On my last day in Hangzhou, a friend arrived at my hotel with some of that most precious of commodities – new season West Lake Longjing (Dragon Well) tea. They were some of the first leaves of the season, so new that they were not yet available on the market. I could lose myself in the scent of these delicate spear-like leaves. It is magical: green and gently intoxicating, reminiscent of fresh pistachioes. Back in London, their aroma is even more thrilling, because it takes me back in an instant to the shores of the West Lake, to its soft contours of willow and peach, to the sound of the waters lapping. (I stayed in a hotel by the lake, and every morning I walked out to its brink, looked out to the island, blurred by the mist or bright in the sunlight, and felt calm and happy.)
At home in London, I infuse the leaves in some hand-painted teabowls (gai wan), the water not too hot, inhale their gentle vapours, and sigh.
I’ll post more about the trip later – there is so much to say!