Longjing tea or Dragon Well tea is China’s most famous tea and is drunk by Emperors of the past and high officials of the present. In fact it was made the imperial tea by Emperor Kangxi though it became famous only after beloved Emperor Qian Long who loved touring Hangzhou and the Jiangnan region during his rein fell in love with the tea. I decided to follow the path through the fields of Longjing tea in the same route that Emperor Qian Long once took.
To this day, Xi Hu Longjing Tea is hand harvested and are divided into grades – Superior (qiqiang), Special (queshe), then 1 to 5. The tea is known as the national drink of China and is offered to head of states and foreign dignitaries. In fact, a portion of the superior grade is specially reserved for the high government officials in China and cannot be sold to the public.
The story goes that Emperor Qian Long went to the Hu Gong Temple under the Lion Peak Mountain (Shi Feng Shan) 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 with most of the tea during the special harvest to get Ming Qian Longjing only reserved for the government.
Longjing Tea is made up of the tender shoots of the tea bud. So in one year there are only 6 weeks of harvest. The first 2 weeks of harvest are for the high grade teas while the remaining 4 weeks are for the low grade longjing tea. Every step is laboriously hand done. An experience tea picker will only be able to harvest 2kg in 10 hours since every leave is specially picked for the shoots. Then since they are baked in pans by hand, the tea masters can only roast 1kg of tea a day! The finally water from Hupao spring is used to infuse the tea leaves, making the perfect cup of tea. No wonder it’s so expensive!
Do note that Xi Hu Long Jing Tea is in limited quantity and thus expensive and there are a lot of fake longjing teas out there. Best to have a local to guide you through the buying process and be prepared to fork out quite a bit. I bought some for close family as it’s very good for the heart, has high anti-oxidants and I heard has sliming effect too.