Sunday, November 14, 2010

Hangzhou - Long Jing Tea (龙井茶)

Long Jing tea – literally tea from the dragon’s well, hails from the West Lake area of Hangzhou and is supposed to have a history in excess of 1200 years.  The best of breed is from ShiFeng(狮峰), followed by Meijiawu (梅家坞).  We had the good fortune of visiting Meijiawu on beautiful autumn day, and admiring the endless tea plantations set against the hilly terrain.  Gorgeous.

Although it isn't tea harvesting season, our guide Jack, who has his own tea plantation, was game enough to give us a demonstration of how to "fry" tea.  It’s a hard and tedious process from harvesting the tea leaves in spring, to drying them, then frying them in a hot pan by hand with the oil of the tea flower.  Given the labour intensive process involved, it is no wonder that the best teas cost about RMB1200 for 500g.  And it is a lot of planning to do it just in time.  As the local saying goes, doing it a day early is ok, but do it late and it’s like harvesting grass. 

As the Chinese saying goes: 住在杭州,吃在广州,死在柳州。 The people of Hangzhou are known to enjoy life, and do take time out even in this day when life in China is hectic.  They work hard to make enough to be able to spend and enjoy then do it all over again.  One of their favourite pastimes is to sip tea and savour little snacks, whilst playing cards in a tree-lined garden and enjoying the temperate weather outdoors.  

As tourists, we chose to do it at an ancient teahouse (太极茶道)  and pay tourist prices – RMB60, where you get a cuppa with 3 plates of preserved plums and other similar snacks

But the ambience within an ancient setting reminiscent of all those tea houses you see in old kung fu movies is worth the treat, and of course “tea masters” donning their old garb adds to the whole atmosphere too.  

No wonder even the famous Lu Yu (which the famous teahouse in Hong Kong Luk Yu Tea House is named after) was a huge fan of tea...

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