I joined my husband on a return visit to Hangzhou, China where he came to work with colleagues at Zhejiang University. On our first visit, we had the opportunity to experience much of what makes Hangzhou a highly desired tourist destination. However, our time did not allow for a visit to either the China National Tea Museum or Longjing Village. On this visit we wanted to go to both places.
Haofei Zhou, a student from Zhejiang University, who was our translator and guide, and a taxi to drive us made this possible. It was a Monday and, to our dismay, we found the museum was closed. Longjing Village was about three miles up the mountain so we continued until we reached the highest part of the village near Lion Peak (the highest) and Dragon Well.
Stepping out of the cab, we were greeted by Yindi Wong bucket in hand, which she gave to Haofei, who dropped it into the ancient well (about 1000 years old) and brought it up filled with water with which we washed our hands.
Then we were ushered into Yindi’s home, looked at the entry area and taken to a back room, where we were shown the baskets that her family uses to gather and dry the tea. Her family has lived in this house and has been gathering and selling tea for many generations. The Dragon Well tea plants are in the Camellia plant family (Camellia sinensis). Tea cultivation is a labor-intensive business, as all picking is done by hand so that the young leaves are not damaged.
The term "Lung Ching" or "Lungching" means "Dragon Well," which takes its name from the beneficent dragon that was said to live in local wells. An ancient Chinese legend tells of a severe drought during which a local Taoist monk summoned a lucky dragon. The monk prayed to the lucky dragon and the dragon created the rain that saved the crops. Today the name "Imperial Dragonwell" is used to indicate the use of only the finest young tea leaves.
Seated in the room where the tea was prepared and served seemed almost spiritual. A gentle slightly cool breeze came through the open window from which there was a view of the entire valley below. We were told that the tea is gathered and dried three times during 21 days in March and it is the second gathering that yields leaves that are uniform in size and most desirable. I asked how she makes her living and she said that visitors taste her tea and purchase it. She also has many regular customers mostly from all over China who are regular customers and phone her or write to her and she mails them tea. She does not have a computer.
At this point we were “introduced” to the tea. There are four steps in preparing tea. Using glass for the tea preparation is very important in order to observe the leaves. The water is brought to a temperature just below boiling and a small amount is poured over the tealeaves and drained off. This is washing the tea (1). Next it is important to smell the leaves. (2) The cup is then filled with hot water and the leaves sink to the bottom. If the tea is very good the leaves turn upside down. Then only half of the tea is drunk. (3) The glass or cup is refilled and again only half of the tea is drunk three more times. (4) This tea is very good for one’s health, we were told. In fact, a Google search of “green tea” yields pages of references to current research being done worldwide attempting to demonstrate the medicinal value of green tea.
Nicole Allard notes that green tea has been around for hundreds of centuries, dating back in Chinese literature as far as 5,000 years ago. Based on some Chinese legends, stories and some literature it dates back to 2737 BC. Many stories that tell how green tea was first recognized, including: A man known as Shien Non Shei found the tea plant and tasted a leaf from it. He thought it tasted fantastic, and decided to mix it with water to make a drink out of it. He also thought that the plant had medicinal properties, and the Emperor, Shen Nung, came upon the tea when a leaf from the plant fell into a cup of hot water he was drinking at the time.
From Wikipedia: According to the legend, Kangxi's grandson Qianlong visited West Lake during one of his famous holidays. He went to the Hu Gong Temple under the Lion Peak Mountain (Shi Feng Shan) (highest mountain peak) and was presented with a cup of Longjing tea. In front of the Hu Gong Temple were 18 tea bushes. Emperor Qianlong was so impressed by the Longjing tea produced here that he conferred these 18-tea bushes special imperial status. The trees are still living and the tea they produce is auctioned annually for more money per gram than gold.
China Travel Home Page in an article by Kevin Hulsey, states: In ancient China the "Imperial Dragonwell tea" was picked for the Emperor by young virgins, who used gold scissors to cut only the first leaf, which was placed into a golden basket. Legend has it that the young virgin tea-pickers also used only their teeth to pluck the youngest leaves.
China Travel Guide says: It is the Dragon Well Tea, world famous for its "four wonders" - emerald green color, aromatic flavor, sweet taste and beautiful appearance. Because of its nutritional value and extraordinary effect on people's health, it is highly valued by both the domestic and foreign markets.
We could not resist purchasing the tea. My husband, who had not been feeling well, noted an immediate healing effect after drinking the tea. It was delicious but very expensive. Keeping the tea in the refrigerator will make it last for up to two years.
A visit to taste Dragon Well Tea is a wonderful and memorable experience.
To order tea from Yindi Wong phone: 0571-87999259
Hangzhou Travel Guide states:
Ticket Fee: CNY 35
Opening Hours :08:00am--17:00pm
Traffic: Can be reached by the bus No.27 or Tourist bus No.3 to get to the Dragon Well Tea Plantation.
DCT Tips: Recommended time for a visit: one and half hour.
Photos: Leon Keer