Ming Qian Long Jing (明前龍井, Míng Qián Lóng Jǐng, "Pre-Brightness Dragon Well") - Lóng Jǐng means “Dragon Well” and it takes its name from a legendary spring near the site of tea cultivation in the hills above Hangzhou’s scenic West Lake. A very narrow appellation region and short picking window characterize this refined, all-bud tea with a distinctive flattened shape. Arguably the most famous of all Chinese green teas, Lóng Jǐng is an ubiquitous offering in tea shops around the world, though much of it is counterfeit, being made using tea from outside the designated region. The finest Lóng Jǐng is picked before the Qīng Míng 清明 (“Clear Bright”) festival, which, depending on the weather, may only offer a few days to harvest the so-called Míng Qián or "Pre-Brightness" tea. After more than a decade of tasting only sub-par (mostly counterfeit) Lóng Jǐng, I was convinced that this tea was all hype, until a client specifically ordered a batch of Míng Qián Lóng Jǐng from me, which I sourced from a Hangzhou tea farmer named Lao Long who I knew through a close friend who had stayed with him on his tea farm. Often, personal introductions are the only way to ensure access to true Lóng Jǐng tea farmers operating in the designated area. His Míng Qián Lóng Jǐng is to date one of the finest green teas I’ve ever tried, and I’ve visited his patch and participated in the picking and processing of his tea from beginning to end. At the end of the day, at least some times, authenticity really does produce superior tea. Míng Qián is softer in flavor than the more robust Yǔ Qián 雨前 (“Pre-Rain”) Lóng Jǐng harvested after the Qīng Míng festival, but its Qi is strong, clear, and noticeably superior to the Yǔ Qián. The small consistent leaf buds yield a jade green liquor with a delicate roasted-soybean fragrance, round, abundant mouthfeel, and snow-pea-like sweetness.