TeaGschwendner is one of my favorite sources for Indian teas, particularly first- and second-flush Darjeelings. They have a large variety of flavored teas (which I shall not be reviewing on this site), as well as a number of unflavored greens and oolongs, though these are less likely to be found in local TeaGschwendner shops.
Though I bought the tea not too long ago, it was still the 2009 vintage, and so it's not at its very best (typically, one would want to buy a green tea as close to its picking as possible, which would mean anywhere between April and June; drinking a green a year after its picking is obviously going to dull the taste a bit and make it sparkle less).
The TeaGschwendner China Long Jing can be translated as "Dragon Well," hence the graphic I chose for today's post. I originally bought it for my lovely sister-in-law as a gift, along with several other teas, but she returned the Long Jing to me because she disliked it. Puzzlement! I had made Laura some Long Jing teas, and I knew she liked it. So what was the problem?
Donning my Charlie Chan robes (I would have used Sherlock Holmes, but since Charlie was "Chinese," I thought he would be funnier), I asked Sister-in-Law Number One what she was doing wrong. She was ignoring the directions on the packaging, and steeping at too high a temperature, and probably for too long. I write this as a teachable moment for all my readers: DO NOT, I REPEAT, DO NOT STEEP CHINESE GREEN TEAS AT BOILING, unless you steep for only a matter of seconds (in the range of 5 to 10 seconds per steep). This results in a harsh, ugly concoction that will make you return someone's very thoughtful gift to them, which they will then enjoy immensely without you.
When properly steeped, the TeaGschwendner Long Jing is predictably lovely: a tawny-gold color with a lot of fragrance. There is a slight bitter tang to the flavor, but the bright, high notes and long finish are quite pleasant. This tea survived two steepings nicely, and perhaps more that I'll savor later.
How to describe? There are elusive berry notes in the center of my palate, but the high is a bright, acerbic cheerfulness that I enjoy immensely. There is a hint of something dark in the low palate that offsets the high notes, to give a beautifully balanced cup.
I wish I had been able to get this tea when it was freshly picked, because I'm certain it would have been quite extraordinary. Unfortunately, the TeaGschwendner people have their tea shipped from China to Germany, and from there to the U.S., where it's shelved until it's sold, which means it was a bit beyond its prime by the time I got to drink it. I look forward to tasting the 2010 variety, which I hope will live up to my expectations.
Thank you, TeaGschwendner, for being so consistent and careful with your tea offerings. I've learned so much from living near one of your very few shops, and I am grateful for your considerable addition to the U.S. tea culture.