Dragonwell harvest of the year is generally the most prized. This is referred to as "pre-Qingming" as the tea is made before tomb sweeping day (April 4th or 5th). Many tea sellers will sell pre-orders of this tea before the leaves are even taken off the bushes. For this reason, the early budding cultivar Longjing #43 is often favored over classic varieties.

Dragonwell is typically prepared with water that is less than boiling, around 175-180°. Western-style steep times will range between 1 and 3 minutes. If you're going gongfu, infusions of 15 to 30 seconds are par for the course. My personal preference is to use glass vessels. The leaves are just too beautiful to not watch them dance around. You'll want to avoid heavy materials like yixing clay because they retain too much heat. One of the most popular ways to drink Dragonwell is "grandpa style". Just place a small amount of leaves in a tall glass and fill with hot water. Strain with your teeth as you drink and refill with more hot water as you go.

These are some of the dragonwells that I have reviewed here on the blog:

Firepot Nomadic Teas 2017 Pre-Qingming Lotus Heart Dragonwell

Teavivre Organic Nonpareil She Quan Dragon Well 2015

Le Palais des Th├ęs Long Jing Premium Green Tea 2014

Yezi Tea Dragon Well Master Grade Long Jing Green Tea

Jing Tea Dragonwell Supreme Organic Green Tea

Do you have a favorite dragonwell? Let me know about it in the comments!

Friday, November 10, 2017

Friday Roundup: November 5th - November 11th

Sara, Georgia, and Jee present green teas and mochi cakes

Virginia's Pairteas is a new to me blog that I discovered when she wrote about a pairing that some of my tea friends did together. The science of taste is absolutely fascinating and she does a great job of making it easy to understand.

Puerh Wrapping Paper. The art of manufacturing paper to pack Puerh. Manzhao Village, Yunnan

Gixlovestea is another blog that I just discovered this week. I was drawn in by this post about how the paper for puerh wrappers is made. I've read about the process before but the pictures and video make it so much more clear.

2017 Vancouver Tea Festival: Recap

Michelle at One More Steep wrote a thorough and very enjoyable recap of her experience at the Vancouver Tea Festival. The pictures she included of the Dr. Sun Yat-Sen Classical Chinese Garden are beautiful as well. This is one Canadian event, among others, that is definitely on my wish list.

Royal Botanical Gardens Tea Festival 2017 Recap and Thoughts

Speaking of Canadian tea festivals, Lu Ann at The Cup of Life posted a recap of her own. The 2nd annual Royal Botanical Gardens Tea Festival sounds like such a great time. I really wish I could have been there to see her presentation.

In Search of Artisan Specialty Tea in Sri Lanka

Tony at World of Tea recently traveled to Sri Lanka so we've been treated to some really great content on Ceylon tea. This week he walks us through some of the more unusual offerings that can be found there. I'm partial to those from Lumbini Estate, especially the rings and flower bud shaped leaves.

Friday, November 3, 2017

Friday Roundup: October 29th - November 4th

A Tea Renaissance is Underway in the San Francisco Bay Area

The lovely Anna at The Tea Squirrel contributed this awesome article to the last issue of my quarterly journal. For those of you that missed it, here's your second chance. Now I want to visit San Francisco even more!

Tea Tin Clock DIY

Bonnie at Thirsty for Tea is one of the craftiest bloggers I know. Seriously, she's like the Martha Stewart of tea. This week she shared a step by step guide to transforming your old tea tins into a clock.

A brief history of Japanese black tea

Japan is definitely not well known for their black tea. Florent at Japanese Tea Sommelier gave us a brief but very thorough history. There was a lot of info here I had not seen before and I'll definitely be digging into the subject further.

2017 Nannuo Mini Mushroom Shou Puer from Crimson Lotus Tea

I've been hearing rave reviews of these adorable little mushrooms from Crimson Lotus Tea. Char at Oolong Owl is always very thorough in documenting her experience. That's something I really enjoy about her reviews. In truth, I don't drink much shou puerh these days but I'm definitely intrigued.

A Series of Single Origin Tea Sonnets

Tea has inspired poets for centuries. This week Geoff from Steep Stories of the Lazy Literatus was inspired to churn out some Shakespearean styled sonnets. Drinking five different teas from Nannuo Mountain will do that to a person. I don't think I could pick a favorite among them though.

Wednesday, November 1, 2017

Firepot Nomadic Teas 2017 Pre-Qingming Lotus Heart Dragonwell

Country of Origin: China
Leaf Appearance: flat, jade green
Steep time: 3 minutes
Water Temperature: 130 degrees
Preparation Method: glass pitcher
Liquor: pale, greenish

I love Dragonwell. A lot. That's why I was super excited when Sarah of Nomadic Tea Party offered to send me some of the pre-Qingming dragonwell that she sourced for her company Firepot Nomadic Teas. She was able to secure just one pound of it! It is so limited that they are actually selling it at cost so that others can experience it for themselves.