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Saturday, 01 May 2021

Hangzhou & Shanghai, China - Page 2

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Emperor’s Dragon

China is renowned for its production (and consumption) of high-quality green tea. As we left Hangzhou’s West Lake and drove about twenty minutes into the mountains, we were about to discover the best tea in the country: Longjing Tea, or “Dragon Well Tea.”


The hillsides of the Longjing region were covered in green tea bushes, and within the rows we could make out the pointed yellow hats first, then the people under them. We saw hundreds of men and women in traditional straw hats, wide brimmed and pointed at the top, in the fields with their bags, picking the tea leaves. Attired in what looked, from a distance, almost like formal kimonos, a small army picked tea in the fields. Going from West Lake and the surrounding gardens into this mountainous area, we’d just driven from one paradise to another. We’d entered China’s “capital of tea.” Then we got a closer look by entering the rows of tea bushes and picking some for ourselves.


Longjing or “dragon well” green tea is the most exclusive in China—and perhaps the most exclusive green tea in the world. The workers on the tea plantation only pick the smallest, most tender top two leaves on each section. Longjing tea used to be harvested and produced solely for the Emperor himself. During Imperial China, nobody enjoyed the exclusive Longjing tea except the Emperor and his elite guests.


We just happened to be here in late March, during the annual tea harvest—one of the area’s most anticipated events and a must-experience for tea drinkers. It was the perfect time to visit, the tea leaves ripe for the picking—and at their freshest and tastiest. Right off the bush, the leaves tasted sweet and succulent.


After we picked and tasted some of the freshly picked tea leaves, we went to an area of large metal woks and saw how the tea leaves were lightly roasted—immediately after picking, so the green leaves wouldn’t oxidize or ferment. We tasted them again; after roasting, the leaves were slightly crunchy and tasted something like a delicate sunflower seed. We watched the tea leaves go from bush to bag to wok, then we went into a ceremonial tearoom for a taste of tea as it is intended.


In our tearoom at the Longjing Tea Plantation, we came to know why Longjing is considered by many to be the best green tea in the world. A green tea professional (a women with a PhD in tea) lectured us about the Dragon Well Tea as we drank. She suggested drinking eight to twenty cups of green tea each day not only for taste, but for health purposes. Good green works as a natural detox, helps with weight control, and is good for general health. (Not to mention how healthy such prescriptions are for the local tea economy.) The tea was so fragrant and tasty that, after making several cups with the same leaves, we could eat the wet tea leaves and they tasted great. This green sold itself.


After our tea experience, we went to a local market and restaurant that served the plantation workers and community and ate lunch. As usual, many dishes shared on a lazy Susan. Chinese beer was served, but in this location, everyone opted for the freshly picked and roasted Imperial green tea. And with good reason.


With an earthy, sweet fragrance and taste, we agreed that the fresh Longjing “dragon well” tea was the best tea we’d tasted . . . even if perhaps elevated by our unique experience.


Between the West Lake, the surrounding gardens, and the tea plantation harvest and ceremony, it’s safe to say that Hangzhou left a pleasing taste in our mouths.


(Page 2 of 5)
Last modified on Saturday, 01 May 2021

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