Bendi Stories: Dragon Boat Festival Tea in Songyang, Zhejiang

WildChina > Destinations > Songyang > Bendi Stories: Dragon Boat Festival Tea in Songyang, Zhejiang

On the fifth day of the fifth month of the lunar calendar, the annual Dragon Boat Festival springs to life across China. In Songyang, Zhejiang Province, preparations for the festival begin over a month in advance. Locals like Ye Jinping start their days rising with the sun in order to ascend the mountains where the freshest aromatic herbs can be found.

Dragon Boat Festival Tea preparation
Ye Jinping harvesting herbs in the mountains.

These herbs are destined for Duanwu tea, or “Dragon Boat Festival tea,” a local specialty renowned not only for its refreshing properties but also for its distinctive flavor that defines Songyang’s festivities. 

Unlike conventional teas crafted solely from tea leaves, Dragon Boat Festival tea is a blend of botanical herbs meticulously selected at perfect ripeness, prized for their cooling and digestive benefits. This infusion complements the hot summer days and the hearty indulgence of zongzi, the beloved bamboo-leaf wrapped rice dumplings which are savored by families during the festival.  

Beyond its flavor and refreshment, the drink ((Dragon Boat Festival tea)) is said to have medicinal benefits, helping to prevent summer illnesses such as dehydration and heatstroke. It also symbolizes vitality and protection against malevolent forces. During the Dragon Boat Festival, these beliefs are further echoed through centuries-old customs, such as wearing perfume pouches filled with aromatic herbs to ward off evil spirits and hanging calamus on doors to promote health within households. 

Dragon Boat Festival Tea preparation - Ye Jinping in his workshop.
Ye Jinping in his workshop.

At Ye Jinping’s herbal shop, the harvested herbs undergo a careful process. They are cleaned, delicately cut, and sun-dried to preserve their natural essence and flavors. Expertly blended, these herbs yield teas that honor local treasured recipes and embody Songyang’s rich biodiversity. Because of the mountains’ bountiful resources, no two blends of Dragon Boat Festival tea are the same. 

Dragon Boat Festival Tea preparation - Ye Jinping's herb class for local children.
Ye Jinping’s herb class for local children.

As Songyang’s special tisane continues to enrich the Dragon Boat Festival celebrations, it preserves a cultural heritage that spans generations, offering a taste of tradition and renewal in every sip.

Words by Gabrielle Keepfer

Video produced by WildChina碧山

Cinematography and editing by Charles Zhu

Subtitles by Oreo Zeng, Kendra Tombolato & Elena Shlykova

A special thanks to:

Ye Jinping

Location: Songyang County, Zhejiang Province

For more stories from Songyang, visit our travelogue.