China / Hangzhou

Longjing Tea: An amazing trip to remember

Longjing tea – Introduction

Our quest for finding great tea has been an ongoing obsession for many years. Whenever we have been in Asia we have sought out the best tea merchants to explore their offerings whether it be white tea, green tea, yellow tea, black tea, oolong tea or the famous and utterly delicious Pu’er tea that grows in the mountains in the very south of China (Yunnan Province) on the border with Laos, Vietnam and Myanmar.

We were lucky enough some years ago to spend some time in Shanghai where a close friend was part of the Australian diplomatic mission there. We spent an exciting two weeks visiting restaurants with locals from Shanghai who were eager to show us their favourite places (which covered a very good range of regional cuisines).

When we mentioned our love of Longjing tea a visit was arranged to one of the leading tea growers of that region. Longjing lies to the south-west of the city of Hangzhou which, in turn is approximately 300 kilometres south-west of Shanghai. A mini-bus was arranged and after an early start we were headed down the busy freeway to Hangzhou.

On arrival we asked if it would be possible to see the mythical West Lake which dominates this city. It was no problem so we sat by the lake and shared a drink while admiring the view of the mountains on the other side which we would soon be driving through.

West Lake with the Longjing mountains in full view – ⓒ

After admiring the view, we headed for the other side of the lake to find the village of Longjing. Here we were shown the famous Dragon Well from which the tea takes its name.

Longjing tea – our visit

Longjing mountains
The Longjing mountains – ⓒ
Dragon Well
The Dragon Well in the village – ⓒ

The well was well and truly covered over but there was a bucket and rope which you could use to raise some water from the well. We did this and were delighted with the purity and minerality of the water.

The tea plantation of the tea grower was not very far away, so we were taken there to show us the process used to pick the precious tea leaves. The tea bushes were a lush green and very well-tended.

The tea plantation where our leaves were picked
Longjing tea plantation – ⓒ
Longjing tea bush
Longjing tea bush close up – ⓒ
Picking the tea
Picking the tea – ⓒ

Soon we met up with the tea grower who invited us to his house to observe the process of converting freshly picked tea leaves into the product that is Longjing tea. Luckily we had our Chinese speaking friend from Australia with us so that we could have everything interpreted. The first step was to place the tea leaves on circular bamboo trays for about half a day to eliminate some of the moisture.

A bamboo tray for the initial drying
A bamboo tray for the initial drying – ⓒ
Tea about to be heated
Tea about to be heated – ⓒ
The tea master explaining the drying process
The tea master explaining the drying process – ⓒ

The tea master places the semi-dried leaves in a wok and started rubbing them gently to ensure they were evenly heated.

Drying the Longjing tea
Drying the Longjing tea in a wok – ⓒ

Occasionally he would toss the leaves to turn them and then keep up the rubbing action.

Drying the Longjing tea
Drying the Longjing tea – ⓒ

When he was finished his daughter made us a fresh cup of the tea and as can be seen in the photo below, the blade like leaves were rehydrated into their original shape. The tea was a revelation – it was, unsurprisingly, the best Longjing we had ever experienced.

A glass of tea for us to try
A glass of tea for us to try – ⓒ

After this experience we were anxious to take as much as possible home with us. We examined a bag of freshly dried leaves and placed our order.

Examining the Longjing tea
Examining the dried Longjing tea to purchase – ⓒ
An even closer look
An even closer look – ⓒ

The tea master weighed our order on a very simple, yet effective contraption that you can see in the photo below.

Weighing out our order
Weighing out our order – ⓒ

We had a great day which included a meal at his daughter’s home restaurant (common in China) with a freshly killed chicken and fish that had been caught in West Lake that morning.

It certainly was a day to remember!

There is quite a good description with more detail about Longjing tea at this site.

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