Celebrating tea culture
Farmers pick Mingqian tea, which is the best and most costly green tea picked before the Qingming Festival, in Longwu Village. A tea culture festival is underway in the village.
THIS is the season for tea picking, drinking and celebrating tea culture. The best and most costly green tea is picked before the Qingming Festival, which this year falls on next Tuesday.
The 2011 West Lake International Tea Culture Exposition and China Hangzhou West Lake Longjing Tea Picking Festival are underway in Longwu Village, Xihu District.
The exposition running through April 22 includes various competitions, such as the contest to choose the king master of stir-drying tea. There are also competitions in tea tasting, tea ceremony and preparation of tea banquets.
Hangzhou is the home of Longjing or Dragon Well tea, one of China's top 10 teas; it is mostly produced in Xihu District.
Because of weather conditions, the tea picked before the Qingming Festival, also known as Mingqian tea, is considered the very best and thus is the most costly. Tea picked even a day later is priced lower, though it is excellent.
This year the average price for a kilogram of Mingqian tea is around 6,000 yuan (US$914), 20 percent higher than last year because of the higher cost of labor, chemical fertilizer and pesticides, according to Wang Hongwei, vice director of West Lake Scenic Spot Management Committee.
The price of Mingqian tea varies from thousands of yuan to tens of thousands of yuan per kilo, depending on quality.
"Because the snow and rain was sufficient, the quality of Mingqian tea this year will be better than last year," Wang says.
Last year the yield of tea in Xihu District was nearly 500 tons valued at more than 68 million yuan.
Three picturesque villages where Longjing leaf is grown
Meijiawu Tea Village
Picturesque Meijiawu Tea Village dates back more than 600 years and is famous for its Longjing tea plantation.
West of the West Lake, it is surrounded by green hills and covered with tea bushes; the fragrance of green tea fills the air.
The hamlet of around 500 households makes a living by growing tea. March, April and May are the busiest times. Now they are harvesting leaves and frying them.
They also cook with Longjing tea.
Longwu Village, home of the tea culture exposition, is a newly developed tea plantation, around 15 kilometers from downtown Hangzhou.
Nestled west of the city, the village tea gardens cover 600 hectares, representing around 60 percent of the total output of Longjing tea.
Green hills, brooks and tea gardens make it popular tourist destination. The extensive area is not only scenic but also free of auto exhaust pollution.
It offers nongjiale or happy farmer tourism, enabling urban dwellers to get away, live with farmers, do farm chores (if they wish) and eat country cooking.
The average price for meal in local tea houses and inns is 60 yuan per person; the average cost per room is 80 yuan per night.
Longjing Tea Village
Dragon Well tea originated in this village east of the West Lake. The legendary well sits on top of the hill, a small and aged place surrounded by hordes of tourists much of the time.
The 2-meter-diameter well doesn't look very special at first glance.
But it is special because half of the water is underground water while the other half is spring water from the mountain.
The two kinds of water have different densities, qualities and weight, among many other factors, and this generates a distinct difference, a little ripple which can be glimpsed if you stir the water.
The village is home to about 300 tea farmers, whose houses and tea plantations pack the mountain. Most of them have turned their homes into tea houses offering meals and selling Longjing tea.