All the tea in China – or maybe just all the tea in Hangzhou….
We spent the morning at Long Jing Village sightseeing and where the average tourists cup of tea at an open air tea house is now 50 yuan per cup. That’s up from the already outrageous price of 20 yuan per cup that it was last year. Let’s put that in perspective. A bottle of water at a convenience store is 3 yuan, a bowl of street noodles is 4 yuan, a dish at a nice restaurant is 20 – 40 yuan, breakfast at the hotel was 18 yuan, and the woman who offered us a table was asking for fifty yuan for one cup of tea. This is a great illustration of how little tea there is to sell, and how much the price has gone up this year. For touristy gifts of small canisters of tea the price has gone up 4-5 x, for wholesale 2-3 x. It’s a tough pill to swallow if you’re trying to ask someone to pay that much for tea, and it’s painful and sometimes ridiculous to consider paying what some people are asking if you’re not buying a great tea. If you buy Dragonwell tea at all this year, it better be damn well worth drinking.
In the afternoon, we met with Ms Lee and asked her for the truth: how is the tea? We had asked if she had anything comparable in taste to what we purchased last year, tea from April 2nd. She brought us a tea, told us it was comparable and let us decide. The cardinal rule of tea is cultivate your palate, and trust it. Taste for yourselves. We tasted it, and it was by far the best tea we’d come across this trip. It has about 90% of the flavor spectrum of last year’s tea, it has fragrance, clarity in color and sweetness in the taste. It had all the aroma we were looking for, and it was bursting with the brightness of a new tea. Unfortunately, there is very little of this tea, and of course the price went up, way up. Here’s a picture of the entire harvest of the batch of tea we bought. We bought what she would sell us, and will have this tea until it sells out. We tried another grade of tea she offered and it had more depth, but very little fragrance and very little sweetness. No, the first tea was the best, and it’s the quality we feel represents the best of the harvest. We purchased the tea, and asked: When was this tea picked? We were shocked to learn it was picked on March 28th – we didn’t realize it, but the tea we chose was picked on the very first day they were able to harvest this year! Due to the difficulties of this year’s harvest, this is a tea that was hard won, and damn well worth drinking. Dragonwell is a tea that should be in every tea drinker’s collection. If you're new to Dragonwell tea, there’s no need to start off by trying a lesser grade, with a top grade tea you’ll learn more, and the experience of a genuine Pre-Qing Ming tea is truly unforgettable.