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Dragon well tea also called Longjing tea is the most famous green tea in the world. China has a long history of drinking tea, and the tea culture is also the part of the quintessence of Chinese culture. Longjing green tea is also the calling card of Hangzhou tours.
The Stories of Dragon Well Tea
There are many legends surrounding the naming of the tea. It is named after a single well, named as you would imagine, the Dragon Well. Located in Dragon Well Village, the well was located behind the Dragon Well Temple which was built over 1,700 years ago.
Legend1 - According to the first legend, locals when digging the well found a stone shaped like a dragon and so they named the well Dragon Well.
Legend 2 - The water of the well is particularly dense and after rainstorms, the lighter rain water floats on the surface of the water and exhibits a twisting pattern which resembles the long and sinuous body of Chinese dragons. I have personally witnessed this effect.
Legend 3 - This is my personal favorite. Locals believe that in the ancient past, a benevolent dragon lived in the well. He controlled the weather and ensured that the area had enough rain. Locals would pray to the dragon and bring him offerings.
The Royal History of Dragon Well Tea
Longjing tea was granted the status of Gong Cha, or Imperial tea, in Qing Dynasty by Chinese emperor Kangxi. According to the legend, Kangxi's grandson Qianlong visited West Lake during one of his famous holidays.
He 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.
There is another legend connecting Emperor Qianlong to Longjing Tea. It is said that while visiting the temple he was watching the ladies picking the tea. He was so enamored with their movements that he decided to try it himself. While picking tea he received a message that his mother, the Empress Dowager was ill and wished his immediate return to Beijing. He shoved the leaves he had picked into his sleeve and immediately left for Beijing. Upon his return he immediately went to visit his mother. She noticed the smell of the leaves coming from his sleeves and he immediately had it brewed for her. It is said that the shape of Longjing Tea was designed to mimic the appearance of the flattened leaves that the emperor brewed for his mother.
Longjing, which literally translates as "dragon well," is said to have named after a well that contains relatively dense water, and after rain the lighter rainwater floating on its surface sometimes exhibits a sinuous and twisting boundary with the well water, which is supposed to resemble the movement of a Chinese dragon.
Legend also has it that to achieve the best taste from Longjing, water from the Dreaming of the Tiger Spring, a famous spring in Hangzhou, is to be used. The water quality of the spring now is certainly very different than before.
Varieties of Dragon Well Tea (Longjing Tea)
West Lake Longjing - This is an example of the very standard convention of naming; the West Lake is a place where this particular Longjing is grown. This Longjing, also known as West Lake Longjing, is a China Famous Tea. In fact the most famous one¡ªand is grown in the Zhejiang Province near West Lake. It is grown in a designated area of 168 square kilometers. Historically, West Lake longjing tea was divided into four sub-regions: Lion (Shi), Dragon (Long), Cloud (Yun) and Tiger (Hu). As the distinction between the sub-regions blurred over the years, this categorization has now been adjusted to Shi Feng Longjing, Mei Jia Wu Longjing, with the remaining known collectively as West Lake longjing, although the Lion variety is still considered the excellence by connoisseurs.
Bird's Tongue Longjing - First growth picked on March 21 yields a more intense aroma and taste of sweetness than the better known Ming Qian Longjing. Supply solely depends on yearly climate; therefore it can be expensive. It is not necessarily more expensive since you will need less for the cup.
Pre-Qingming Longjing - The premium early season first-picking known as Ming Qian or Pre-Qingming (or Before Ching Ming) Longjing tea requires it to be produced from the very tender first spring shoots prior to the Qingming Festival on the 5th of April each year (approximately). The production cycle is very short, only ten days before Qingming every year. Tea picked after this period is of a lower grade called Yu Qian Longjing, or "Dragon Well before the Rain". In the 10-day span when Ming Qian Longjing is produced, the sprouts at the tip of the stalks are only hand-picked by experienced workers, and then specially processed; as a result, Pre-Qingming Longjing is more expensive than "standard" Longjing tea.
Shi Feng Longjing - A type of West Lake Longjing. This tea is considered the highest quality in China. Fresh tasting, its fragrance is sharp and long lasting. Its leaves are yellowish green in color. Some unscrupulous tea makers excessively pan-fry their tea to imitate its color.
Meijiawu Longjing - A type of West Lake Longjing. This tea is renowned for its attractive jade green color. Early teas can fetch up to 6000 Yuan per kilogram (2005 data) direct from the growers.
