A Nutty Treat from the Ancient Well

Ah, Pre-Ming Dragonwell, one of the most well-known Chinese green teas. How did Dragonwell (Longjing 龍井) from Hangzhou become one of these most sought-out teas? The name “Dragonwell” refers to an ancient well at the base of the mountain in the village of Longjing, one of the many villages within the West Lake (Xi Hu西湖) region of China where this tea is grown. When rainwater fell upon the higher density groundwater in the well, the waters would interact to create an undulating, whirling movement that resembled dragons. Pictured above is Teance founder Winnie Yu peering into the original "dragon well."

Dragonwell tea leaves are immediately recognizable as long and flat. Shaped by a series of challenging processing techniques, the fresh tea leaves are heated in the kill-green (sha qing) stage. In later stages of processing, the leaves return to the wok in which they are pressed and smoothed against the surface of the heated wok multiple times. This pressing technique allows the leaves to have more contact with the wok, flattening the leaves as well as removing hairs of the leaves which results in a more nutty, toasty flavor to emerge. These techniques require meticulous attention so as to not break the leaves and to not burn one’s hands on high-temperature woks.

Pre-Ming Dragonwell, or Ming Qian Longjing, is the earliest sprouts and first flush crop harvested in the first days of April before Qing Ming 清明. At Teance, Winnie has long offered Pre-Ming Dragonwell (and Pre-Rain Dragonwell!) from the most renowned hill, Lion’s Peak Hill 獅峰 in West Lake region, and we continue to carry that tradition today.

Speaking of dragons, traditional Chinese dragons are depicted with long snakelike bodies that naturally move in curves, spirals, and undulations as opposed to in linear motion. In Chinese BaZi 八字 astrology, Dragon 辰 is associated with the Earth element and is one of the 12 animals of the zodiac (or earthly branches 地支). Dragons are seen as not mythical or supernatural; on the contrary, dragons exist and are everywhere. They are the celestial forces that comprise weather on earth, particularly water-related weather like clouds, storms, rains. They are, indeed, earth beings! May this be some food for thought before we enter into Dragon year in 2024.

We also alluded to a dragon friend that always joins us at the tea bar. For local customers, you may be familiar with the dragon tea pet that currently sits at our tea bar and receives frequents tea showers. Made of Yixing clay, our dragon tea pet has developed a patina from years of tea offerings. Do you have a tea pet at home? What kind of tea pet would you get if you could choose? 

We are excited to have the new spring 2023 harvest of Pre-Ming Dragonwell and Pre-Rain Dragonwell (second flush harvest after Qing Ming) now at the shop. We also have a small amount of the 2022 harvest Pre-Ming Dragonwell remaining that is available on sale. We have other small amounts of tea on sale as well, including our White Peony King's Grade, Sun Moon Lake Ruby 18, and Teance long-time favorite, Lu Shan Clouds & Mist. If the weather is hot where you are, play with Lu Shan C & M as a Cold Brew. Lu Shan brewed cold is refreshing and has a little kick to it, and we have been enjoying brewing it for ourselves at the shop. 

No matter your tea of choice this summer, we hope you're enjoying the peace, playfulness, and connection that comes with a pot of tea. Imagine the presence of undulating celestial beings as you brew and pour your tea...or come visit our dragon friend who joins us every day at the tea bar!

Be the first to comment...
Leave a comment