Longjing Tea - also known as Dragonwell has been in production for over 1,000 years, but only became famous during the Qing Dynasty (1644-1911.) It is produced by hand through a 10-part process. In Chinese culture Dragonwell is looked upon as an excellent gift to give to your friends, as once it was a gift to emperors. Not only is this one of the oldest teas produced in China, it is still often called the national drink of China and is frequently presented as a National Gift to visiting heads of state. It is also a favorite tea of today's many top leaders, with a portion of production reserved for them every year.
In ancient times top Dragonwell tea was the tea of emperors and special dignitaries. The secret was in the plucking! Known as imperial plucking only the bud and the 1st leaf was plucked and this had to occur before the Clear Light Festival, otherwise the tea could not be have the moniker 'Imperial'. Young virgins, gloved and using gold scissors delicately plucked the stem and placed it into a golden basket. The tea was only plucked once a year during March and early April before the Clear Light Festival, otherwise the tea could not be have the moniker 'Imperial'. Today the plucking process has changed somewhat (the time of plucking has not changed) but it is fascinating to know the tradition behind this marvelous tea.
As with all great teas there is more than one legend. Another tale has it that in 250 AD a Taoist monk affirmed that there must be a dragon lurking in a certain spring not far from Hangchow. The monk implored the well dragon to come to the rescue of the poor farmers suffering a crippling drought. Instantly the clouds came rushing in from every side and poured forth a timely rain. One account of this, an old temple adjoining the spring is know as Dragon's Well Monastery, and the tea derives its name from the same legend.