The best Dragon Well tea is gathered several days before Qingming Festival (Pure Brightness Festival) when new twigs have just begun to grow and carry "one leaf and a bud". In the old days Dragon Well tea of this grade was meat solely for the imperial household; It was, therefore, known as "tribute tea".
To make one kilogram (2.2 lbs) of finished tea, 60,000 tender leaves have to be plucked. A skilled woman picker can only gather 600 grams (a 1ittle over a pound)0f green tea leaves in a day.
A new tea-plant must grow for five years before its leaves can be picked and. For the fertilization of tea gardens, soya-bean cakes or other varieties of organic manure are generally used and seldom chemical fertilizers. When pets are discovered, the affected plants will be removed to prevent their spread, and also to avoid the use of pesticides.
The season of tea-picking depends on local climate and varies from area to area. On the shores of West Lake in Hangzhou, where the famous green tea Dragon Well tea comes from, picking starts from the end of March and 1asts through October, altogether 20-30 times from the same plants at intervals of seven to ten days. With a longer interval, the quality of the tea will deteriorate.
The new leaves must be parched in tea cauldrons. This work, which used to be done manually, has been largely mechanized. Top-grade Dragon well tea, however, still has to be stir-parched by hand, doing only 250 grams every half hour. The tea-cauldrons are heated electrically to a temperature of about 250centigrade degrees or 740centigrade degrees.