Over the weekend I had the opportunity to visit one of the most exotic locations in the province of Hangzhou: green tea village. Situated on the outskirts of the West Lake, the village spans as far as the eyes can see, and this has been both a therapeutic and culturally meaningful trip for me. For AU students who are looking for an adventure in China, Hangzhou tea village is highly recommended. Particularly as a tea-lover, as I find myself constantly looking for new sources of refreshing tea leaves.
The tea village is a vast expanse area featuring a special type of green tea known as Longjing tea. Being one of the four famous tea types in China, Longjin is a favorite of many local Chinese and is exported throughout China and worldwide. I was blown away at the first sight of green bushes reaching into mountain tops and in valleys. In many ways the natural beauty of the tea plants felt like a scenery designed for tea tasting.
After admiring the vast expanse of tea plants, I walked into a small tea shop within the village. The shop was a simple building with small rooms to sample the tea. Each room with giant oak tables that gave the ambience much elegance. After sitting down in a room, a tea connoisseur showed us the various Longjing tea available. In bamboo baskets he laid out the year’s freshest tea leaves and asked us to predict which tea leaves were of the finest quality.
Some of the key features I learned regarding the physical quality of green tea:
- Shape of the tea leaves.
- Size of the tea leaves.
- Color of the tea leaves.
Whereas leaves that are broader and wider indicate maturity, smaller and finer leaf tips are more tender and flavorful, indicating a higher quality. A lighter color of the leaves reveals a fresher quality, whereas darker colors may have been more oxidized overtime. Overall, the best combination of the three qualities showed the best batch of leaves.
After examining the leaves, we were invited to taste test the four batches of tea, ranking the taste of the tea from the most bitter to the most refreshing. Depending on the harvest season, different variation in leaf size and the characteristics of the weather, each of the batches tasted different. Chinese green tea connoisseurs divide tea quality into two categories. One type of tea leaves harvested before the traditional “Qing Ming” festival and another harvested after the festival. The tea leaves harvested before the festival are considered “before-rain” leaves and considered to be of higher quality than that of the “post-rain” leaves. When asked the reason for the contrast in quality, the local tea expert shared that post-rain leaves grow much faster and thus the tea itself lacks the complexity in flavor as the before-rain leaves.
We wrapped up our trip with a visit to the local green tea museum that featured China’s history and love for tea. In fact, there is a university degree dedicated to the study of tea! For tea-lovers worldwide, a trip to Hangzhou, China is an excellent way to brush up on your knowledge and enthusiasm for tea.