Sunday, April 15, 2012

Longjing Village

During our trip to Hangzhou, we arranged a tour to learn more about the tea processing in the area. Since moving to China, we have begun to drink a lot more tea, but honestly, knew very little about it. We were fortunate enough to connect with an American tour guide named Danielle. The only thing more impressive than her fluent Mandarin was her knowledge of tea.
The area surrounding Hangzhou produces some of the best tea in China, making it the ideal spot to learn a little more about the process. Just outside Hangzhou is where Longjing or Dragon Well tea is grown. Longjing tea is a variety of green tea, believed to be the best in China, which also makes it the most expensive.

Most varieties of Longjing  are still plucked and processed entirely by hand.

 After the tea is plucked, it must rest in a bamboo basket for 8-10 hours to allow for at least 30% of the water content to evaporate.

A tea master will then use an electric steel pan to heat the tea. This roasting is done entirely by hand using a set of eight specific hand movements: grasp, toss, shake, pile, throw, buckle, press, and grind. Experienced tea masters know well how and when to use the certain movements according to the temperature, color and moisture content of tea leaves.

Once the tea has been roasted, it is placed back into the bamboo baskets to cool. This entire process is then repeated. The resulting tea leaves should be flat and have pointed edges.

Tea plucked before the Qingming festival is called Mingqian. This tea is generally sweeter and lighter in flavor than teas plucked later, and therefore fetches higher prices in the marketplace.

After touring the tea village, we stopped by the tea museum for a tea tasting, where we sampled Longjing which had been plucked just days prior.

And of course, we went home with some tea. How could we resist after seeing the preparation which went into each leaf?

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