First off, I should point out that long jing (and, in fact, greens in general) is a genre of tea I know little about. When it was sold to me a couple of months ago by a seriously jet lagged Jean (one of the small shop's co-owners) just back from this year's Asiatic trek to buy a fresh supply of teas, I was told that this particular long jing was pretty good, but not the best. Never having tried a long jing before, this suited me just fine. What with this genre's reputation for being tricky to brew gongfu-style, I thought I'd give it a few practice sessions before posting some tasting notes and in the meantime keep it as fresh as I could by not opening it too often and storing it in the fridge.
As I sit down to start the session that will form the basis of this post I crack open the airtight seal on the bag of leaves and inhale deeply as is my custom. Because the leaves still cold from their refrigerated storage I can't smell much at first, but as the leaves warm up a little and especially with the aid of the heat from my gaiwan a thick, oily, leguminous scent is released; it's the kind of thick scent that reaches into the back of your mouth and tickles your salivary glands. I don't often feel like drinking greens, but when I do and I open up this package the need becomes strong.
I prepare the first infusion and the first thing that's apparent is the colour of the liquor: light translucent green. A top quality long jing should be more or less clear; this one isn't, but then it isn't a top quality long jing. To my unpracticed eyes, however, it still looks as though it's hardly been steeped.
Rolling the liquor around in my mouth, the initial pan-fried oily smoothness rapidly gives way to a semi-floral, semi-leguminous sweet character. The aftertaste is cooling and fresh.
I push the second infusion a bit farther, and in tasting it the results are obvious. A new sharp bitter note immediately surfaces and subsides just as quickly into a pleasant coolness. This tea feels great on a warm summer day, the cooling feeling in the mouth leads up to cooling chaqi flowing throughout the body and I notice that the air pushed over me by the ceiling fan on my back porch now feels a perfectly pleasant temperature. At the same time the yang qi trapped within the arrested growth of the buds blossoms inside of me, leaving me feeling fresh and awake.
This tea doesn't have the same endurance as the oolongs with which I am more familiar, taking a dive after about the fourth infusion, but considering that this is a green tea and not an oolong, I'm quite happy with its stamina and move on to inspecting the spent leaves. They're a little bit broken and there's the odd leaf floating around on its own, but in general this tea is made up of downy sets of two leaves and bud. Every time I scoop the tea out of its bag, the scoop comes back covered in thousands of tiny trichomes. That, to me, is a good sign.
In the end, I am most taken with this tea's vivacity. From the moment I open the bag to the last cup washing down my throat its qi is apparent. Though it lacks the subtlety or gentle qualities of other teas in this regard, I always end my sessions with this tea feeling calm, energized, and ready to start my day.