Dragon Well Tea
Without a doubt, the most famous Chinese Green Tea, Dragon Well Tea, or Longjing Tea as it is known in Chinese, is famous not only for its unique flavor, but also for the many legends which surround it. The tea is grown in the West Lake area of Hangzhou, in Zhejiang Province. Often called the national drink of China, Dragon Well Tea is often given to heads of state and there are a few plantations which produce tea exclusively for the heads of the Chinese Government. These exclusive teas are NEVER sold to the public and the plantations are walled and patrolled by armed guards and dogs. If you find someone claiming to sell tea intended for the President of China, they are lying. Every leaf is accounted for at these plantations.
Legends 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.
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.
The well’s water 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.
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.
Dragon Well Tea has been produced in Hangzhou for well over a thousand years, but it did not become famous until the Qing Dynasty. The second emperor of the Qing Dynasty, Emperor Kangxi visited Hangzhou several times and thought highly of the tea. His grandson, the third emperor of the Qing Dynasty, Emperor Qianlong made the tea truly famous and its popularity has never ebbed. During one of his trips to the area, Emperor Qianlong was watching the locals picking the tea at the foot of Shi Feng Mountain and joined in. While picking the tea he received word that his mother was ill and requested him to return to Beijing. He put the tea leaves he picked into his sleeve and quickly went back to Beijing to visit his mother. When visiting his mother, she noticed the smell of the leaves emanating from his sleeves. He remembered the tea and brewed the leaves for her. They liked the tea so much that it became a tribute tea to the imperial court. It is rumored that the flat shape of the tea is created to resemble the flattened leaves found in Emperor Qianlong’s sleeves. There were 18 tea trees that the emperor claimed as tribute teas for his personal consumption. These trees can be visited today and are still producing tea. The tea is incredibly expensive and is more valuable per gram than gold. These leaves are only sold at auction. If you get a chance to visit Hangzhou, visit the 18 Imperial Tea Trees. It is the center of a really beautiful tea garden and plantation.
Being that the tea is so famous, the small production area is not able to keep up with demand, and so there is a HUGE amount of fake Dragon Well Teas out there. These are usually produced in Yunnan, Guizhou, Sichuan, and Guangdong Provinces. The quality and flavors of these teas are a weak imitation of the actual tea. Without experience, it is difficult to tell the difference. If you tried both teas together, you would notice the difference immediately. When buying tea, make sure that your dealer deals directly with the tea producers. This way you will not get cheated. Also, anyone claiming to sell the teas intended for the President of China or from the 18 Imperial Tea Trees is lying. It is virtually impossible to obtain these teas, unless you are personal friends with China’s president, and if by some chance a dealer did get their hands on some, they would certainly be drinking it themselves, or selling them at auction, and not on a website or in a store.
Visit our other Chinese Tea varieties pages:
Bi Luo Chun Tea
Huangshan Mao Feng Tea page
Liu An Gua Pian Tea page
Xin Yang Mao Jian Tea
Tai Ping Hou Kui Tea
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