Thursday, June 03, 2010

Dragon Well Village

When was the last time, I asked myself, as a city dweller, bought a product that is produced at its source? I realize I have never done so. Everything that I have bought has been imported into urban centres where a high proportion of the price that I paid for those goods went into the pockets of businessmen whilst peanuts were passed onto the hands of those who actually produced them.

Businessmen, in ancient China, used to rank below farmers, craftsmen and scholars in terms of social status. They were frowned upon because, unlike farmers and craftsmen who produce goods, businessmen contribute nothing substantial but make a living out of the labour of others and generated money from money itself. In those days, knowledge and skills were appreciated. But, of course, not anymore now. Money alone measures the amount of respect one gets.

All the more made those tins of Dragon Well Tea that I bought from Dragon Well Village significant .

Dragon Well Tea (Long Jing Cha) is one of the many green teas produced in China. It got its name from the village that grows the tea bushes. Dragon Well Village sits on a hill near West Lake in Hangzhou and the name happened to catch my attention in google map while surveying the vicinities of West Lake. So, this is the source of the well-known tea.

It turned out to be a modern village, revamped a few years ago with new cables, drainage system and buildings, not the traditional wooden houses that I have imagined. But it was certainly a nice area with creeks and woods. It was misty that day and some of the plantations were shrouded in mist. Air was fresh, creeks were crystal clear and surroundings were serene--that I almost forgot I was in China.

Met a few villagers on the bus to the village, one of them Mr. Zhang who is the third generation of tea planters in his family. Own plots of land and apparently, the harvest time (usually during Spring, right after winter)for the tea was over (May) for the year. Harvest period for this tea is brief and therefore, the tea is well-sought after. Tea leaves are plucked early in the morning, around 5. Invited to his house for tea (well, of course, it was not without a purpose) and sampled his tea harvested from his own plantation. It was delicious! (I must use this adjective for the tea) I even started chewing the dried tea leaves from the pile and they were tasty! It certainly tastes different from the tin that I bought from supermarket. Even C who has a disdain for green tea warmed up to the flavour and we ended up buying a few tins of Dragon Well Tea from the planter. I knew I was being ripped off for the price that they quoted me but something in me held me back from bargaining down. I guess I'd prefer to be ripped off by these people who are in the frontline of production rather than the far end of it.