Tippy’s Tea of the Month: Longjing

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Dearies I know we’ve talked about Green Teas quite a bit, but there is one in particular that is a Chinese staple with an interesting story, Longjing. This tea’s name translates to ‘dragon well’, and is grown only in China’s Zhejiang province. Why is this well-loved tea called Dragon Well? It all goes back to the legend! There are actually a few different versions of the legend, but in my favorite version, a Taoist monk discovered a dragon hiding in an old well. The season had been in drought, and once the villagers learned of the Monk’s discovery they prayed to this dragon to bring the rain and fill the well to capacity. After the prayers, it started to rain! This water flowed from the well and nourished the surrounding tea is grown.

 The tea itself has a flat needle-like shape with a lovely jade green color. This tea is pan-fired which gives it a nutty taste (it often reminds me of chestnuts) with a fresh vegetal aroma. It also has a cooked veggie flavor which we often associate with green beans. The tea is nutty, vegetal and sweet.

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 The quality of longjing depends on when it was harvested. The earlier in the spring, the more expensive the tea will be. For the highest quality, one leaf and one bud is picked. These young leaves and buds create a very gentle, fresh and tender flavor for the tea.

The highest grade leaves are pan fried in small batches in a wok. They  needed to be heated as soon as possible to prevent oxidation. The pan-firing technique creates the lovely nutty flavor you taste in the tea. The leaves are pressed to the sides of the wok to make sure they are properly dried. This also creates the flat needle-like shape of the finished leaves. If your tea leaves have an even color to them, you know they were dried very well, to make sure the heat was even for the whole batch. Lower grades of longjing are also pan heated but usually in large revolving drums. The teas that are machine roasted are still quite delicious and more affordable.

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As with many coveted teas, longjing can be ‘faked’. You may not be getting spring harvested tea, or tea grown in Zhejiang. The best way to tell is use your eyes and mouth. Does it look like a vibrant green tea? Does it smell and taste like early spring? Veggies and chestnut? It is smooth and gentle or is it bitter? If you taste enough good quality longjing you will know what to look for. As always dearies, it’s about tasting, tasting, tasting!

To brew your longjing you can use a gaiwan, or a small teapot. My favorite way is to just add the leaves right in the water using either a bowl style cup or tall glass. Just keep filling up your vessel with hot water as you finish it, re-steeping those beautiful leaves. This is the way it’s commonly consumed in China.  Dearies no matter how you steep it, it’s a beautiful tea. If you try it you’ll understand why it’s so revered in China. Happy Steeping!

Tippy’s Tea Of The Month: English Breakfast

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Dearies, did you know that I just started a Tea Club? That’s right, I’ve recruited a few of my kitchen friends and we gather a few times a month to sit together and drink tea. Just like Kat and her friends do! Many of the appliances are unfamiliar with the various types of tea out there, so I decided that each month we are going to pick one type to focus on. We’ll taste different   varieties of the tea, and learn a little bit about it.

This month we are focusing on English Breakfast. This is a black tea blend, and the flavor differs based on what teas are included. Often you’ll see a blend of Assam, Ceylon, and Kenyan teas. Sometimes Chinese Keemun or even Indian Darjeeling will be added. The blend is always made to be quite strong and robust in order to add milk and sugar (if you wish. Kat actually drinks hers straight up!).

The history of English Breakfast tea is a bit fuzzy. There are different accounts of how it came to be a popular breakfast staple. The name of ‘English’ breakfast may actually have originated in colonial America! I’ve also read that it could have originated in Scotland and became a popular morning ritual once Queen Victoria started drinking it.

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Whatever the origin, I just absolutely love a good cup of English Breakfast. It brings me back to my days with Kat’s Great Aunt Char. She used to start every morning with a good strong cup. She preferred a blend that had Ceylon, Assam, and Keemun. I can still remember the sweet aroma from the dry leaves as soon as she opened the canister.

 These days Kat has been drinking Newman’s Own English Breakfast to remind her of her Great Aunt. The dry leaves have a lovely raisin-like aroma with hints of malt and earth. Char used to say her day didn’t properly begin until she smelled her English Breakfast leaves! This tea brews up rich and bold and just like Char, Kat says her daily cup gave her a spring in her step. Kat shares my nostalgic love of English Breakfast as it reminds her of being in her Great Aunt’s kitchen, stealing sips of her tea.