If Marco Polo had traipsed through Hangzhou in a single day, he probably would’ve left the city remembering three things — West Lake, beautiful women, and dragon well tea (龙井茶). Fast forward about 800 odd years and that still holds true.

One of the most prized and expensive teas in China, dragon well green tea has a light yet unmistakable fragrance and calming taste.

Known locally as Longjing, the best harvests are traditionally reserved for government officials and the wealthy elite.

And the best way to laugh in their faces and cop free samples of the stuff is to skip the storefronts and teahouses and head straight to the source — Hangzhou’s Longjing Village (龙井村).

Drink Longjing tea in the garden that was favored by Emperor Qianlong.

Longjing Imperial Tea Garden (老龙井御茶园)

The most famous tea garden in the village is Longjing Imperial.

Located at the rear of the village, the tea garden is surrounded by incredibly idyllic terraces roamed by straw-hatted harvesters who pick each leaf by hand.

The grandiosely named garden is something of an out-of-the-way tourist spot, but that in no way diminishes the sheer beauty and tranquility of the place.

The compound covers a tranquil Jiangnan-style (south of Yangtze River) garden, a restaurant serving dishes cooked with Longjing tea leaves, indoor and outdoor teahouses, and a namesake well.

The legend of Longjing

Long time ago in an ancient village in Hangzhou, the villagers were the proud owners of a remarkable spring. The spring water was so clear and sweet that legend says a dragon gave it to the people. To honor the dragon, the villagers carved a dragonhead at the mouth of the spring so that the water will flow out from the dragon’s mouth and never stop flowing. One day, a fengshui master passed the spring and had a drink from it. He was so revitalized from it and believing it to be magical, advised the villagers to build a well in front of the dragonhead to store the water. Hence, the villagers built the well and named it Longjing or Dragon Well. 


longjing green teaThat is how the name of Longjing village came to be. The dragon is still very sacred for the villagers of Longjing and this is evident from the many statues and icons found in the village and nearby. There is even a dragon temple in the southeast of the village where villagers go to worship the dragon. Every year during the Dragonboat festival on the 5th day of the 5th month of the traditional lunar calendar, grandiose scenes can be found here where villagers invite the dragon king to the Tian Tang Xi in the east of the village. To this day, villagers continue to pay homage to the dragon, a tradition passed down through the generations. 


Scenery in Longjing Village

Longjing village is located in the southeast of the West Lake Scenic Spot and surrounded by mountains. Resident population in the village is around 800 people who have nearly 800 acres of mountains covered in tea. The famous peaks are; The High North Peak, Lion Peak and Tianzhu Peak. Together they form a natural barrier to block the harsh northwest wind. In the southern valley is the Jiuxi stream. The valley is deep and wide and goes straight through the Qian Tang River. These good geographical conditions provide an advantageous growth environment for Longjing Tea. According to legend, when the emperor Qian Long went to Jiangnan, he drunk Longjing in the Hu Gong Temple which is located down the Shifeng hill in Longjing village. After that, he was full of praise and named the eighteen tee trees in the front of the temple as “Imperial Tea”. Nowadays you can still find these tea trees. 


longjing green tea

Tourism in Longjing Village

Outside the village where the road intersects, there’s a stone carving proudly greeting passers-by. The village is rich in tourism sights that add to the deep culture of the area. The Imperial Tea Garden, Hu Gong Temple, Jiuxi, Ten Mile Lang Dang and Old Dragon Well are popular destinations for tourists. Spring is the best time to visit the village, as that is when the villagers start picking the West Lake Longjing tea. There are only thirty picking days for the high value grades, one week before Tomb Sweeping Day to the Grain Rain season.