The Legend of Dragon Well Green Tea (Longjing Cha / 龙井茶)

“Longjing” means “dragon well” if directly translated from Chinese. It is said to have been named after a well at Dragon Well Temple in the Dragon Well village in Hangzhou that contains relatively more dense water. After a rain, the lighter rainwater would float on the surface of the well water, sometimes it exhibits a twisting boundary which resembles the movement of a Chinese dragon. Others said the underground water clashed with the water on the surface, which is the reason why there’s the twisting boundary. Also, people in the past believed that this well was connected to the ocean and that there was a dragon inside. However, the Dragon Well tea neither was made with the water from the well nor grew near the well.

To begin with the tea culture in Hangzhou, it started in the period of  Sui and Tang dynasties (589-907 CE).  During the two Jin dynasties (before the Sui and Tang dynasties), because of the construction of the local temple, Linyin Temple, Buddism and Taoism beliefs and activities had, therefore, became more and more popular and mainstream.  Additionally, tea has been therefore planted and spread as more and more temples were constructed. In Sui dynasty, the Grand Canal connecting the capital Beijing and Hangzhou was built, which allowed a dramatic increase in trading in Hangzhou. At that time, tea from Hangzhou became well-known, and lead to a rapid growth in the local tea production.

In Qing dynasty, the emperor Kangxi granted Dragon Well tea an imperial tea status. Emperor Kangxi’s grandson, the emperor Qianlong, also of Qing dynasty, visited a temple near the West Lake in Hangzhou to watch the ladies picking the tea. He was so enamoured with their movements that he decided to try it himself. While picking tea he received a message that his mother was ill and hoped that he could immediately return to Beijing. He shoved the leaves he had picked into his sleeve and immediately left for Beijing. When he arrived in Bejing, he went to see his mother directly. She noticed the smell of the leaves coming from his sleeves and asked him what’s in his sleeves. Qianlong then realised he had brought some Dragon Well tea leaves back. He had it brewed for his mother. After she drank the tea, she felt much better and soon recovered.

The Dragon Well green tea has a history of over a thousand years and nowadays, it is one of the most famous and prestigious Chinese teas. I will write about how to drink tea in a Chinese way and how a good cup of Dragon Well tea tastes like in a future post! 🙂

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