A getaway for tea lovers
China is recognised as the birthplace of tea, and its tea culture is regarded as one of the world’s most elaborate and sophisticated. The drink continues to be an integral part of Chinese culture, and Hangzhou is a great spot to explore some of the best brews. If the idyllic surroundings of Hangzhou, with its poetic rivers, ancient mountains and calm lakes, aren’t enough to lure you in for a visit, its sprawling, picturesque tea plantations and spirited tea culture surely will.
Brush up on your Tea Knowledge
There are various varieties of Longjing tea, namely Shing Feng, Xi Hu, and Qiantang Longjing, as well as many fakes to watch out for. However, in its best form, Longjing tea is lauded for its “four wonders”: colour, aroma, sweetness and aesthetic beauty.
Only whole, delicate leaves, picked during different times of the year, are used in this tea. The leaves are roasted in a large iron pan almost immediately after picking, which allows for the oxidation process to be halted, leaving behind a tea light in taste, aroma and colour. However, the task of roasting is an elaborate and subtle one, where temperature, colour and the moisture content of the leaves are carefully considered. After roasting, the final product is graded on a scale of one to six.
It is said that Longjing tea is best brewed with water from Hangzhou’s Hupao Spring, also known as the Running Tiger Spring. The ideal temperature for brewing is 75 to 80 degrees Celsius in a Yixing clay teapot made from porous clay from Jiangsu province. It has become trendy to serve the tea in a clear glass so you can appreciate the tea leaves dancing in your cup.
Consider a visit to the Hangzhou National Tea Museum. This sprawling venue is China’s only tea museum and offers a series of installations to educate you on the history of tea in China, as well as its production and preparation. Don’t miss a trip to the Kaleidoscope Hall, where you can view and learn about over 300 different varieties of tea.
Where to Go for a Cup of Hangzhou’s Finest
The tea ceremony. Photo by fancy.yan / Getty Images
Longjing tea is served all over Hangzhou, but it is best experienced in one of the city’s traditional teahouses or in Millennium Resort Hangzhou‘s CHA Bar. The bar is in stark contrast to the old-school tea spots in town, decked out as it is with plush modern sofas, floor-to-ceiling windows and a fully-fledged tipple-filled bar. However, despite its contemporary appearance, CHA Bar prides itself on its authentic Longjing tea service, where the lauded tea is mindfully prepared before you and served in elegant glassware.
For a more traditional atmosphere, venture out of the hotel to one of the city’s many teahouses. Hu Pan Ju Teahouse, located in Six Garden Park, started pouring tea in 1998 and has quickly become one of the most well-known teahouses in the area – for its beautiful location with front-row views of West Lake, and because it only serves the most premium teas. The sprawling multi-storied house offers private rooms, outdoor seating and small bites to pair with your brews.
Chenghuang Teahouse, on the other hand, is housed in an imposing traditional structure on Wushan Hill, overlooking the Wu Mountain. It’s a contemplative spot decked out in Ming Dynasty-style furnishings, and perfect for a drawn-out meal, complete with a pot of tea and their famous sweet Wushan Hill Crisp Cake.
Go Straight to the Origin
By definition, Longjing tea has to hail from the Zhejiang province, with the most notable tea-growing district being Hangzhou’s West Lake region. One of the most famous areas where Longjing tea is grown is West Lake’s Hangzhou Meijiawu Tea Village. This ancient village is 600 years old and is home to 160 teahouses (quite abundant for a town of 500 households), and 800,000 square metres of tea plantations. Springtime is when most of the leaves are harvested, and during this season you’ll have the chance to head out onto the plantations and pick your own tea leaves. Apart from sipping on tea, taste traditional dishes that are cooked in tea, such as carp soup and duck stew.
Another notable spot is Longjing Imperial Tea Garden, which is flanked by elegant Jiangnan-style gardens filled with winding paths and perfectly pruned foliage. This peaceful spot is home to a restaurant, several teahouses, tea plantations fed by spring water and even a small museum. It’s said that the Qianlong Emperor, sixth emperor of the Qing dynasty, was such a fan of this space that he personally planted over a dozen tea plants, which are still on display on the grounds.
Hangzhou’s peaceful surroundings are amplified by its rich tea culture, which forces you to slow down and take in the beauty of the plant. With a plethora of teahouses, tea-steeped cuisine and graceful tea fields, Hangzhou proves to be the ultimate destination for lovers of green tea.