Wednesday, May 13, 2009

REVIEW: Narien Teas, Dragon Well

To say a cup of Longjing tea smells "grassy" is like saying a steak tastes "meaty." While true, it doesn't really convey much information.

I'm drinking the Dragonwell (Longjing) by Narien Teas today. Dragon Well is one of the ancient tribute teas, which were given to the Chinese emperors and were only to be drunk by his court. I'm exploring Longjing teas for the first time, and it's been very enjoyable.

Narien provided enough tea for me to try a few methods of preparation. The most interesting is:

For single cup brewing, fill a cup with about a tablespoon of Dragonwell tea leaves, then add steaming water. You want the water almost boiling in order to almost cook the tea leaves and infuse them into the water. After the leaves steep in the water for several minutes, you will notice some of the leaves will start to become turgid and sink to the bottom. This is when the tea is ready.

Traditionally, the leaves are not strained out, as they would continue to brew while you drink. Dragonwell can be enjoyed with a dash of sugar or even a bit of honey, but often the natural sweetness of the tea can be enjoyed without. The leaves generally can only be brewed once because the hot water cooks them, but you can squeeze multiple cups if the leaves do not steep too long and are brewed again within about an hour. The flavor will be a little sharper, similar to black tea, but a little sugar makes it taste just as sweet.

Well, I did try it this way, and the results were good, though I didn't quite know what to do with all the tea leaves floating at the top of the cup, which kept trying to get into my mouth. I'm sure the Chinese have thought up a very clever way of solving this conundrum. At any rate, it was fun to play with my tea leaves in a new way.

I also did create the tea in a teapot, 1tsp per cup. This made a more restrained cup of tea than did the method of leaving the leaves in the cup and drinking around them. I liked better the results from the more unusual preparation, though I wish I had figured out a good filtering mechanism to keep those leaves under control.

The tea itself: Transparent rich amber-gold color, rather deep in saturation, like the walls in a Tuscan villa. This tea is nicely aromatic, like grass! No, wait. Very slightly vegetal, and not really too floral. There's a slightly sweet honey to it, especially when it's quite hot.

(Dragon sculpture can be purchased at