**Xi Hu Long Jing**
I spent 4 days on the west side of West Lake (opposite side of the lake to Hangzhou city). On my first afternoon there I stopped in to a little local restaurant with a few tables outside. I ordered some tea and was offered Xin cha (newly picked and fried) or normal tea. No prizes if you guessed I went for the Xin cha.
I got chatting to the owner, Ms Ke, and she told me her family have tea growing a few minutes walk from the restaurant and her mother starts picking at 6:30 in the morning, comes back at about 11:30, the tea is put into large flat baskets and sorted. After lunch she returns to the fields and picks until about 5:30, when the sun starts to go down. After the restaurant customers start to leave at about 8pm, the family have dinner together and then they start to fry the tea. It was really interesting to watch this, and this old woman's stamina amazed me. She also invited me to come out and see how they pick the tea leaves.
Ms Ke told me I could take the No. 27 bus to Longjing village. So I jumped on the bus hoping to find the Dragonwell (Longjing) and the 18 Royal tea trees on Lion mountain. It is really beautiful countryside and I can see why emperor Qianlong, and other old Chinese scholars enjoyed travelling there so much.
The Dragonwell is in a beautiful area and is very well maintained. I had some tea there, but unfortunately Xin cha is 80rmb (about 8GBP). I had a normal tea there. The surroundings were amazing, but the tea didn't compare to the tea I had in Ms Ke's place (which was 20rmb).
The 18 Royal tea trees were, unsurprisingly, much like any other tea trees. They were in a nice setting and near the 'old dragon well'. I was tempted to take a cheeky souviner from one of the tea trees, but I remembered I had read that in 2005 this royal tea sold for approx. 165,000rmb per 100g. So a slight pilfer might not have been wise.
The next day I returned to Ms Ke's to do the interview she had agreed to. The interview was in Chinese so I'll have to wait until I have more time to go through the recording again. She explained the picking, frying and brewing process of the tea. And explained the phrase " The phoenix nods three times". It means, when you pour the water you raise the hot water pot 3 times so the water thoroughly mixes with the leaves. Three nods also shows respect to the guests.
When brewing Longjing, Ms Ke added the leaves to a clear glass. Some people add water to the leaves first and then fill the glass after a short time. The tea is ready to drink when the leaves have all sunk to the bottom. I have found it best to add water for the second brew while there is still some water in the glass. I also found the second brew to be the nicest. I have heard that you can only brew Longjing three times. I often added more water after the third brew, and the taste does disappear quickly. I also found out you can eat the leaves after they have been brewed!
I am in Suzhou now, and I hope to get to Dongshan (Biluo village) tomorrow, although it seems to be harder to find than Longjing village was in Hangzhou.
(Hope the posts are not too long (or boring