A documentary about the history and culture of Chinese tea, involving lots of footage taken in Hangzhou, captured awards in six categories at the 2017 Southeastern Emmy Awards ceremony in the US earlier this month.
The winning categories included: documentary-topical; director, non-live; editor — program (non-news); lighting — location production lighting; photographer-program (non-news)/short form; and writer — program (non-news).
Produced by the Confucius Institute at Kennesaw State University and Georgia Public Television in America, the 57-minute film explores the all-important role of tea in Chinese culture.
“Given the film aims to share tea culture with Westerners, the American team made the film, while the Chinese team just gave some cultural instruction,” said Jin Kehua, director of the Confucius Institute.
The documentary explains how tea became an integral part of the country’s culture and evolved to become its signature drink consumed by rich, poor, young and old in China. It also highlights the importance of tea in China’s spiritual and economic life, and in the health of its people.
As the birthplace of reputed Longjing (or Dragon Well) tea, the top green tea in the world, Hangzhou is one of the major sites of shooting.
The film records how tea farmers produce Longjing tea from plucking to roasting. It also interviews several local tea experts and teahouse owners.
“If we have to symbolize the Chinese nation with a plant, there is nothing more appropriate than tea,” said Wang Xufeng, professor of Tea Culture College, Zhejiang Agriculture and Forestry University.
“It is poetic, romantic, and authentic. It resembles the spiritual core of the Chinese nation. And for Westerners it is a route to understanding China,” she added.
Currently, China produces more than one-third of the world’s tea and is home to more than 90,000 teahouses.
As the documentary notes, China’s tea culture is shared among people across the globe. Today, tea is the most popular beverage in the world behind water and is grown in 61 countries and regions, and consumed regularly in some 100 countries.
The US has become the second largest importer of tea (behind Russia), with more than 100 million Americans regularly enjoying the beverage.
“We made documentary of tea more than other Chinese culture because today many Americans drink tea,” said Jin.
The film was aired last April, and has been watched by over 150,000 audiences. It is free to watch at http://video.gpb.org/video/2365729754/
Where to buy tea in Hangzhou?
• China National Tea Museum
The China Tea Museum is built to showcase the city’s long and rich tea culture. It is divided into three parts: an exhibition hall, a reception hall and a teahouse. In addition, visitors can participate in an authentic tea ceremony with freshly brewed tea — or buy tea at the exit of the museum.
Address: 88 Longjing Rd
• Longjing Pavilion of the China National Tea Museum
Two years ago the China National Tea Museum opened its new pavilion in hilly Longjing Village. Considering most of the area is outdoors, it is better to say tourists need to “hike” the museum rather than “visit” it. Walking up and down the hills, visitors pass chic, modern teahouses and tea stores that are hidden under lofty trees, or dotting shaded paths.
Address: 268 Wengjiashan
• Youshengguan Road
The strip serves as the city’s tea market, and most shops sell Longjing tea. The price varies a lot, so here is some advice. Longguan, Gongpai and Yupai are three well-known brands and it is okay if you don’t understand how to select tea, just try and then buy. If you cannot try one pick those that look good, with complete leaves, not too dark, and smelling fresh.
Address: Go to the crossing of Jiefang and Youshengguan roads, you will find the market.
• Qing Teng Teahouse
Qing Teng Teahouse (or Ivy Teahouse)
Shown in the documentary is the oldest teahouse in Hangzhou, with traditional Chinese decor and live Chinese music performances. Tea varieties are abundant, including modern fruit tea and English tea, and the buffet is ample. Minimum price is 88 yuan (US$12.8) per person (with buffet), or 45 yuan (without buffet). It is better to book a seat in advance.
Address: 2/F, Yuanhua Plaza, 278 Nanshan Rd
Buffet hours: 10am-5pm, 5:30pm-1am
• He Cha Guan
Also shown in the documentary, He Cha Guan sits in the picturesque Fayun Village as a neighbor to Lingyin Temple and the prestigious five-star Aman Fayun resort. It is traditionally decorated, and also has an antique business. The teahouse’s milk cake goes well with Longjing tea, and Hangzhou local rich butter cakes complement the strong taste of Dahongpao, an oolong tea. The minimum price is 98 yuan for a cup of tea and tea snacks. Organic meals may be ordered as well.
Address: No. 15, Fayun Lane
• Lakeside Tea House
The teahouse standing at the bank of West Lake features a great view of West Lake, and offers tea produced by the company. The minimum price is 180 yuan for a person, including tea, fruits and tea snacks — will serve as a meal if one is not very hungry. But there is a time limit of five hours.
Address: No. 1, Shengtang Scenic Area
• Tao Tao Tea House
The old teahouse’s buffet includes abundant hot dishes and tea snacks. Everybody gets a bowl of wonton, and waitresses deliver ice cream or BBQ kebab from time to time. Minimum price is 88 yuan per person.
Address: No. 248-250, Siyanjing, Hupao Rd
Buffet hours: 9am-12pm