or centuries this very famous aromatic light green tea was known by the name Xia Sha Ren Xiang (Astounding Fragrance). A legend explains why. Once in the distant past, some pickers of a particularly good crop filled their baskets before they were ready to go home. Wanting to carry more leaves, they stuffed the excess inside their tunics. Warmed by body heat, the leaves began to give off a rich aroma. “I was astounded,” many pickers said, and the name stuck.
Sometime in the late seventeenth or early eighteenth century while on an inspection of his realm, Emperor Kang Xi visited the Lake Taihu area in Zhejiang province and his host presented him with this tea. Striking the Emperor as a tea of purity he asked the name. “Astounding Fragrance” was his host’s reply. The Emperor, with disdain, replied that such a name for this treasure was vulgar and an insult. Ordering the unused leaves brought for his examination, the Emperor declared that a more fitting name would be Green Snail Spring because the rolled shape looked like a snail shell.
The original name is most popular, however. Peach, apricot and plum trees are planted among the bushes. When these fruit trees bloom, the tender spouts and buds of tea absorb the aromas to be passed on to those who drink their infusion.
The name is now known all over the world, for this is one of China’s famous rare teas. Its home is two mountains known as East and West Dongting which poke up out of Taihu, the great lake not far west of Shanghai, and where the garden city of Suzhou is located. One mountain is an island in the lake and the other a peninsula. The water evaporating from the lake keeps them overhung with clouds and mist, thus the young leaves stay moist.