I’ve been wringing my hands lately trying to get perspective on some 2013 Long Jing samples I’d gotten from another retailer. Not really being able to see a significant difference between them, I thought it would be helpful to compare them to a competitor. Who better than my first experience with Life in Teacup (LIT)?
I was excited to receive my LIT 2013 Long Jing pre-orders the other day and giddy to sample my first authentic Long Jing from Long Jing Village. Ginko, the manager, is an absolute pleasure to deal with and puts a lot of TLC into everything she does. Communication was excellent and shipping was fast. And here’s a testament to Ginko’s attention to detail — The free sample she sent to me? It was the only LIT tea that I happened to put on my Steepster shopping list! Now that’s either a coincidence, or someone did their homework!
As for the tea, I want to note that I tended towards hotter water and longer steep, based on instructions from the LIT web site.
My first impressions were that the dry leaf had a somewhat subdued aroma, but still a fresh character. Fairly unremarkable in its pre-steeped appearance, lighter green, tending towards yellow and lacking in luster, I was hoping for something a bit more uniform and symmetrical. I found what looked like a clove in the first spoonful that I scooped out. It turned out not to be, having nothing more than a slightly toasted flavor to it. Probably just a loose stem and from what I could tell not characteristic of the tea. But honestly, in this price range and from such a famous source, I expected to see a classic, textbook example of Long Jing. Of course in reading Ginko’s blog, LIT seems to support taste over aesthetic, which I can appreciate. Though I want to be clear, I in no way intend to represent their teas as unattractive. Let me clarify by siting a blog post from Ginko:
In summary, there was mention of creating a higher grade tea from an already high grade tea, by trimming and discarding leaf to create a more uniform perfect looking product. LIT appeared to support the view that one should leave good enough alone. The tea taste would not improve significantly, they preferred the raw esthetic, and finally cost would be driven up by the additional labor required to further “improve” the tea. So with that all said, I took the appearance of the dry leaf with a grain of salt.
As for the first steep, again I went hotter and brewed longer than I usually would based on LIT recommendation. The resulting liqueur was predominantly yellow, with a hint of green. I was surprised that it was a bit bitter, having an overall dry mouth feel. I caught a bit of the classic chestnut nose on the first few steeps, and mild toasty aroma when I first introduced about 3tsp (aprox 5g) to my moist, preheated empty glass infuser. I then went about my usual steps for preparing Long Jing:
Overall the experience was positive, though somewhat marred by the bitterness. What I found most compelling was the lasting sweet aftertaste that would bubble to the surface after my teacup had been emptied. I found myself enjoying the latter steeps, as the bitterness fell away and I was carried from cup to cup (6 in total) by this wonderful, subtly sweet character. The last few steeps I didn’t even decant, but drank directly from my brewing vessel.
I will experiment with this tea further at lower temperatures, more in line with my usually consistent Long Jing preparation methods. I have a feeling this will prevent the bitterness I experienced from overshadowing the elements I particularly liked about this tea. So in that sense, I wouldn’t call this tea “forgiving.”.
Overall I’m optimistic, but currently can not support LIT in their belief that this tea can tolerate “Higher Than 180F (85C)… [and] can handle boiling temperature well” without introducing these bitter notes that I don’t particularly care for. Mind you, my tumbler is 10oz, larger than what LTC references and my yield, leaving a root, is about 5-6oz per infusion.
I will refrain from providing a number rating until I’ve had a few more sittings with this tea.
UPDATE: The more I’m experiencing the 2013 spring Long Jings from different sources, the less I realize I know! I’ve since brewed this at my usual lower temps and was very pleased, finding it having a wonderfully complex flavor profile that evolved from steep to steep. Will be sure to post more detail when I can really focus and do this tea justice. But for now I can comfortably rate this tea.