Review: Andao Organic Supreme Dragon Well

Andao, Dragonwell Tea, Green Tea, Organic Tea Add comments
Raven’s Teaview Snapshot
Its OK"Delving into the tea, presents a lovely burst of spring as fiddleheads and artichoke, yet the umami fullness of Dragon well that fans can hunger for seems not quite complete."
Raven’s Teaview: 6.7/10
Other Teaviews: Lynn gave it 5/10, Brad gave it 5.5/10, Vanessa gave it 2/10
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andaodragonwellOnce upon a time, in a land far away,
Drought seized the land, where the tea plants lay
A monk beckoned a dragon, starting to pray
And the kind dragon refreshed the plants with rain
To honour the dragon of the spring
The villagers called this tea Long Jing

Since that time, the dragon stays
Living in the wells of Hangzhou’s West Lake
Where rain on the well’s water twists astray
Resembling the dragon’s sway.
Named Imperial tea in the dynasty Qing
This tea still calls Long for Dragon, Well for Jing

And still the tea is revered today. As one of China’s ten famous teas, Dragon well, Lung Ching or Long Jing in Chinese is perhaps one tea whose name speaks of the cultural lore of tea itself. Few other teas seem to speak of this as well as the regal name of Andao’s Organic Supreme Dragon well. This Dragon well is from 2007 and is their highest grade although traditional grading of Dragon well generally goes from Superior or Superfine, to Special followed by grades of 1-6. Keeping with tradition, Andao’s Dragon well is picked in the spring from ZheJiang province although it does not mention whether it is in Hangzhou, home of Dragon well and whether it is picked before Chiang Ming or the brighteness festival of April 5-8 when the best Dragon well is supposed to originate. However, Andao does offer a wonderfully detailed description of the tea and suggestions for brewing that seems to offer a prelude to an ‘experience’ rather than simply having a cup of tea.

This tea experience begins as I eagerly examine the leaves since Dragon well has such uniquely flat blade-like leaves. Since it is pan-fired by hand, Dragon well is also sometimes called sparrow’s tongue. Immediately, the scent of the leaves announces their identity with resounding notes of marine, fern and chestnut aromas that are so characteristic of Dragon well. As anticipated the leaves are flat and predominately light jade green with visible down marking the budsets, leaves and even a few flower buds. The tea isn’t quite uniform size or shape that might stem from the organic production but is slightly surprising given the high grade of the tea. Somewhat oddly, the leaves' surfaces seem to have a clear uneven sheen, different from the soft almost powdery sheen often seen with Dragon well, as if the leaves were allowed to settle in the pan during pan-firing.

To experience this tea as best intended, I fortunately have a glass teapot with which to brew 3 grams or 3-4 teaspoons of the tea for 2 minutes at 180 °C as Andao suggests. The resulting brew is yellow, somewhat darker than the lighter jade green often seen with Dragon well that may suggest the leaves were picked a bit later in the spring. Delving into the tea, presents a lovely burst of spring as fiddleheads and artichoke resound most notably on the palate with a slight astringent edge depending on how the tea plays in your mouth. There is only a trace of chestnut near the end of the medium bodied brew that I wished was more pronounced. Yet the light sweetness of the tea enhanced the brothiness with a freshness and saturation strikingly similar to asparagus cooking water. Although, it does have a savoury character, the umami fullness or richness of Dragon well that fans can hunger for seems not quite complete and finishes rather quickly with only a slight vegetal chestnut aftertaste. Yet the taste is still warmly satisfying and round with little dryness.

While enjoying the tea warm, comforts in its smooth, bright character, cooling seems to play up the sweetness and body of the tea. Since the tea retains reasonable flavour after chilling without any bitterness, it would be a lovely choice for iced tea.

Legend has it that the second cup of Dragon well is the best and the leaves continue to delight as the vegetal flavours subside allowing a bit more light chestnut notes and sweetness to emerge. Yellow florals like golden rod and dandelion seem to replace the brothy tastes of the first brew to remain rounded yet there is also a building bitterness. Since the flavour is still subtle in the second steeping, I found this only weakens further in an additional brew leaving only a slightly drier third cup with very faint hints of okra and mineral flavours regardless of a longer brewing time. Considering the higher amount of tea used at ~4 teaspoons, this seemed a bit surprising. The shorter endurance of the tea seems evident from the leaves though since many of the budsets and leaves are completely open after the first steeping. Yet after the easy drinking and relaxing cups, such contentment seems to encourage one to find a 'dragon' at play in the leaves while I think this tea could keep one just as "well' through trying afternoons slaying proverbial dragons.

— To purchase Andao Organic Supreme Dragon Well, or for more specific information on ingredients or the story behind this particular tea, click here to go directly to the manufacturer's web site.

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