Don't be fooled by 'fake' Longjing

By Wang Zhuoqiong (China Daily)
Updated: 2007-03-27 06:54

China's most famous green tea - Longjing Tea (Dragon Well) - has a new self-proclaimed brother.

Both teas have the same green leaf appearance, are processed the same way, and even grow around the West Lake in Hangzhou of Zhejiang Province.

But don't be fooled. The taste and price are very different.

The high quality Longjing tea is often sold for as much 11,200 yuan ($1,435) per kilogram, or about 60 yuan ($7.70) for a few sips in Beijing.

Wuniuzao tea, the so-called early Longjing tea currently available at tea markets in Beijing and other big cities, is only priced about 1,000 yuan ($128) per kilogram.

Wuniuzao, a native plant from Wenzhou in the same province, is one of the earliest maturing green teas. The product is usually put onto the market in February.

But not all Longjing tea is fake.

"The brand teahouse and chain stores will ensure quality products," Qi Guowei, director of the West Lake District Longjing Tea Production Association in Hangzhou, said.

Jiao Chunhui, a director of the logistics department of the Beijing Wuyutai Tea, a leading tea reseller and producer based in Beijing, said they would normally only sell 10 kilograms of high quality Longjing tea this early in spring.

Most real Longjing tea will hit the shelves about mid-April, Jiao said.

"The price will be around 900 yuan ($115) per kilogram," Jiao said.

Sales of Longjing Tea has been grown 30 percent annually at Wuyutai.

"We've seen a strong growth of Longjing sales since the severe acute respiratory syndrome," Jiao said. "People are more aware of the fact that green tea is very healthy."

Jiao said it was a common misconception that the earlier and more tender variety was a better green tea.

"If the green tea is picked too early, its internal material is not rich enough to generate sufficient flavor and nutrition," Jiao said.

(China Daily 03/27/2007 page5)

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