There several legends that surround Dragon Well, also known as Long Jing, famous tea. In a city by the same name, there is a well that was said to be inhabited by a dragon. The local people would pray to it for rain when there is a drought.
Several people who have visited the well noticed that after rain, the lighter rainwater floats on top of the dense well water creating a rippling effect. It is this curious phenomenon that is often attributed as the source of the legend.
Another story tells of Emperor Qianlong visiting a temple and watching the ladies picking tea. He enjoyed it so much that he decided to give it a try himself. While he was picking the tea he received a message that his mother was ill and that she wished for him to return home. In his haste to leave he shoved the leaves into his sleeve.
When the Emperor visited his mother, she noticed the smell of the leaves and he had it brewed for her. It is said that the distinctive flat shape of Long Jing is designed to mimic those leaves. The 18 bushes in front of the temple were given special imperial status.
Legend also holds that the best way to brew this tea is with water from the famous Dreaming of the Tiger Spring in Hangzhou. It is known as the third best spring in all of China.
The climate in Zhejiang province (mild with year-round rain and fog), the higher altitude, and the low levels of the sun are all believed to help the leaves retain more theanine in Dragon Well tea as opposed to different varieties. This amino acid contributes to the special taste and health benefits.
The young buds are harvested in early spring, with the first harvest yielding the highest quality leaves and Dragon Well tea. Any leaves picked after April 5 are of a lower grade. With the harvesting and roasting both done by hand, it’s believed that the skilled roasters, known as Tea Masters, can better judge the heat in the large iron pans by using their bare hands. By using their hands, they know exactly when to shake the pan, press, or rub the leaves. Another nice touch is that the leaves are folded, giving them the appearance of flattened sticks.
As with the majority of green teas produced in China, the leaves used for Dragon Well are roasted or “fired” soon after they are picked. Doing this before they dry out prevents the natural oxidation process. This is not only part of the unique color of this tea before and after steeping, but it is also key to why it offers more health benefits than other teas.
The health benefits of Dragon Well tea offered by this aromatic beverage are thanks to the high levels of theanine (amino acid), catechins (a natural phenol and antioxidant), vitamin C, and very low levels of caffeine. While there may not be clinical studies to support all these claims, centuries of anecdotal evidence does – and as we always say, first and foremost, drink it because you enjoy it. Not all of these benefits are concrete and written in stone, and this mainly serves to compile the different claims that are out there. The primary health benefits are:
- Calms and soothes: the amino acid theanine or L-theanine helps to relax the mind while still allowing you to feel both energetic and alert.
- Lowers blood sugar and cholesterol levels: thanks to the high levels of catechins—a powerful antioxidant— Dragon Well tea allegedly helps to reduce both blood sugar and bad cholesterol. This helps to prevent both diabetes and coronary-artery and heart disease by removing fat and plaque deposits from artery walls.
- Boosts the immune system: The properties in Dragon Well tea leaves also help to boost the immune system by removing toxins and excess fats and sugar from the blood.
- Aids weight loss: while you still need to modify your diet and do exercise, Dragon Well tea has catechins and gentle amounts of caffeine that boost the metabolism and help to promote weight loss.
- Dental health: There are trace amounts of minerals in Longjing tea leaves that help to reduce dental plaque, and antioxidants can help to fight bad breath. However, drinking Longjing doesn’t mean you should abandon normal dental hygiene.