The Essence of Tea in Hangzhou
If you look just beyond the majestic West Lake in Hangzhou, China, you’ll see a mountainous silhouette casting a shadow on the horizon….this is where the famed Longjing Tea (aka Dragon Well) is grown. Longjing Tea is the best-of-the-best when it comes to green tea, this is due in part to its fragrant aroma, sweet taste, beautiful appearance and of course, its vibrant green color.
Dragon Well Tea became so coveted due in part to a visit by the Emperor Quianlong during the Quig Dynasty. The Emperor was so impressed by the tea grown in this region of Hangzhou that he ordered it to become “Imperial Tea.” For a long period of time, Dragon Well Tea was reserved for the ruling class of the dynasties.
Tea in Hangzhou, as well as throughout China, is serious business. Something I learned and found fascinating is that some of the most prized tea, is highly compressed, packaged and stored for decades…even centuries. This aged tea, similar to fine wine, is aged and rarely consumed, but rather traded as if it were a piece of art…increasing in value year-after-year.
One of the many must-do activities while visiting Hangzhou is to visit a tea house and experience a traditional tea ceremony, by a highly trained tea master. It’s a Zen-like experience you’ll not soon forget (watch the video above and you’ll see what I mean).
One of the most exclusive teahouses in all of Hangzhou is, Hu Pan Ju (or Lakeside Teahouse). This teahouse is located right on the banks of West Lake, providing patrons with the most extraordinary views, while sipping the most extraordinary tea.
I was with a group of people, so we had a private room in which we would also enjoy lunch. Prior to the tea master entering the room, a tea master apprentice came in to ready the workstation, complete with traditional silk tablecloths and adornments, which included a beautiful lotus flower and seedpod arrangement. Once completed, the scene was ready for the tea master to enter. This person spent years studying the art of making the perfect cup of tea. Taking years to learn the subtleties of tea-making may seem excessive, but as I mentioned, tea is serious business in China.
If you’ve ever been to a tea ceremony in Hangzhou, please leave a comment below and share your experience.