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2004 Pre-Qing Ming longjing tea now available

Gary Soup

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Todd & Holland has 2004 hand-carried pre-Qing Ming tea available on-line as of TODAY. Bill Todd also brought back some biluochun from the 3rd day of production.

I'd like to give T&H a boost because my previous source, Gray&Seddon/Sencha, appears to have dropped early season longjing from their listings.


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Gary, can you explain the significance of this type of green tea?

Certainly, without belaboring the point:

Longjing ("Dragon Well") tea is first on the list of "China's Ten Famous Teas" (an official designation). It's grown on a mountainside outside of Hangzhou, and I became attached to it in Shanghai, where it's the most common (almost the only) type of tea served. Since it's an "unfermented" tea (not aged and only lightly roasted) it's notable for its fresh, floral, almost grassy taste. The earlier it's picked, the more highly prized it is for its fresh taste. The first sprouts are picked before "Qing Ming" (Grave Sweeping day) which is always April 5 or 6, before the first rains of spring. The "Pre-Qing Ming" (or "Qing Ming) longjing tea is the most highly sought after and commands the highest prices. It's literally the "First of the Best" Chinese teas. The first day's production, in fact, always goes to Beijing for distribution among Central Government officials.

The other tea I mentioned, Biluochun ("Green Snail Spring") tea is a somewhat similar tea, grown near Suzhou and processed slightly differently. It's No. 4 on the Top 10 Chart. It's also very seasonal, like Longjing, and the first day's production also goes to Beijing. It's remarkable that Bill Todd was able to get his supply from the 3rd day's production.

These teas tend to be especially expensive in the US, because buying them from a dealer who is there in person when they are produced and accompanies them back is the only way to be sure of getting the real stuff. There's a lot of chicanery going on with the labeling and distribution in China. But heck, I can get a year's supply for myself for less than the price of one meal without wine at the French Laundry.

The second grade of Longjing, after the first spring rain, is a lot more affordable, and nothing to sneeze at, either. Buying the "Pre-Qing Ming" is probably my one elitist habit. I think we all want to be able to afford the best of SOMETHING in this world. :cool:

More about Longjing Tea

[Edited for typos -- probably didn't get them all, though]

Edited by Gary Soup (log)
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Oh Yes, the other day I received an email from my friend who runs a beautiful tea shop here in Singapore. They've only got 20 bags in stock. I assume the price would be too high, even though I love LongJing Cha. So we passed on this.

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  • 4 weeks later...

I would like to thank Gary Soup for inadvertantly leading me to one of my great New York experiences, as follows:

I tend to fetishize conoisseurship, and GS extolling the virtues of spring longjing tea led me to Ten Ren in Chinatown. First I just browsed the huge cannisters, initially expressing interest in my ususal first (and second)-grade oolongs and Quan Yins. Cindy, duly allowed me to smell and look. Then I noticed the longjings, the first grade selling for $55/ pound. Cindy extolled the virtues of longjing, and, noticing my more than passing interest, led me to the spring teas (which were not in huge cannisters but vacuum packed in small amounts). When it was apparent that the prices of these teaas didn't send me running for the door (only muttering about my impending death at the hands of my wife) Cindy began to really explain the beauty of these teas, much as Mr. Soup has already done here. I was then led to the tea table, set with a small pot of not-too-hot water, a small glass pot with a lid, a box for pouring off water, two small cups, and various other tools. Cindy primed the pot and cups with hot water, spooned an amount of the precious tea in the warm pot and let me smell. More hot water only to be poured off, and another smell. Another pour and into the cups. We tasted as Cindy explained the beauty of this tea. Another pour, and, perhaps noticing the faded burns on my forearms, she began to describe dishes made with the used leaves. I taught her the words tannin and deglaze (which I later wrote down) and we shared another cup. Perhaps it was the hard sell, no question it worked. Beautiful. My only challenge is to treat this prize with the same respect when I enjoy it in my own home.

So, Mr. Soup (and of course, Cindy) - Thank you.

Edited by schaem (log)
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So, Mr. Soup (and of course, Cindy) - Thank you.

I imagine Cindy thanks me too :laugh:

You were fortunate that she used a glass pot so you could watch the leaves "perform". Here in SF, even the "fine" tea houses use a traditional opaque pot, perhaps because they tend to be locked into the more "southern" Ooolongs and reds. Just curious, was it a Jenaer pot, one of these? Of course, Ten Ren is a Taiwanese company, and the Taiwanese seem to be really into green teas, despite the fact that they are just across the strait from Oolong country.

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It was not a jenaer.  It was a small glass pot with a lid, the Chinese name escapes me though I do remember seeing on another thread.  Is there a Ten Ren in SF?

There's a Ten Ren on the main drag in Chinatown, but I haven't found them particularly helpful. They mostly serve tourists, and lately they're pushing bubble tea.

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