Bai Longjing - Not a true Longjing but looks like one and is commonly attributed, it is actually a Bai Pian. It comes from Anji in the Zhejiang Province. It was created in the early 80's and is a Green tea from a race of White tea trees and is hence very unusual; it is said to contain more amino acids than ordinary Green tea.
Qian Tang Longjing - This tea comes from just outside the West Lake Longjing designated area, in Qian Tang. It is generally not as expensive as West Lake Longjing.
Longjing Tea Health Benefits
Weight Loss Aid - Do not look for a miraculous diet. We are sorry to tell you, but the truth is that there isn’t one. However, if you wish to lose body fat and still feel healthy why not drink green tea? Longjing or Dragon Well tea may be a good choice for you. It has a high concentration of green tea antioxidants, namely catechins, which combined with caffeine; allow your metabolism to work faster. This combination will make you burn fat, build muscle and still feel healthy.
Remember this tip: Try having a daily balanced diet, take your time to drink your tea cups during the day, especially at meals, and do some physical exercise and your metabolism will improve.
Calming tea - The great thing about tea is that despite its caffeine content, tea contains an important amino acid called L-Theanine that relaxes your mind. This combination will allow you to feel relaxed, calm and still remain alert and energetic during the day.
Coffee alternative: Caffeine in tea isn’t that strong and it is released progressively, during approximately 6 to 8 hours.
So rather than feeling the need to replenish your caffeine levels every couple of hours, something that will harm your heart, you will feel focused, alert and calm at the same time, for longer periods. Allow yourself to enjoy a pure moment of calmness every day.
Lower Cancer Risk - Again, EGCG green tea antioxidants are a powerful ally to fight cancer, particularly through preventive action. Drinking this tea will allow its antioxidants to boost up your metabolism making it stronger to block the growth of the enzyme, urokinase, and necessary to the development of tumors.
Protect yourself, protect your loved ones. Drink a cup of tea. Share it with your friends and family, while hosting a tea party! Have fun and take care of yourself at the same time.
Healthier Smile - Don't fight the urge to smile! Help is on the way to make horrible dental plaque disappear. As we mention above, tea has countless benefits and green tea properties are just what you need to smile again. These green tea leaves contain fluoride and minerals that will help you fight dental plaque, tooth decay and bad breath! So why not start right now? After meals, try rising with it and feel its freshness working. You will be smiling immediately!
Protect your Heart - If you are having trouble with your cholesterol and blood sugar levels, drinking tea should be the right choice for you. Longjing tea antioxidants may help you prevent cardiovascular diseases and lower blood pressure and bad cholesterol (LDL) levels. It is a fantastic way to stay healthy and enjoy pure moments of happiness.
According to local custom, the right time for picking the tea leaves is very short. The period between Qing Ming and Grain Rain (from April 5 to 21) each year is generally considered the prime time to get the highest quality Longjing tea. The brewing method we highly recommended is to put a pinch of dry, roasted tea leaves into a porcelain or transparent glass cup and pour hot water at about 85C into the cup. Sip and enjoy!
Knowledge for Selecting Longjing Tea
Longjing Tea can be bought throughout Hangzhou, but the best place to buy Longjing Tea is the Longjing (Dragon Well) area of Hangzhou. The tea there is said to be the best Longjing available. Alternatively, the tea can be purchased around other Hangzhou attractions, but the quality of the tea might not be as good.
The Hangzhou Longjing Tea Store is another good place to purchase Longjing Tea, but watch out for slightly high prices. On the other hand, quality should be better than buying from hawkers on the street.
There is much knowledge about selecting Longjing Tea. Consumers can judge from the color, aroma, taste and shape of the tea.
Color - Top-grade tea is yellowish green; Medium-grade tea’s color is mainly pure green; Low-grade tea is a dark green.
Aroma - To brew the tea, take 3g to 5g. Pour out the tea water after brewing and then smell if the tea has the strong or faint scent.
Taste - Look for an aftertaste after drinking the top-grade tea. It will taste somewhat sweet instead of bitter. (Excessive tea will also lead to acidity. So it is best to use about 5g tea).
Shape - Top-grade tea leaves look flat, even, and smooth on the tea surface with a length of about 2cm. Over-long or over-short tea will affect the quality.
Dragon Well Tea adds luster to West Lake and has become another reason for travelers to visit the lake. It is a heavenly unforgettable experience for visitors to take in the beautiful views around the lake while enjoying a cup of Dragon Well Tea.
| The Travel Guide of Hangzhou
Editor: Julius from Mildchina
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