Longjing Tea, West Lake Gragon Well Tea
As a type of green tea gaining a great reputation all over the world, Longjing tea grows near West Lake, Hangzhou of Zhejiang Province, and is characterized by its green color, delicate aroma, mellow taste and beautiful shape.
With a long history of over 1,200 years, Longjing tea was named after the Dragon Well in Longjing Village which lies at the north-west foot of Wengjiashan Mountain in the west part of West Lake. Its history can date back to the Tang Dynasty (618-907), and it has been famous in China since the Song Dynasty （960-1279）, prevailing in the Ming (1368-1644) and Qing (1644-1911) dynasties.
Legends of Longjing Tea
The superior geographical environment and good quality water resources around Lion Peak (Shifeng) Mountain, Longjing Village, Five Cloud (Wuyun) Mountain, Tiger Running (Hupao) Temple and Meijiawu have contributed much to the growth of Longjing tea, just as the saying goes that “Longjing Tea is the best among all of the teas in the world, and the best Longjing tea is produced in Lion Peak Mountain”.
Thanks to Emperor Qianlong of the Qing Dynasty (1644-1911), Shifeng Longjing tea has earned a high reputation. The legend went that the Emperor Qianlong visited Lion Peak Mountain during his Hangzhou travels, and he saw some ladies picking the tea at the foot of the mountain. He was so interested in their movements that he decided to have a go himself. While picking the tea, he received the news of his mother’s illness, so he carelessly put the leaves in his right sleeve and left Hangzhou for Beijing. He visited his mother immediately upon his arrival in Beijing, and Empress Dowager smelt the fragrance of the leaves from his sleeves and wanted to have a taste. Emperor Qianlong ordered it to be brewed for her, and she found herself completely refreshed after drinking a cup of tea, and she even praised it as a remedy for all ills. From then on, Shifeng Longjing tea was listed as the tribute tea especially for Empress Dowager.
Picking and Making Techniques
Both the picking and making processes of Longjing tea are elaborate in order to make sure it retains its high quality and original flavor, according to which Longjing tea is classified into six grades (from superior to the fifth grade). Much importance is emphasized on the timeliness of the leaves being picked, and the tea leaves which are picked before the Qingming Festival or after the Grain Rain Period are considered to be the top grade, while the ones picked before the Grain Rain Period or after the Qingming Festival are considered worthless.
The process of making Longjing tea is very strict; it usually employs iron pans for baking the tea, and it involves ten techniques based on different temperatures and moisture, including shaking, grasping, buckling, pressing, grinding, rubbing and throwing. A skillful tea-making master knows exactly how and when to use a certain technique according to the changes of moisture and temperature.
How to Make a Cup of Longjing Tea
Longjing tea is a delicious beverage with potential health benefits owing to its rich antioxidants; however, it’s also rich in caffeine which could deleteriously affect some tea drinkers. Here are some effective steps to fully enjoy Longjing tea without suffering from its caffeine side effects.
Put Tea Leaves into the Cup: Get some Longjing tea, a glass cup and a bottle of mineral spring water ready, and then put three grams of tea into the glass.
Infuse the Tea: Infuse water (of 80°C to 90°C) into the cup (the leaves and water are on a pro rata basis, usually 1:3) and gently swirl the cup, and then pour out the first infusion of tea.
Pour Hot Water on the Tea Leaves: Infuse water (of 80°C to 90°C) into the cup, and wait for seven minutes until the tea leaves have dilated owing to the absorption of the water.
Drink the Tea: Steep the tea for another three minutes until it cools down, and you can enjoy a perfect cup of Longjing tea.
I updated this article on November 11, 2013
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