Having only traveled to Hangzhou once before, I was admittedly not an expert on the capital of Zhejiang province. In the mood for some greenery and a break from Shanghai, I discovered that Hangzhou was home to Longjing tea plantations. This is one of the most popular green teas in China and just a mere 90-minute train ride from Shanghai. Deciding on a mid-morning train, I was on my way on my Monday day off!
Once arriving in Hangzhou (I opted for the Hangzhou Dong train station as there were more trains to and from there) I needed to get on the metro to the bus station that would get me to Longjingcun, the village where the tea is grown.
Unlike the Shanghai metro, the Hangzhou metro does not allow for payment by QR code when buying tickets so the morning was off to a bumpy start! Luckily there was a kind stranger who let me transfer him money on Alipay (the popular payment app) in exchange for some cash so I could get the ticket. It was also necessary to register for the Hangzhou green health code before being allowed on the metro.
Admin finally out of the way, I was getting closer to tea time!
The bus ride was serene, past the famous West Lake, and then towards more mountainous and green surroundings. Only 10 minutes past the lake and I was already able to see some tea growing, impressive! After getting off the bus, a short walk later and I had entered the village. After a bit of a downhill walk, my breath was taken away. At eye level, I could see worn black and white buildings, with plants on front porches and their owners sitting on chairs outside looking extremely relaxed. When I looked up, I saw row upon row of tea growing. It was perfect. The lack of sun gave the whole place an added air of mystery, with slight drizzle forming a mist.
Before checking out the growing tea, it was time for lunch and to try some local cuisine! I decided on a tofu dish, a saucy eggplant dish, and a scrambled egg and vegetable dish. There also had a variety of tea on offer. I did not realize that one kind of tea could have so many variations. The tea was labeled based on the time/ season it was picked and this varied the flavour (and price!) accordingly. The tea arrived first and rather than being in a teabag in a mug, a glass arrives with tea leaves in it. Initially, the tea leaves are at the top of the glass. It is explained to me that if the quality of the tea is good, as the tea seeps and the tea leaves fall to the bottom of the glass, they should fall with the leaf being vertical as it descends.
After being well-fed, it was time for a bit of a hike and to smell some tea. The tea plantations go on for quite a while and if I was staying the night and had a second day, it would have been great to have seen even more. Given that I had my ticket back to Shanghai in a few hours, I focused on the tea growing in the village and enjoyed the views as I walked around.
The visit would be incomplete without buying some tea to take back to Shanghai. Of course, there was no shortage of supply! As I walked towards the entrance almost every person I passed asked if I wanted some tea. I finally said yes and was invited into one woman’s home where she showed me two different bags of tea that she had picked from her plot. They both smelt amazing and given that I am not a tea connoisseur, I was clueless as to how to pick. So I ended up choosing the cheaper one so I could have more to take back to Shanghai with me!