A Tea Addict's Journal

The Longjing rule

December 8, 2011 · 8 Comments

The Longjing rule simply stated: Do not go to Hangzhou to buy Longjing – the best has already left town.

I think this is a basic rule not only for Longjing, but applies generally to all teas and teawares. The best of the bunch leave very quickly, and go to where the market is. When I have friends who go to Hangzhou and buy Longjing, they inevitably end up with some mediocre stuff priced like premium tea. The same can be said for Wuyi yancha, where shuixians are sold for dahongpao prices (with nice boxes, of course). Friends who visited Yunnan tea mountains in hopes of finding that awesome treasure usually come back with plantation teas that are very mediocre, without needing the plane ticket and all the hassle. In sum, don’t go to the producing region to buy what you’re looking for. Go to big city markets instead.

This is really simple economics – richer cities can afford luxury goods like top flight Longjing or spring old tree Laobanzhang (regardless of what you think of them). These teas are expensive, and not many people can afford them. The farmer has two choices – sell it to the middleman whom they deal with regularly and trust, and get a good price, or produce it and keep it and hope they can sell it to some tourist walking by for a better price. What would you do if you were the farmer?

Instead, what’s kept for the tourist trade (and this includes many occasional tea merchants who think they’re sourcing it from the real deal) is usually the B grade stuff. Tourists, and occasional tea merchants, go to these places looking for good tea. Among the ones they sample, what they’re buying may indeed be the best of the bunch, but what’s missing, of course, is the stuff that never made it to their mouth – stuff that was locked up months in advance by those with the necessary local connections.

So, in sum, follow the Longjing rule, and don’t go to the producing regions and buy tea. If you want greens, go to Shanghai. Kunming is probably not a bad place to start for puerh, although a lot of the best stuff get dispersed to other major cities too. For oolongs of various types, Fuzhou, Xiamen, Hong Kong, and Taipei are good places to shop, depending on the style and type you like. One of the best places I’ve found for Wuyi yancha was in Taipei, a guy who sold me some incredibly expensive but awesome tasting rougui. It’s not a coincidence.

Categories: Information
Tagged: ,

8 responses so far ↓

  • Di // December 9, 2011 at 3:51 pm | Reply

    Thanks for the advice, M! I will keep that in mind next time I’m shopping for tea in China. I went to Hangzhou one summer and did have a hard time finding good longjing. Also went to Huangshan once with a tour company that took us to a tea tasting and the “Huangshan” tea they tried selling there was really lack luster.

  • Amos Wong // December 9, 2011 at 9:51 pm | Reply

    Thank you for the insight. I’m making a trip to Hangzhou next weekend and tea was part of my shopping list. I guess I’ll just sample the teas at Hangzhou and buy them in Shanghai.

  • Shangguan // December 14, 2011 at 1:32 am | Reply

    You are so right! For the teas I do not purchase directly from the producer, I go to Guangzhou to buy. Taiwan is also a great place to find really high quality teas from the mainland as well. Very well put post.

  • Richard Zhang // December 18, 2011 at 2:51 am | Reply

    Dear MarshalN:

    How are you.

    Hi, I am Richard Zhang, Sales Manager of Vicony Teas Company. Vicony Teas is a veteran Chinese tea manufactuer, supplier and wholesaler. I got to know you and your great tea blog when I surf the internet.

    Two years ago, we began to provide oversea wholesale service. It is now growing fast, covering more and more kinds of Chinese teas. Our teas are all from the original producing areas and some of them such as Wuyi Zhengyan Yancha and Lapsang Souchong are even the ones from the core producing areas. They are rare even in the market of China. Now, we wish to send some of our teas to the people who not only know tea but also has an insight into it for review. The teas will be totally free(free teas and free shipping). We only wish you would publish your reviews of the teas mentioning our name(ViconyTeas) and giving the links to the product page. Is it OK? Pls kindly let us know. If you are glad to do so, pls let us know your address and phone number to receive them.

    For the first time, we will send you four samples (Keemun Snail Tea DA86, Lapsang Souchong Supreme LAP01, Pure Qidan Dahongpao WYA01, Zhengyan Rougui Yancha WYA53, each in about 10g). If everything goes smoothly this time, we are glad to send you our other kinds of teas for review on a regular basis in the future.

    We are looking forward to your reply and you can contact us at export@viconyteas.com

    Best Regards

    Richard Zhang
    Sales Executive
    Vicony Teas Co.,LTD

  • The vendor premium | A Tea Addict's Journal // January 6, 2012 at 5:18 am | Reply

    […] sort or another. In other cases it could easily be the result of convenience and cost, or of the Longjing rule at work. Either way, there are oftentimes multiple layers of vendors between a tea and the end […]

  • Roman // February 4, 2012 at 9:21 am | Reply

    This is a very interesting perspective, and although I’ve been sticking to the rule intuitively, I do hope that one day I will find that super-special place with mega-decent farmers who will sell me good good tea.

Leave a Comment