Longjing

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  • Cafes & Teahouses
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  • Restaurants
Gongti Bei Lu

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The silhouette of a horse’s head looms into sight as we approach the gated patio that marks the entrance to Longjing. A matte black, steel slatted fence forms a paddock for a bizzare equine welcome. Located in Courtyard 4, an area densely packed with watering holes of repute, we can’t blame this new kid on the block for trying to stand out.


The concept is an old one: brew tea, mix with booze, get drunk. There is nothing objectively complicated about using tea to enhance your hooch, but we’ve never seen a spot devoted to the idea. Longjing is Beijing’s first teahouse and ‘cockteal’ bar, and it hosts a menu of libations that push the limits of propriety where the humble tea leaf is concerned.


The high-ceilinged single room sports comfortable sofas and modern takes on Ming Dynasty armchairs, all neatly arranged around low, hardwood tables. The focal point is the bar that runs the length of the room. The shelves behind sport black tins of tea accented with thin lines of colour, hinting at their contents – that is, until the sun starts to set. After dark, Longjing’s tea pantry rotates 180 degrees to reveal a fleet of craft spirits and top-shelf labels to rival any cocktail bar. It’s a neat trick.


Similarly, the cocktails are a combination of familiar drinks with unfamiliar inspiration. The namesake cocktail, the Longjing (pictured; 90RMB) combines No 3 London gin with Japanese sochu and green tea. The citrus and juniper berry notes of the gin are bolstered by a wave of strong sochu before the subtle herbaceous flavours and softer greens seep in between the cracks opened by the potent alcohol. A refreshing tipple despite an ingredient list that is essentially straight booze.


The same can be said of the Rich (90RMB). Start with a Maker’s Mark old fashioned, but hold the water and don’t forget to infuse the bourbon with fermented pu’er tea that has been aged within a mandarin orange. The levels of flavour rendered through the fermentation, ageing, infusing and dilution evolve sip after sip. It’s a complex drink that goes down at bit too smooth at 90RMB a pop. Other originals are not as successful at delivering objectively pleasing flavours and sensations, but they never fail to intrigue at the very least. If the tea doesn’t get your engine going, the house-pour standard drinks (65RMB) won’t let you down, but they will make you wonder what you’re doing here.


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For a comfortable space there is nothing quite like it in the area, and Longjing is clearly well thought out with talented people behind it. Still, this tea-total concept faces an uphill battle carving out its own slice of the Sanlitun cocktail scene.

By Nick Gollner

Venue name: Longjing
Contact:
Opening hours: Open 11am-2am Mon-Fri; 1pm-2am Sat-Sun.
English address: Building 22, Courtyard 4, Gongti Bei Lu, Chaoyang district
Chinese address: 朝阳区 工体北路4号院22号楼东南角