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A Beginner’s Guide to Green Tea

Picking Dragon Well tea, Hangzhou
Qingming Festival, on April 5 this year, is a day when families pay respects to their ancestors by tending their graves. It’s also an important date on the annual calendar of Chinese teas because it marks the harvest of the first flush of early spring tea leaves. I’ve been lucky enough to catch two Qingming harvests of Dragon Well tea in Hangzhou, while there was still a winter chill in the early morning air followed by the growing warmth of the spring sunshine.
After picking was over for the day I sat and sipped tea in the cool air of the tea terraces There really is nothing quite like the chestnut aroma and clean grassy taste of freshly-roasted green tea – it makes all the worries of the world fall away.
Green teas are a perfect introduction to the family of Chinese teas because they are more lightly flavoured and easy to prepare, with a taste everyone enjoys. Here’s an easy guide for learning more about Chinese green teas.
Dragon Well tea leaves. The picker’s fingers are stained with tea oils.

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Tomb Sweeping Festival 清明节

Tomb Sweeping Festival is quite a catchy little name for a public holiday, don’t you think? A whole lot more interesting than Easter Monday, which it happens to co-incide with this year. In Chinese it’s called Qingming Jie 清明节. Qingming means ‘clear and bright’ , but how exactly this translates to ‘tomb sweeping’ is best left to someone who knows a bit more about the Chinese language than me. 

Qingming is a chance for people to pay respects to their ancestors, and celebrate the arrival of spring. Like many Chinese festivals though, the original meaning has become entangled with two thousand years worth of stories and traditions. As a result, the list of things one does/should do/remembers doing as a child; is long and varied.

1. Visit the tomb of ancestors and sweep tomb, burn incense. Optional: burn paper money, let off firecrackers
2. Fly kites
3. Swing on a swing
4. Walk on green grass
5. Plant willow twigs in the ground
6. Eat grass flavoured dumplings. This last one is Very Optional.