Civilization, carried on the emperor’s head.



Super buds, reformist emperor!

Ok, that’s a fabulist translation of Kai Hua Long Ding, 開化龍頂.  Kai hua is a Chinese verb that means to civilize, to have laws and culture, and it’s also the name of a town in Zhejiang province.  (Maybe it’s “Reformtown,” thus christened in the Cultural Revolution days.)  This town is presumably the origin of this green tea I got from Adagio.  “Long ding” is often translated as “dragon’s peak.”  In Chinese, “dragon” is synonymous with “emperor” or “imperial,” and Kai Hua Long Ding was one of several premium teas offered to the emperor in tribute.  So while “ding” may signify this tea is made of budsets, it may just as well mean “super duper.”

A gentleman controls his revulsion.

Doug was kind enough to drop by during a break in his workday, and I made him my guinea pig.  I used about 2.25 grams of Kai Hua Long Dong in each of 4 3-oz. cupping sets.  Yes, that’s about twice as much tea as necessary: I really wanted to taste it.  Adagio recommended steeping for 3 minutes at 180°F, but such a round figure made me suspicious.  Each cup was steeped for 3 minutes, one at 180°F, one at 190°F, one at 200°F, and one at…wait, the kettle’s boiling like Jeremiah Wright, and the thermometer says 205°F.  Maybe I need to recalibrate the thermometer, but in the mean time I’ll just override the automatic shutoff several times….

Can you guess what happened?  Yes, the first three brews were increasingly, unpalatably bitter.  No shortage of polyphenols there.  Always a gentleman, Doug said, “It wasn’t that bad–I didn’t drink very much of it.”  The fourth cup, the one with retributively boiled water, was more restrained.  But why?  The conventional wisdom says that you’re not supposed to let tea water come to a full boil, because it will lose its dissolved oxygen.  Somehow the oxygen contributes to the flavor, perhaps catalyzing the infusion?  That always seemed fishy to me.  According to my cursory knowledge of chemistry, boiling water has NO dissolved oxygen in it.  So would there really be a significant amount of oxygen molecules in 210°F water?  205°F?  Thought I had put this one to rest, but I will have to keep investigating this dissolved oxygen business.

After Doug left, I made more Kai Hua Long Ding in the specified fashion with the customary amount.  The bitterness was now agreeably coy, and I enjoyed the green bean flavors.  Doug, I hope it’s some consolation that the tea actually is good.  Not like the swill you drank.  I mean, it’s almost all gone so you probably won’t get to taste it for yourself.  So, have you found me a job at your office yet?  Doug?

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