Produced in the mountainous region near Jejiang Xihu, LongJing (or Dragonwell) tea is China's most famous tea. Aside from the name of tea, LongJing is also a geographical name and the name of a spring; it refers to one of the Xihu's five famous springs. The clear spring water that flows down from the mountain produces tea of superior quality. Since the olden days, Hangzhou has been one of the most important tea production regions; the tea from Xihu, which has the most beautiful scenery, is extremely well known, with Xihu Longjing tea recognized as China's top green tea. It is unique for its four famous aspects of `colour, fragrance, taste and form'. Since ancient times, many well-known personalities have had personal experiences with longJing; they were dazzled by longJing's `pretty form and mellow fragrance'. The numerous odes and poetries which they have written on longJing tea are historical testaments of the tea's superb quality. Qing Danasty's Emperor Qianlong developed a particularly intimate relationship with longJing tea. He traveled frequently to the South and drank Xihu LongJing. He had high praises for the tea and composed many tea poems, further elevating its reputation.

Located in the South-East, Hangzhou enjoys a warm climate and abundant rain fall. Enshrouded in mist, the land in Xihu region is normally more than 30m above sea level. The soil in the tea plantation is very fertile and rich. Such blessed natural environment has provided a superior condition for the growth of the tea tree, and also nurtured the extraordinary quality of longJing tea. Xihu longJing's production region is divided into Shifeng, Longjing, Yunxi, Hupao and Meijiawu thus known as the five types of longJing tea. Because of different climates, environments and production processes, each product has its own characteristics. To be considered top class longJing, it must exhibit the four aspects of `colour, fragrance, taste and form'. Later, longJing tea was further divided into three categories - `Xihu Longjing', `Shifeng Longjing' and `Meiwu LongJing'. Of these, Shifeng LongJing is known to be the most superior.

The picking of longJing tea is a very meticulous and strict process. Since olden days, it's the young leaves that are picked. The quality of longJing tea is determined by the leaves' tenderness and youth. The tea is picked during the budding stage where the leaves are young, with four picking seasons in all. The quality of longJing tea is at an all time high pre-Ching ming festival, as the shoots are at their most tender. Normally, the head of a leafy shoot is picked. Known as `longJing before the Chingming festival', this tea is of premium quality, produced with limited production and very precious. Tea that is picked before rain is called 'second spring tea'. This tea has a higher yield, and the shoots are slightly longer, shaped like a gun. After that, comes the 'third spring tea' and 'fourth spring tea' until the beginning of summer. Among them, the fourth spring tea's quality is poorer compared to the earlier three as the tea leaves have hardened by then, resulting in a decline in quality.

The method of picking longJing tea determines its quality, requiring extremely strict methods and standard. One needs to be very careful when picking the leaf; after picking, place it immediately into a basket, as the heat from the hand may turn the green leaf to red when it is held for some time. When picking, one should pick those of average size and shape. Do not pick torn leaves; one must pick and lay them gently to avoid squashing them. Normally a seasoned worker can, at best, pick about 12 ounces of young leaves a day, as the process is also very difficult. This goes to show how precious `longJing before Chingming season' is.

Since ancient times, people are aware that tea-drinking is good for health and wellness; based on various studies and chemical analysis, tea leaves contain 300 type of nutritious values that are related to human body health, such as amino acids, catechin and rich vitamin C, B1, B2, B3. Among all the tea types, green tea has the highest nutritional content. Drinking green tea can help prevent blood disorders, promote fat oxidation, prevent cholesterol, lower blood pressure and prevent arteriosclerosis. In addition, it can also aid in detoxification, weight loss, emission of radiation, increase immune system and delay aging as well as other functions.

The methods and skills of preparing longJing tea are also important factors. Good tea must be paired with good water to get its intended original effects. Spring water is the most suitable. It's best to consume delicate and expensive longJing tea from a glass; the transparent glass can maintain the fragrance and mellowness of longJing tea, and through the glass, one can appreciate and admire the colour of the tea and the tea leaves in the warm water. The transformation of tea leaves has been likened to a "Tea Dance An A Glass', interesting and vibrant. Tea-making also depends on the water temperature, the amount of tea leaves, timing and other criteria. As longJing tea leaves are tender and young, water should be about 85 C, and not boiling temperature, as it will only destroy the chlorophyll in the tea. The tea's nutrients will also be lost through oxidation in high heat. LongJing is prepared by pouring from the teapot at a height - `three high lifts and three dips', while water is continuously added. The ideal steeping time is around two minutes. When drinking take small sips, let the tea fully connect with the tastebuds of the tongue, use both the tongue and nose to appreciate the tea's refreshing fragrance. LongJing tea is elegant and understated, fragrant yet mellow.

When consuming LongJing tea, use your heart and soul to appreciate it, and savour its exceptional clearness, smoothness, boldness and beauty.





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