This was a strange weather year in several Longjing tea producing areas. Our 2016 Longjing Dafo is a good example of the effect that quirky weather has on the emergence of fresh buds and leaf of the tea plant.
First, there was hotter than normal weather in the middle of March that prompted the plants into a growth spurt. Then, snow and cold followed. Snow at the time of the spring tea harvest is rare but when it does occur it can be devastating to the young tea leaf shoots that are waiting to be plucked. If it gets cold enough, tea bushes can be seriously damaged and the crop lost. In New England where we live, late spring frosts or cold snaps can destroy an entire orchard full of apples or peaches if a frost occurs when the trees are in bud.
This year, for Longjing Dafo, the early-plucked leaf had to be composted, so the actual plucking of this tea began in early April from slightly larger leaf. This is apparent in the size of the leaves of this tea this year. Fans of Dafo should not be disappointed by this information – rather, look at it as an opportunity to experience this tea in a whole new light. And, for those who may not have noticed, the price is nearly half of what is usually is.
So, appearance-wise, this tea does not have its usual short, flat, somewhat ‘lumpy’ appearance that makes it easily identifiable in a ‘guess what tea this is’ contest. Visually, the leaf is larger and more varied in size & shape. The color is bright and lush green in color.
Taste-wise and aroma-wise, this tea is delicious. It has a signature taste that combines toastiness and vegetal freshness that is lively and spirited. From the first sip of the initial steeping right through to the lingering taste of the last cup of the final steeping, Longjing Dafo fills the palate with satisfying flavor.
It has a bright snap if you steep it just a little bit longer than 2 minutes for a first steeping, or it is smooth as silk if you stop the first steeping at 90 seconds. The second steeping is far better than you probably expect and we even squeeze a third steeping from these flavor-packed leaves by using less water than for the first two steepings – but don’t steep it too long!
Dafo Village Longjing is also extremely refreshing if allowed to cool and then drunk when almost cold. What a fabulous palate refresher.
Longjing tea is the pride of Zhejiang Province where it has been made for many centuries. This fine Longjing is plucked in tea gardens located approximately 50 miles outside of the Xi Hu designated Longjing region in Xin Chang county.
There is a long history of tea cultivation and tea drinking in this region: much of it began centuries ago to supply the needs of the resident monks and visiting scholars at the Dafo Buddhist Temple ( constructed in the 4th century BC ).
Pre-Qing Ming teas are the first teas plucked each new spring season. Depending on the location and altitude in each tea producing region, leaf plucking can begin as early as the middle week of March and continue until April 5th.
Pre-Qing Ming teas command the highest prices because the demand for these teas outpaces the supply each year. This is especially true for the Famous Teas such as Long Ding and Longjing, and the fever for these teas hits in China as well as in the West.
Want to know more?
What is Tea Leaf ‘Fuzz’?
China’s Famous Tea