I was lucky enough to go to China in November 2007 and one of the many places I visited was the famous Dragon Well Tea Plantation. As someone who has had a tea website for a few years, I was excited!!
The plantation itself is stunning in appearance and is surrounded by breathtaking views in a truly beautiful part of China. We stayed at Hangzhou, which was described by Marco Polo as ‘the most beautiful and magnificent city in the world’. Hangzhou is on the famous West Lake where we took a boat cruise and then drove up into the surrounding mountains to the Dragon Well Tea Plantation where you can smell the enticing aroma of the tea long before you arrive. Here the climate is mild and has plenty of rainfall in all seasons – a perfect setting place for great teas. This is one of the birthplaces of green tea and is known as having the highest quality Dragon Well tea.
I must confess, I’d never seen tea growing before. In China the tea bushes are kept small so it’s easier work for the pickers and the tea is delicate and full of flavor and aroma. We walked through the tea bushes to the entrance where several people were turning the harvested leaves by hand in woven baskets. This set the theme right away that Dragon Well is all about quality and not about rushing any part of the tea process. There is a pond in the center of the buildings with a huge teapot in the middle. Here you can sit down with your tea and enjoy the views of the tea plantation as well as look at the teapot! The building we went in was for tea tasting. Here a nice Chinese lady told us that the tea was harvested in different months. When picking tea, the different harvesting months bring a different quality of the tea. The best tea, we were told, was the emperor’s cut which only the emperor was allowed to consume. Happily, that is no longer the case but this tea was very expensive. We also were able to taste teas picked in different months. April was great but I settled on May.