Long ago (I can never resist starting a story that way) in the Qing Dynasty, the Emperor Qianlong Visited West Lake in Hangzhou China on one of his famed holidays. I can only imagine what it’s like to be an Emperor. I’d need a holiday too.
He visited the Hu Gong Temple under Shi Feng Shan (Lion Peek Mountain.) During his visit, he was watching the woman pick tea from bushed that still grow in that area to this day. He became so enamored with their sinuous movements, that he decided to join them. The work, he found, was meditative but it didn’t last long. While engrossed in his work, he received a message that his mother, Empress Dowager Chongqing, was ill and requested his immediate return to Beijing. In his haste, he shoved the leaves into his sleeve and made hastily back to Beijing.
When he knelt at his mother’s bedside she noticed the aroma of the leaves coming from his sleeves. He immediately had it brewed for her.
This tea considered the Chinese national tea by some, is Long Jing – also known as Dragon Well.
It is said that the pressed leaves are meant to mimic the flattened appearance of the leaves Emperor Qianlong brewed for his mother that day.
Even though this is a prized tea throughout China, the leaves harvested at Hu Gong Temple are auctioned off annually for a high price per gram than gold, I had never experienced this tea until very recently.
I had the pleasure of trying the first flush when the leaves are more tender and the roasted quality brought about by pan frying, is heightened. I was also fortunate enough to be presented this tea by my boss, a woman from Chengdu China, who prepared it for me the traditional Chinese way.
This is a tea where I feel the need to relax to be able to appreciate it. You need time to take in the aroma and feel the softness on your tongue. Think of the Emperor and his mother, who were so entranced by the hypnotically aroma and taste of this tea. Think of the patient dedication the woman had to practice in order to harvest the leaves. To make a ritual out of mundane activities is to fully appreciate the little wonders in our lives.
Tea always tastes best when prepared and enjoyed with care. You can say the same about life as well.