Longjing Imperial Tea Garden
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When Chinese people hear the name Longjing, they think of the famous green tea that is produced in the village of the same name. Longjing tea (literally translated as "Dragon Well tea") is one of the most famous kinds of green tea in China. During the time of the Qing dynasty, it was bestowed the status of imperial tea (Gong Cha). There are many legends surrounding Longjing tea and the Longjing village (Longjingcun). One of them speaks of the Qianlong Emperor visiting this place multiple times during his tours of the Jiangnan region. His favourite spot at this hill village near Hangzhou's West Lake was a southern-style Chinese garden (a.k.a. Jiangnan-style garden) that is now known as the Longjing Imperial Tea Garden (in Chinese: 老龙井御茶园). Visitors won't have trouble finding it as there are signs pointing towards it from the main road that leads up from the city of Hangzhou. Many visitors simply take a taxi from this city to Longjing village but there are also bus connections.
On the premises of this heavily-forested garden at the foot of a terraced hill, visitors will find several traditional Chinese buildings (a restaurant, tea houses and a tiny museum) along narrow winding paths and crisscrossing stone stairways. As you walk up the steps that lead further up the hill, you will reach quiet tea plantations. The entire garden has the feel of a tranquil private hideaway, which makes it very different from the often-crowded gardens in Suzhou, Yangzhou or Nanjing.
After walking up and down the steep hill paths at the Longjing Imperial Tea Garden, try some Chinese cuisine at the on-site restaurant which cooks its dishes with Longjing tea leaves! The garden's outdoor and indoor tea houses are the ideal spot to try some authentic Longjing tea. It is brewed with spring water from the Dragon Well which is also found at the site of the Longjing Imperial Tea Garden. The Dragon Well is located quite close to the entrance area with its giant teapot. There is some dispute whether the tea was named after this specific well. Some people argue that the well gave its name to the entire village which then gave its name to the tea.
Since the Longjing Imperial Tea Garden is located at the rear of the village, visitors might consider making it either the first or last stop during their visit of the Longjing village. Making it the last stop would have the advantage that you could have dinner there. A late visit would also give you the opportunity to take photos under different lighting conditions as it is slowly getting dark. At nightime, the garden is subtly illuminated by carefully placed lighting which gives it the feeling of an enchanted fairyland!
Even though this page focuses on the Longjing Imperial Tea Garden, there are more things to see and do when visiting Longjing village. If you have time, you should absolutely visit Hugong Temple where you will find 18 tea shrubs that were personally designated as "imperial tea" by the Qianlong Emperor. There are several other tea houses, tea gardens, tea shops and a tea museum throughout the village as well. At some of these places you can not only buy/taste Longjing tea but also learn more about it and perhaps even observe how the tea leaves are roasted by hand! Most visitors also spend some time walking along and through the tea plantations which stretch out into all directions. That is especially enjoyable in the spring when you will see tea pickers in traditional garments at work all over the terraced hills. At the top of these hills, you will enjoy formidable views that may reach all the way to the cityscape of Hangzhou.