Longing for Longjing

By Max Walters (City Weekend)
Updated: 2007-05-29 09:49

Tea as a drink prospered in China during the Tang Dynasty, and tea drinking has become an essential aspect of Chinese lifestyle. Visiting Hangzhou, one cannot avoid the presence of Longjing, with fragrant leaves in light to dark green and a refreshing taste when brewed.

On this visit to Hangzhou, described by many as "a heaven on earth," we ventured to discover the China National Tea Museum, in our quest to understand Longjing, or, "Dragon Well." The abundance of towers and deafening street noises that welcomed us into the city made us wonder whether we had purely circled the countryside and arrived back in Shanghai. However, as we neared, bird song and a cool refreshing breeze greeted us on arrival to Longjing Lu.

The China National Tea Museum is located among the tea plantations around the Dragon Well, between Wulao Peak and Jinqing Hill. It consists of several picturesque houses, representative of traditional English cottages connected by winding stone paths and streams gently flowing over stepping stones. Among these are the Exhibition Building and the Tea Customs Garden. The Exhibition Building consists of six show halls showcasing different aspects of Chinese tea culture, including the varying methods of tea preparation, picking to serving, as well as showcasing different tea making utensils. We found out that the best grade of Longjing tea is "Qiqiang" (superior grade), which is picked at its best during a very short period in the spring. The ancient decorative tea pots laden with intricate Chinese patterns are a feast to the eyes and the varying serving utensils scattered around the exhibition halls wouldn't look out of place in a doctor's surgery theater. They were all fascinating to explore.

Soaking up the sun and relaxing in the garden while enjoying a taster of tea amongst the nattering card playing, our most vivid memory of Hangzhou lies with the friendly nature of the locals. A local business woman on West Lake described the scenic spot as somewhere she "could stay all day and never get bored." A crowd of giggling school children insisted on following us and asked, "What is your favorite Chinese tea?" "Lonjing!" we replied, without hesitation, sparking cries of delight.

China National Tea Museum
Location: Shuangfeng Village, Lonjing Lu, Hangzhou.
Ticket: Free entrance
Tel: 0571-8797-9221

Other Things to Do

Hangzhou Cycle Club
Caters to both young and old bikers and offers various scenic routes. Be warned though the mountain trail is not for the faint hearted. Contact Sirge: 135-8802-5634

Hangzhou Botanical Gardens
Covering an area of 230 hectares at the foot of Jade Spring Hill near West Lake These beautiful gardens are full of pleasure and beauty. 5-10 yuan, (0571) 8788-9153


Where to Stay
Shangri-la Hotel Hangzhou
Stands on the north shore of the famous West Lake. Occupies 40 acres of rolling hills. 78 Beishan Lu, (0571) 8797-7951

Sofitel West Lake
Located on the banks of the beautiful West Lake and close to the central business district. 333 West Lake Avenue, (0571) 8707-5858, sofitel@sofitelhangzhou.com.cn

Sofitel Xanadu
Located 15 kilometers away from West Lake, and 20 minutes from the airport and railway station. 3318 Fengqing Avenue, Wenyan Town, Xiaoshan, (0571) 8388-0888



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