Well folks, as promised, here is the whole other story. On my last blog about The Grand Canals of Suzhou, I mentioned it was a jumping-off point and a short drive to Hangzhou, one of the great green tea-producing areas of China.
Hangzhou is situated on the banks of West Lake, a popular tourist destination today and as it was centuries ago. The lake influenced many poets, painters and philosophers throughout Chinese history.Confucius was one of those inspired by the area. I’m sure many of his teachings were inspired by the natural beauty of West Lake and the surrounding hills. These fertile hills have been cultivated for centuries to produce the most popular green tea in China, Longjing tea, also called by its literal translated name, Dragon Well tea.
According to local legend, Longjing tea was granted the status of imperial tea by the Kangxi Emperor during the Qing Dynasty. As the legend goes, the Emperor’s grandson, the Qianlong Emperor, visited West Lake during one of his holidays. He went to the Hu Gong Temple under the Lion Peak Mountain and was presented with a cup of this tea. In front of the temple were 18 Longjing tea bushes. The Qianlong Emperor was so impressed by the tea produced here he conferred these 18 tea bushes special imperial status. The trees are still living today, and the tea they produce is auctioned annually for a higher price per gram than gold.
Dragon Well tea is said to have been named after a well that contains relatively dense water. After rain, the lighter rainwater floating on its surface sometimes exhibits a sinuous and twisting boundary with the well water, which resembled the movement of a dragon. Legend also has it that to achieve the best taste of the tea, water from the Dreaming of the Tiger Springs, a famous spring in Hangzhou, is to be used.
My visit to the area was an exploration into what makes China’s teas special. Green tea in Chinese culture is as important as rice. Most, if not all, Chinese drink it every hour of the day. One will notice locals with their thermoses or water bottles filled with fresh tea leaves and other herbal supplements. This mixture is sipped throughout the day … hot or cold. Dragon Well is the highest quality of green tea. It is produced by hand and pan-roasted by hand. And unlike other beverages, green tea has many health benefits. Dragon Well tea, in particular, contains large amounts of vitamin C and amino acids, as well as a high concentration of catechins (a natural phenol and antioxidant).
Not only did I leave the area much more educated about the cultivation and production of green tea but also with an appreciation for its value and benefits. The warmth and friendliness of the farmers also left a lasting impression. As Confucius once said, “Tea tempers the spirit and harmonizes the mind, dispels lassitude and relieves fatigue, awakens thought and prevents drowsiness, lightens or refreshes the body, and clears the perceptive faculties.” So to that I say: Drink up, live healthier and let the Dragon move you.
— Bill Lodzinski, director of sales
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