CHINESE RECOLLECTIONS NO. 2

Hangzhou, the capital of China’s Zhejiang province, is known as the southern terminus of the ancient Grand Canal waterway, originating in Beijing. The West Lake, celebrated by poets and artists since the 9th century, encompasses islands, temples, pavilions, gardens and arched bridges.

Hangzhou is one of the most important tourist cities in China, famous for its natural beauty and historical and cultural heritages.

DRAGON WELL TEA                   Longjing tea  sometimes called by its literal translated name Dragon Well tea, is a variety of pan-roasted green tea from the area of Longjing Village near Hangzhou. It is produced mostly by hand and renowned for its high quality, earning it the China Famous Tea title. It is world famous for its “four wonders” – emerald green colour, aromatic flavour, sweet taste and beautiful appearance.  The acid soil and heavy rainfall provide the best tea growing conditions.  Hangzhou receives an average annual rainfall of 1450 mm.                   One of the most prized and expensive teas in China, dragon well green tea has a light yet unmistakable fragrance and calming taste.  The tea can be very expensive and the prices depend on the varieties, of which there are many.  The best harvests are traditionally reserved for government officials and the wealthy elite. The top grade tea is not exported.

The tea is totally hand-picked from March until October and our visit was on lst October so there was not much picking activity on the beautiful rolling hillsides. Only the delicate and complete leaves are to be picked.   The picking is done one leaf at a time by women wearing bamboo hats and carrying bamboo baskets.  In peak season they work from 6 in the morning until 6 in the evening and one person picks about 2 kgs per day and earns approximately 140 yuan per day ($30 AUD).  About 500 small family farms service the business.

A famous tea grower’s saying goes, “Tea leaves are a treasure if picked earlier, while it is useless as grass if picked too late.”

The masters bake the tea by hand using specially made iron pans. The traditional method of baking Dragon Well Tea has many ways – grasp, toss, shake, pile, throw, buckle, press, and grind. Experienced masters well know how and when to use certain movements according to the temperature, colour and moisture content of the leaves. Usually, Longjing is graded using a scale of six levels from superior quality to low quality. Different levels of tea have different baking methods.

Dragon Well Tea is infused in glass so that the beauty and movement of the leaves rising and falling in the water can be enjoyed.

Tea shops at the night market in Hangzhou –

 

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