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The Arbor Teas Blog

Dragonwell Tea: Grades & Varieties

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It is no question that tea and the art of its acquisition is taken very seriously in China. Dragonwell, one of the finest Green teas in China, is known for its superior quality which is maintained due to a grading scale. With standardization from the Chinese government, high grade Dragonwell teas will carry a gong mark on the packaging proving its quality.

The Grades

Years ago, Dragonwell tea was separated into 4 grades: Lion (Shi), Dragon (Long), Cloud (Yun) and Tiger (Hu). Now, a new system is in place, categorizing teas into 7 grades. These grades are Ultimate (Jipin), Special (Teji), and a numerical scale from 1-5 for anything below these grades. While a guide explaining what characteristics constitute a certain level has still not been written, teas are judged on their color, taste, aroma and leaf wholeness.

The 7 Varieties of Dragonwell Tea

1. Xi Hu

This famous variety of Lung ching is generally considered the highest quality. The name itself, “Xi Hu” refers to West Lake, where this grade of Dragonwell is grown.  Originally, Xi Hu teas were divided into four categories: Lion, Dragon, Cloud and Tiger. Sadly, these colorfully named categories have faded away with time. Xi Hu Dragonwell tea leaves are picked from a designated and protected 168 square km area and only those leaves picked from this area may be considered as Xi Hu.  It is rumored that President Nixon fell in love with this grade and tried taking some back to the states!

2. Bird's Tongue

Also known as Sparrow’s Tongue Lung Ching, this grade is known for its delicate sweetness. This grade is highly dependent on good climate and may be expensive depending on the crop year. However, it is also said that less leaf is required to get that savory and intense aroma and taste.

3. Pre-Qingming

This delicate Dragonwell tea is known for its pre-season timing. This grade requires to be picked early in the season and is produced from the new tender leaf. There is only a 10-day span when this tea may be picked by experienced workers. This is why this grade of Dragonwell tea is considered the rarest and may also be a little pricier.

4. Shi Feng

Named for the province it comes from, this Dragonwell tea is known for its sharpness. Shi Fen is cultivated at an altitude of about 300m, which is significantly higher than the other varieties that are cultivated at 100m. This height difference creates a colder growing environment which allows for Shi Feng to acquire its descriptive sharp taste.

5. Mei Jia Wu

Hailing from West Lake, this Xi Hu subset is so distinct that it received a name of its own. Its savory taste and renowned jade-green color are sought after by many tea enthusiasts.

6. Bai

Named for its white color, Bai leaves turn white before they are picked for tea. This Dragonwell tea is said to contain the most amino acids which may be good for stress relief.

7. Qian Tang

This Dragonwell tea, known for its nutty taste and aroma, is grown just outside the designated Xi Hu growing area. Hailing from the Zhejiang Province this tea is known for its strong taste and is generally not as expensive as Xi Hu.

Now that you know the background behind this famous style of tea, it’s time to get started exploring the world of Dragonwell with our Organic Dragonwell tea and our rare Organic Emerald Spring Lung Ching tea.