Longjing tea, also popularly referred to by its literally Chinese-translated name as Dragon well tea, is among the most delicious things to taste in China. The sprawling and beautiful Longjing tea plantation is among the most gorgeous must-visit places in China for ardent tea lovers. Grown in Hangzhou, Longjing tea or Dragon well China tea is among the most famous teas in the world.
To take it a notch further, tea lovers can also visit the West Lake Hangzhou Longjing Tea Museum in Zhenjiang. Visitors will get a chance to see how significant and awesome tea plantation China is all about. For now, let’s dig a bit deeper into Longjing tea plantation in Hangzhou.
A Brief History of Longjing Tea Plantation
Before you plan a trip to Hangzhou or fly down on last-minute flights, know a little bit about the spectacular Longjing tea plantation. There is an interesting legend behind how and why this remarkable green tea was granted the status of imperial tea in China.
According to legend, the Qing Dynasty Emperor Qianlong was visiting tea plantations in the region. Fascinated by the harvest activities, the Emperor asked to join in. While he was picking the tea leaves, he received word that this mother had taken ill. Hurriedly, he stuffed his sleeves with the leaves he had picked before taking off to see his mother in Beijing.
When his mother smelled the fragrance of the tea leaves in the Emperor’s sleeves, he ordered tea to be made of them and served to his mother. Reportedly, she made a complete recovery and prompted the Emperor to label Longjing tea as imperial tea and the cure for all ailments.
But why is it called Longjing tea? Literally translated to mean Dragon Well, Longjing tea is named after a famous well containing dense water. When it rains, the comparatively light rainwater tends to float above the well’s dense water. It’s twisty, snake-like movements resemble that of a Chinese dragon. Hence, the name.
How is Longjing Tea Produced?
The process of making Longjing tea is a tedious but interesting one. During harvest season, scored of baskets containing Longjing tea leaves are left out to dry in the sun. After this drying process, the tea leaves are dry-fried in a large wok until they become brittle enough to be broken if touched. This entire process gives Longjing tea its characteristic flat shape. Like in other white and green teas, Longjing tea experiences minimal oxidation. When brewed, Longjing tea gives a green-yellow colored tea with a strong flavor. It will leave a mildly bitter after-taste.
What’s Special About Longjing Tea?
There is good reason Longjing tea is so pricey. Like other super-fine Chinese green teas, Longjing tea is loaded with health benefits. It is replete with amino acids, vitamin C, and contains a large number of catechins. Longjing tea plantations produce various types of green teas. Infused tea leaves happen to be of the finest quality Longjing tea. Uniform in appearance, these are long, tender tea leaves. Lower quality Longjing tea leaves will change color to deep green or bluish upon brewing. You can see as many varieties as you wish during your Hangzhou tea tour.
How to Drink Longjing Tea?
This is extremely important to know before you book those business class flights for a tour of Longjing tea plantations in Hangzhou. Generally, there are two distinct ways that Longjing tea or Dragon Well tea is served in Hangzhou. An informal and most common way is to serve Longjing tea in a large mug or glass with hot water poured directly onto them. Be sure to keep topping your glass with more water to dilute the initial strong Longjing tea taste.
There is also a traditional and refined way to enjoy Longjing tea taste as well. This can be done in any of the high-end tea houses or at the China National Tea Museum branches. The formal ceremony entails a complicated process led by a skilled tea master who’s studied the art of brewing the perfect cup of green tea for years on end.
For a unique ‘Zen’ take of the Longjing tea taste, you can head to the famous Lingyan Temple. Here, this popular tea is grown, brewed, and consumed only by monks. Reportedly, the tea aids the monks in their quest for enlightenment.
However, brewing isn’t the only way to appreciate Longjing tea taste. Several authentic Hangzhou dishes are known to flavor certain dishes with tea leaves. For example, the classic Longjing stir-fried prawns. Visit the popular Maocao Wu restaurant to taste this and other such dishes that use fresh tea leaves produced in the Longjing tea plantations in Hangzhou.
Longjing Tea Leaves’ Picking Time
Spring is the ideal time for picking the popular Longjing tea leaves. The tea picking season generally lasts from March to late summer. You can either buy Longjing tea leaves from the farmers themselves or pick your own Longjing tea plantation leaves. If you wish to pick your own leaves, there are two ways to do this. One way is to sign up for a Longjing Hangzhou tea tour that includes tea-picking and an English-speaking guide. The other way is to ask for permission from the farmers to join in and pick tea leaves alongside them. You will, of course, need to pay them for the leaves you pick from their Longjing tea plantation.
Which Longjing Tea Plantations in Hangzhou to Visit and How to get there?
There are plenty of Longjing tea plantations to visit during your trip to Hangzhou. The most popular ones are listed below.
- Longjing Village is the best of all Longjing tea plantations in West Lake Hangzhou. Believed to be the origin of this iconic Chinese green tea, Longjing village is surrounded by majestic mountains and over 800 acres of Longjing tea plantations. You can visit the Longjing Mountainous Park to enjoy Longjing tea taste, culture, manufacturing process, and other such things.
How to reach Longjing Village?
Located 10 km from downtown Hangzhou, Longjing Village can be reached by bus or car. If you take the bus, you will reach in about an hour. If you drive there, you can make it in about half that time.
- Meijiawu Village is also among the best places to enjoy a Longjing Hangzhou tea tour. It’s been visited by a former Prime Minister of China in addition to VIPs from other countries as well. A major highlight here is the store that sells tax-free Longjing tea leaves! Join the Dragon Well Tea Culture Exploration Program to enjoy Meijiawu Longjing tea plantations to their fullest and best.
How to reach Meijiawu Village?
Like Longjing Village, Meijiawu Village can also be reached by buses or taxis. If you take the bus, you will reach the Longjing tea plantations in Meijiawu in about an hour and 10 minutes. If you drive or take a taxi, you will reach between 30 to 40 minutes.
Best Time to Visit Longjing Tea Plantation
You can book cheap flights to Hangzhou for a tour of its Longjing tea plantations any time of the year. However, if you wish to witness the tea-picking, visit during March-April. You can even join in! To enjoy tea brewed from the freshly-picked Longjing tea plantations, visit during the months of April and May. You can also visit in the winter to enjoy sweeping views of lush green Longjing tea plantations covered in a blanket of stark white snow.