If you love tea and live in Shanghai, you're probably very familiar with China's famous Longjing green tea (also known as Dragon Well tea). It is one of the most famous teas in China and for good reason: it's delicious and features a light but complex flavor. Longjing tea also boasts a rich history, as it has been grown for more than 1200 years and was made famous in the 1700s by the Qing Dynasty emperor Qianlong. He loved to visit the tea fields and Longjing tea was his favourite.
Luckily, Longjing village is very easy to visit from Shanghai. A quick 50-minute train ride from Shanghai to Hangzhou gets you very close to the Longjing tea fields, just on the outskirts of the city.
You can buy train tickets in advance of your trip online using C Trip and have these tickets delivered right to your door. There are trains running regularly to Hangzhou, every 5 or 10 minutes, from 6 in the morning to 10 at night, so it is very easy to go at any time of the day. Tickets are very reasonably priced, with 2nd class tickets costing 73 RMB one-way.
So, if you're looking for a weekend getaway, Hangzhou is a wonderful choice.
We visited in October and spent the weekend in the Lingyin Temple area of the city. This is a nice place to base yourself if you'd like to explore the tea fields and nearby forests as there are also interesting sites (Lingyin Temple being a wonderful historic site, along with many other sites nearby) and lots of restaurants and places to stay. We stayed at the very simple Tangchou Guesthouse (唐朝客栈: 41 Baile Bridge, Lingyin Temple, Xihu, District, Hangzhou, Zhejiang, 310007 China, 3077 5761). Our room was simple but clean and bright, and the room rates, per night, were modest. Plus there was a wonderful family of cats that kept us entertained during our stay (a bonus for us, as cat lovers) and a nice coffee shop on site. So if you're traveling on a budget, this homestay or another like it in the area is a good choice. There are many additional upscale options in this part of Hangzhou, as well. We popped into one nearby to scout out possible future bookings (Miyin Hotel: https://www.tripadvisor.com/Hotel_Review-g298559-d12410046-Reviews-Miyin_Hotel-Hangzhou_Zhejiang.html) and it seemed lovely.
From this part of the city, it's easy to hail a cab to visit the National Tea Museum (only 5 kilometres from Lingyin Temple), a great place to start your weekend so you can understand the history of China's tea culture, as well as learn about the different types of tea that are grown throughout the country. Tea is a serious hobby and interest for many people in China and at the museum you can learn about many different aspects of tea growing, production and brewing. It's all fascinating. There are also some peaceful tea houses behind the main building and you can wander around, sample teas and enjoy the very calm atmosphere of the site. The museum is surrounded by an actual working tea plantation, so you will enjoy tea field views as you explore and learn.
You can find the National Tea Museum at this address: 88 Longjing Rd, Xihu Qu, Hangzhou Shi, Zhejiang Sheng, China. Double-check the hours on the day you want to visit as the hours vary slightly depending on the season of the year, and on Mondays the facility is closed. The number for the museum is +86 571 8796 4221 and the website can be found at http://www.teamuseum.cn/.
After visiting the museum, you can walk to Longjing Village (龙井村) to see more tea fields and possibly even pick some tea, as well as see how the tea is pan roasted. Many tea vendors in the village manage adjacent fields and will gladly walk you there to pick some leaves; just ask the vendor if this is possible. If you are buying some tea from them, there should be no extra cost. Depending on the roasting time, there are different varieties of Longjing tea, along with different grades of tea, as well. We even learned there is a "red" version (what most Westerners might refer to as "black" tea) and it is particularly delicious and unique.
Spring is the best time for tea-picking as the new shoots, particularly in early April, are said to be the best and most delicious. We did some picking in October and found it was a very fun experience at that time of year, as well. I think any time you visit, it would be worthwhile to venture out into the fields to get a sense of how the tea grows. I have read that the fields are also beautiful in the winter after a snowfall.
While in town for the weekend, consider a day hike amongst beautiful hilly terrain (covered in tea fields) and a vast bamboo forest. The day we embarked on our hike not far from Lingyin Temple, it was raining and the hills were shrouded in mist; this made the hike quite magical and it was wonderful to watch the hills disappear and reappear amongst the shifting clouds. We hiked for a few hours in the tea fields and then crossed over into a bamboo forest, having lunch at an ancient Buddhist temple in the hills (there is a simple tea house at the temple where you can purchase some basic food like ramen, snacks and tea). The temple was over 1000 years old and just outside its gate a massive 1400-year-old tree sprawled its branches to the sky, surrounded by hundreds of red ribbons emblazoned with hopes and wishes. Ancient trees are viewed as sacred in many cultures, China included, and there is a custom of tying a ribbon to such a tree (with your wish written on the ribbon) as a sort of prayer or offering. In this case, to protect the tree, all ribbons have been removed from the branches and tied to a fence circling the tree's base.
In the forest, as you descend through the sea of bamboo and approach the lower level of the forest, dozens of ancient trees emerge amongst the rest of the greenery, many with signs indicating the tree's type and age. The forest is ethereal and lovely and the ancient trees impart a sense of awe. I highly recommend spending a day wandering through the fields and forest if you visit Hangzhou.
This area is called the Yunxi Zhujing Scenic Resort and is located at Meiwu Road, Yunxi Dock, Wuyun Mountain, Xihu District, Hangzhou.
If you get a taxi to take you there, follow the boulevard (flanked by cool dragons) straight into the forest. You will first walk through an area full of bamboo and ancient trees (described above) and then ascend up through the bamboo forest to the temple where we had lunch. If you keep climbing up to the ridge from here, you'll find the tea fields and you'll see many maps along the way to guide you and provide options for your route. There are several side trails that allow you to walk back down, out of the forest, when you feel like you've had your fill of walking, and, given the touristy nature of the area around the forest, I think it would be easy to find a taxi at any of the exit points of the trails. If you want to keep hiking, there are many hours of trails to explore and enjoy. This area is called Wanlinbei Hill.
More articles about Hangzhou will follow but, if you have a chance to visit for the weekend, this itinerary makes a very nice 2-day getaway. Enjoy! Here are some photos of our hike and the forest, as well: