Gouqing Tea: A special companion and cultural symbol
Braised pork is a traditional dish that is popular in China, especially in Zhejiang province.
Made using large chunks of streaky pork, the dish features a broth made with a variety of seasonings and is well-loved by diners of all ages.
This delicacy is commonly served with ingredients like potatoes or quail eggs, but in Linhai, a small city located in eastern Zhejiang, the dish is served with Gouqing Tea, a local specialty.
Braised pork with Gouqing Tea. Photo by Yu Lu. [Photo provided to ezhejiang.gov.cn]
Having food with tea is not uncommon in China. In fact, Chinese in certain parts of the country even use tea leaves as a cooking ingredient.
In Southwest China's Yunnan province, for example, people cook eggs with tea leaves, and in Central China's Henan province, tea leaves are sometimes seen on dinner tables with shelled fresh shrimps. In Linhai, the Gouqing Tea is often featured in many local dishes.
Gouqing Tea is a type of green tea produced in the Yangyan area of Linhai. One of the specialties of Zhejiang, the tea is popular among tea lovers all over China. Its name is derived from the curved shape of the tea leaf, which looks like a hook ("gou" in Chinese).
The leaves are bright green, and when brewed have a rich flavor similar to that of Longjing Tea, another famous green tea produced in Zhejiang. From 2005 to 2012, Gouqing tea won four gold awards at the Annual World Tea Appraisal Competitions.
Summer is the best season to enjoy green tea.
Gouqing Tea leaves. [Photo provided to ezhejiang.gov.cn]
People in Linhai are fiercely proud of their Gouqing Tea, and this is reflected in the city's culinary culture. The leaves, usually washed and dried before cooking, are fried in hot oil for a couple of seconds before they are stir-fried with the other ingredients.
"The dish is usually served in important banquets in our city," said Jin Yingzi, an official with the Linhai government. "As a local resident, I enjoy it very much. I like the feeling of the crunchy tea leaves drenched in a mellow broth."
Even those not from Linhai have been equally captivated by the tea and the food it is cooked with. Wei Lun, a Henan resident who visited Zhejiang eight years ago, still remembers how his mouth watered when he first had a taste of Linhai braised pork.
"The saltiness of the pork and the slight bitterness of the tea leaves blended perfectly in my mouth. It was fantastic. At that time, I didn't know anything about the leaves, but the special flavor has been etched into my mind," he said.
According to Jin, Gouqing Tea is considered a cultural symbol of Linhai. Besides appearing in teacups and dishes, the leaf has also played a role in boosting the city's travel industry.
For example, the Yangyan Tea Garden in Linhai was in 2009 transformed into a cultural industry park that integrates ecological tourism, tea culture display, tea tasting, and tea processing. The 20-square-kilometer park is the first of its kind in China. Over the years, the park has become known for producing "the top Gouqing Tea in the Jiangnan (south of the Yangtze River) area".
The cultural park has been a major player in the development of Linhai's tourism sector. Despite the pandemic, the park continued to receive more than 100,000 visitors a year.
(Written by Li Zishuo. Li is master's student majoring in international journalism and communication at Tsinghua University, and is on a field survey tour with her classmates in Zhejiang province from Aug 9-15.)
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