I remember when growing up in England people would say 'money doesn't grow on trees you know.' However, after coming to Hangzhou I think that particular phrase might need revising; it may not grow on trees but something just as valuable seems to grow on bushes. I'm talking about Long Jing (Dragon Well) tea and while enjoying my morning cuppa I read that the tea-picking had started early so I decided to go and have a closer look.
As I'd already previously visited Long Jing village, this time I headed to 'Mao jia bu', just to the west of West Lake, which is less known but nonetheless very picturesque. As it was early in the picking season there were only a few workers in the lush green fields and I spoke to one very friendly lady, Ms Ren, about this year's tea. She explained that due to the warmer weather they had already started picking some of the first tea leaves but the main picking season would start towards the end of March.
The best tea is always said to be that picked before the 'Qing Ming' (Pure Brightness) Festival which falls on 5 April and that is also the most expensive. At ‘Mao jia bu' this would cost about 1000 yuan per 500 grams although in other places the price can be up to 4000 yuan. If that seems a bit pricey then go along a few weeks later when you can still buy good quality tea for much less. I joked with Ms Ren that she must be quite rich and while she laughed at that she did say that life was much better now as what they earned depended on their own hard work. Although the workers are quite busy, they are used to tourists. So don't worry about going and having a look. Nearby the fields it's also possible to see the fresh leaves being roasted, 'chao cha', and to try a cup to see if you like it.
'Mao jia bu' has been improved in the last couple years with some new shops and restaurants opened. Across the road from the tea fields there is also the silk merchant Du Jinsheng's former residence, with some lovely old wooden buildings. The highlight is seeing one of the old silk weaving machines. Next to this house is some of the most beautiful scenery you will see in Hangzhou. There is a big lake and when the weather's good it's a great place to go and have a picnic. However, the best memory has to be visiting the tea fields and next time I sit down to my cup of tea I'll certainly appreciate it a lot more.
By Arthur J from England
Source: City Express
Editor: Guo Changdong