Longjing or Dragon Well tea.
The most famous Chinese green tea. The tea has a transparent yellow-green color with a light flavor, yet fragrant aftertaste. It contains vitamin C, amino acids, and the second highest concentrations of catechins (the first being white teas).
(The story according to my mother.)
In the past, Chinese emperors would drink black tea from Northern China which have a dark color and intense flavor. During the Ching Dynasty, an emperor traveled south to Hangzhou and stopped by a village (Longjing or Dragon Well). The village offered him the local tea, and when he tried it, he said that was light, bland, and had no taste (when compared to black teas). Yet, as he was walking out of the teahouse, he replied that in his mouth, there was a lingering fragrant aftertaste that caught his attention and appreciation. That tea was Longjing or Dragon Well and it became known as an imperial tea.
The first time I tried this tea, it was in San Francisco. South Sea Seafood Village Restaurant serves specialty teas with their dim sum service. With two small ceramic cups, smaller than a shot glass, they pour out Longjing tea for $2/person with at least 2 people per pot. Despite the small tea cups, the taste is very concentrated in each sip. Though they are quick to steep and dispense this tea, the flavor and aroma emanating from the green tea is unique to the everyday teas we drink.
Longjing is considered to be the most bland and least intense of the specialty teas, primarily because it is a green tea. The light flavor cuts through the oil in the dim sum dishes and refreshes the palate. The fragrant aroma lingers long after the liquid is consumed.
If you go to the restaurant mentioned and order dim sum, there are a couple of highlight dishes
- The steamed tripe is one of the best around. Fresh, crisp, and pure…it’s very hard to find tripe this delicious. It may seem bland, but there is no need to mask the original texture or flavor (with marinated sauce or ginger)…just a quick dip into soy sauce will suffice.
- The lotus-filled sesame ball is well made. A thin crunchy skin, a sweet lotus center, and a smooth mochi middle creates a worthy dessert.
- The mango pudding has a strong mango flavor with a smooth and creamy texture. Though the color may seem to dark, the taste is worth it.
Just a warning, this place can be busy, noisy, packed, and chaotic. For dim sum, don’t expect a quiet leisurely experience. This is a fast-paced, messy jumble with decent food and spotty service. I don’t mind because I know what I’m ordering and I’ll flag down the staff if I have a request without a second thought. In some ways, it reminds me of a busy local diner with staff scurrying about and boisterous customers devouring the food.
South Sea Seafood Village
1420 Irving Street
San Francisco, CA 94122