Don’t be fooled by ‘fake’ Longjing tea

Yes, don’t be fooled. According to China Daily, Long Jing has new self-proclaimed brother. These Longjing teas are close in appearance, processing methodology, and even grow in the same area. Perhaps you should know a little bit more to prevent that from happening, and just what fake means, because this is a very complicated issue.

So what makes Longjing real Longjing? There is a broader definition generally accepted than the article implies, as it is defined by the taste, color, shape, aroma, and method of production, as stated in the Cha Qing, a tea encyclopedia. The tea grown in the Hangzhou West Lake area is the most famous, and in particular the tea grown on Lion Mountain surrounding Longjing Village. This tea is very expensive and almost all of it, especially the best, ends up in the hands of the government. It is given for gifts to diplomats, Richard Nixon and Elizabeth II being some of the notables. If you can get some it is very expensive in Hangzhou, but not as expensive as the Wuyutai Tea House in Bejing sells it for, for the price mentioned below, though they were not linked as the retailer in the article. This Longjing is called Shifeng Longjing (This tea carries the Gong brand if it is tribute level). Tea branded ‘West Lake Longjing’ is sold by Mr Qi Guowei (mentioned in the article) and his company trademarked the term ‘West Lake Longjing’ both in Chinese and English, so he is the only one that can legitimately call it that.

Even though he speaks of his tea being protected, he is only in the shops and outlets controlled by his company. A lot of tea comes from the ‘West Lake’ area, which is also defined in terms of area, but can not be directly called that. (Confused yet?) The tea that is sold as Longjing in Hangzhou may have been grown as for away as Sichuan. (Is there any hope?)

Ok, let’s just add another layer of complexity. There are three bushes that are in general use in the West Lake area. The old Longjing bush that has a more limited production capability, the Wuniuzao bush, which is a prolific early producer, but also has a very limited production, because it provides only one harvest and must be pruned to the ground after the picking. This is a wonderful sweet tea, with leaves that are a tiny bit smaller that the older long jing bush. And the new star for producers is Longjing 43 that provides for a large yield and harvests that go into the summer, but in my opinion can’t match the other two for color and taste.

So what can you do? Don’t spend a lot of money for a tea that you don’t know a lot about the dealer, and if the tea is cheap, well you can also figure that one out. No quality Chinese tea is ever cheap, period! Never the less, this tea is famous for a very good reason. It is worth taking a little bit of a chance for, and the Shifeng Longjing is legally, limitedly available. That is proof of reform in the Chinese system.