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What Do Dragons Have To Do With Green Tea?

Posted on 06/14/2023

Dragons. Explosives. Eyebrows.

What do these seemingly unconnected and wildly off-topic concepts have to do with your cup of tea? The answer may surprise you. Every time you order your favorite Chinese green teas, you might be mentioning them by name.

Beloved for their quality and taste, China’s green teas are some of the most iconic in the world. In this post, we will explore a brief history of three of China’s most well-known green teas and how they got their striking, memorable names.

Lung Ching (also known as Long Jing) is a prized, medium-bodied green tea hailing from Zhejiang province. Known for its distinctive flat leaves, Lung Ching is processed in a unique way: it is pan fired in a wok to halt oxidation and preserve its vibrant green color. This process rapidly heats the leaves, blistering the fine downy white hairs on the surface. It is also known for its rare “chestnut” flavor note, not commonly found in other green tea offerings. But perhaps the most distinguishing feature of this tea is its compelling name. Lung Ching translates to “Dragon Well,” a reference to a legend surrounding the tea’s origin that has been told and retold through generations. According to the story, a village in Zhejiang fell victim to a serious drought. Desperate to save their crops and their lives, the townspeople prayed to a kindly dragon that was said to inhabit a well in the center of town. After they prayed, the heavens opened and the rains began. The drought was over. In honor of their hero, the grateful community changed the name of their town to Dragon Well. To this day, Lung Ching tea is grown there. 

If you haven’t heard of “Dragon Well” tea, you have probably heard of “Gunpowder” tea, which has been popular in the United States since the early 19th century. Believe it or not, its mildly smoky flavor is not how this tea got its name. In fact, it wasn’t originally called “Gunpowder” tea at all.

The preparation of this tea involves pressing and rolling the leaves, which helps form its signature shape, prevents breakage and preserves the toasty flavor from the roasting process. Allegedly, “Gunpowder” was originally called “pearl tea” when it was first created in China. But when the British began to import large quantities of the tea, the sailors thought that the leaves looked like little gunpowder pellets — the kind that are loaded into a cannon. Allegedly, crew members even hesitated to load it onto ships for fear that it would combust. While the exact details of this tea’s name origin may or may not be embellished, “Gunpowder” tea remains one of the most well-known varieties of green tea today, perfect for those who crave a hearty cup.

Chun Mee Moon Palace is a standard, everyday green tea with a sweet, mild character and a clean finish. Did you know that “chun mee” means precious eyebrow? There are a variety of teas designated as “chun mee,” and what unites them is the size and plucking of the leaf. This variety, “Moon Palace,” is crescent shaped. Like an elegant lady’s eyebrow, the leaf is carefully rolled into a tiny arch. An unusual but fitting name for a selectively plucked tea!  

We sell sample sizes of each of these teas. If you would like to explore the world of tea through the flavors of Zhejiang and Jiangxi provinces, browse our China green teas below and order a sample of each. Enjoy!

ZG71: Lung Ching Green (Superfine)

ZG60: Lung Ching Organic

Lung Ching stands alone, a remarkable green tea with no substitution — nothing tastes quite like it. Notes of toasty chestnut and a full mouth feel give this tea a surprisingly savory quality.

ZG18: Chun Mee Moon Palace Organic

When most American tea drinkers hear “green tea,” this is the flavor that they think of — a familiar crisp, clean flavor with a hint of green that is somewhat sweet and not truly vegetal.

ZG30: Special Grade Temple of Heaven Gunpowder Green

When customers request a rich, strong green tea, I always recommend Gunpowder tea first. It packs a punch with its strong, bittersweet and subtly smoky flavor that is sure to impress even those super fans of black tea who are hesitant to give green tea a try.

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