We know Dragonwell by many names; Dragonwell, Long Jing, Longjing, Lung Ching, all of which refer to that light and delicious tea from the Zhejiang provence in China.
Around this time of year however, we hear (generally with much enthusiasm) about something called “Pre-Rain” or “Pre-Qingming” Longjing. This can be somewhat confusing to relative neophyte in the vast world of Tea.
Simply, pre-rain or pre-qingming dragonwell is the first picking of the youngest sprouts from the plant.
What makes this all the more unique is that this process takes place over a 10 day period. This begins when the leaves first sprout and must be completed before the Qingming festival that happens on the 5th of April.
The leaves that are picked before Qingming, are then expertly processed with the result being pre-Qingming Longjing.
This highly regarded first grade Longjing is prized among Dragonwell fans for a more subtle and grassy flavor with an excellent finish.
Pre-rain Dragonwell, technically, is the tea that is picked before the rainy season begins, though not necessarily before the qingming festival. Pre-rain is considered of a lower grade than the Pre-Qingming longjing, however more often you will see pre-rain referring to pre-qingming, so generally it is safe to regard these as the same thing.
It’s always a good idea to check out the information from the particular tea vendor first, as they will usually provide a good amount of information about that particular harvest.
An added bonus in many cases is that the tea buyer may maintain a blog detailing the trip that they’ve taken to the different plantations.
This can give you a great connection with the tea your drinking and reflect on the process it took from leaf to cup.
If you haven’t tried a 1st grade Longjing, I highly recommend it. You will soon find another reason to get excited about spring time!