My wife and JW had a blast tasting and learning about tea in Suzhou and Hangzhou. In Suzhou we got a tea tasting/buying tour in a tea strip mall (“Tea City”), where we tasted several varieties of Longjing, Tieguanyin, Pilochun, and a “red tea” (black tea). Whenever we tasted tea, there was a ritual – most places had a table or tray where they arranged the cups. They then poured hot water over everything to clean it, washed the leaves in hot water once (each tea got a different type of container), then brewed and served the tea. You would get several cups from the same set of leaves. After a few rounds we were WIRED on all of the caffeine.
In Hangzhou, JW found us a taxi driver to drive us to Longjing Village. It turns out he used to work on a tea plantation, so he ended up giving us a three hour tour, first stopping at a random plantation, explaining how they only take the first few leaves from each tea bush branch. He then took us to Longjin, then to the picturesque Mt. Lion, and back to a good food street in Hangzhou. All that for only 66 renminbi (about $11) because he was awesome and stopped the meter when we weren’t driving. So JW gave him a well-deserved tip.