It is not difficult to see the evidence of tea culture when traveling through the city. A lot of must-see places in and around the city have been either production areas for fine tea and high-quality mountain spring water or places where legendary figures have stayed for tea.
Hangzhou has always been a famous haunt for intellectuals and poets. According to local tales, the best of ancient poets, Bai Juyi in Tang Dynasty and Su Shi in Song Dynasty, stayed in the city's temples, where they talked with established monks about Buddhism while drinking tea. The places they stayed became famous, both for the scenery and for the writings left there.
Near an old dragon well, there are still inscriptions said to be left by Su Shi. The poet stayed in Hangzhou for years. There he created many of his most beautiful verses, invented a dish of stewed cubic marbled pork that was named after him and made friends with a Buddhist master.
Tea and its related customs have been involved in shaping and developing the city's key features for 1,500 years. Among its celebrated types of tea, the Dragon Well Tea is the most renowned and pricey. Once the tea is soaked in fresh-boiled water, a sweet woodsy aroma arises. Its leaves bloom like flower buds and bounce slightly up and down, which makes the brewing process itself a sight to behold.
Longjing Tea, also known as Dragon Well Tea (its literal translated name), is China’s best quality tea and is produced in the West Lake area of Hangzhou. In ancient times, it was granted the status of “Gong Cha (Imperial Tea)” which was served to Emperors. Its fame is now so widespread that it is offered as a luxury gift and drinking experience to Heads of State from China and around the world. So significant is its importance to this region that the Longjing Tea culture and its producing area have played an important role in West Lake’s inevitable success in becoming a UNESCO World Heritage Site.
Longjing Tea is a pan-fried green tea produced mostly by hand and has been renowned for its high quality. It has a history of some 1,200 years, and was said to be named after a well that was believed to be connected to the sea and to have a dragon living within it. Most importantly, it has an interesting history with the Qianlong Emperor of the Qing Dynasty (乾隆皇帝). According to legend, in one of his trips to Jiangnan, the Qianlong Emperor disguised himself as a civilian, and travelled to Longjing Village(龙井村) at the foot of Lion Peak Hill (狮峰山). Intrigued by the view of several girls picking tea from green tea plants, the Emperor walked into the garden and began to pick tea with them. During the process of picking, he was informed that his mother was ill and wished his instant return to Beijing. Shocked by the news, the Emperor shoved the tea he had picked into his pocket and left Hangzhou for Beijing immediately. After he arrived in Beijing, he went to see his mother without delay. Noticing the fragrance coming from her son , his mother asked what it was. The Qianlong Emperor was so concerned about his mother’s health at the time that he completely forgot about the tea in his pocket. He searched himself up and down, and found that the fragrance came from the tea sitting in his pocket that he had pickedfrom Longjing Village. Impressed by the fragrance, the Emperor's mother wanted to have a taste of the tea, and her son had it brewed for her immediately. Tempted by its wonderful flavor, the Emperors mother drank three cups, one after the other, and miraculously recovered from her illness. Seeing this, the Qianlong Emperor was overwhelmingly happy and subsequently bestowed the imperial status on the eighteen tea plants he had picked. The species of plant is still living today, and the Longling tea gardens has become a hot scenic spot for tourists from around the world.
Tea is also central to Hangzhou cuisine, as exemplified by a dish called Stir Fried Shrimp with Dragon Well Tea.
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