THE AMAZING TEA RACE
LONGWU VILLAGE, CHINA
Longwu Village, a tea village gaining recognition in West Lake.
West Lake, located near the beautiful city of Hangzhou in Zhejiang Province, is Dragonwell’s original growing region. Back in 2012, Jane visited the region to learn more about the tea, and she had connected with Mr. Ge of Longwu Village. We met him again, and he was excited to see us as we have been promoting his family’s tea, Longwu Dragonwell, for the past two years.
Mr. Ge first invited us to his family’s home and office, a practice we observed often on the trip. Tea growing is a family operation and they keep the business close to home. At their house we had a meeting before having a short tea tasting, where he showed us the teas he sells online (on a Chinese version of Amazon). To our surprise, the tea his family grows only makes up a small fraction of his business. Mr. Ge has to sell cheaper mass-produced teas, which are Dragonwell-style teas from other areas, to satisfy majority of online customers.
His family’s tea, grown here in its traditional area and pan-fired by hand, is more expensive and difficult for him to sell online. Now, Mr. Ge’s goal is to build a market that appreciates Longwu’s level of quality, so that he can promote his own family and community’s tea. He sees Tealet as a possible outlet.
Tea time at the Ge Family's home office. White porcelain and glass teaware
are a favorite for green tea, showing off the beautiful leaves and colors.
By noon we were out in the fields of Longwu Village, enjoying the light rain and cool breeze. There was little plucking done in the fields as majority of the work is completed by April 20. Most growers will stop producing tea after the height of the spring harvest because the later batches cannot fetch good prices in the market. We were lucky to meet a couple of families in the village that were still making tea, so we could see the full process of making Dragonwell. They use a hybrid system of machine and hand processing to get a delicate and sweet cup of Dragonwell, one that takes a lot of skill and practice.
Clockwise, from top left: (1) hand-picking (2) initial shaping;
(3) sorting, to remove small fragments; (4) pan-firing in iron woks
First, the leaves are allowed to wither for a few hours after picking. Then the grower will use two different rolling machines, set at two different temperatures, which begins the shaping process and also acts as a kill-green step to stop oxidation. Then, instead of drying the whole batch of leaves as seen at other farms, they pan-fire the leaves 100g at a time in a large electric wok, drying and shaping the leaves by hand. This traditional hand processing is very difficult because the woks are extremely hot, and there are 10 different hand motions required to shape the leaves. Without just the right force and movement you can easily screw up a batch of tea. In all three steps, tea seed oil is used to lubricate the leaves and give the tea its beautiful sheen.
After a nice dinner with Mr. Ge, we enjoyed a few laughs. We decided that he was the Tom Cruise of tea - verify for yourself in the photos! - and introduced him to our favorite Tom Cruise quotes. After teaching him “Show me the money” he quietly repeated, “Show me the money?”. Lamu quickly translated to Chinese for him and he immediately said “SHOW ME THE MONEY!”
We think that will become his new favorite quote.
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Next story: Meijiawu Village
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