*** April 2018 ***
Beijing 3 Day Pre-tour Extension - Our adventure begins in the capital city of Beijing, China's political and cultural heart for over 800 years. The bustling metropolis incorporates historical sights and relics along side modern architecture and conveniences. After being met by our guides we transfer to our hotel and rest from the flight. Your hotel this evening is included in the tour tuition.
Day 3 - We'll start our day with a morning stroll through a bustling local street market followed by a Hu Tong, the traditional Beijing-style home, now being razed to make way for modern buildings. Next we learn a little about China's spiritual legacy with a visit to White Cloud Taoist Temple. Lunch today is at your own pace, nibbling your way through the food stalls of Wangfujing. Next, shop after shop of wonderful teas and treasures await at the expansive Tea Supermarket. Tonight we'll celebrate with a special welcome banquet.
China Tea Tour 2018 - Base Tour - We continue our adventure with a full cup of activities in Beijing.
Day 1 - We are up early today to take in the tranquility of the sprawling Temple of Heaven park and join in some tai chi, a popular morning exercise. After a tour of the ancient compound we visit a local family's home for a tasty lesson in dumpling making. No tour of Beijing is complete without a chance to hunt for treasures in the old Liu Li Chang antique market street. Pack up and head for the airport for our evening flight to Changsha, capital of Hunan province.
Day 2 - This morning we will meet with a tea company for a tea tasting and to learn about the many teas produced in Hunan. There we will also get our first introduction to yellow tea and what makes this rare and historic type distinct from other teas. Following the meeting we board our coach bus and head to the shores of Dong Ting lake where we will take a boat to the island where Jun Shan Yin Zhen yellow tea is made. After lunch we'll visit the tea gardens then enter the factory to learn the processing steps first hand and taste examples of this unique and healthful tea. Our dinner tonight is with the tea farmers featuring local dishes.
Day 3 - Today's destination is Zhaoliqiao, the home of the famous Hubei tea bricks. By lunch time we'll reach our goal and tour the factory and see how these unique tiles of compressed tea are made as well as learn about the long history of compressed tea trade.
Day 4 - After a morning's travel through some beautiful country-side we'll arrive at the peaks of famous Lu Shan and the National Botanical Garden. We'll participate in a program about the botanical history and aspects of the tea plant. Lu Shan is also famous for its Yun Wu (Clouds and Mist) green teas and we'll have a tour of one of the mist covered gardens and a tasting of some special reserve teas that are made there. Overnight, refresh in the clean mountain air.
Day 5 - Today we descend from our alpine retreat and ride to China's historic porcelain capital, Jingdezhen. After lunch, visit the porcelain museum as well a workshop where you can try your hand at making a cup or bowl. Spend some time in the shops of the porcelain market and bargain for your favorite tea-ware.
Day 6 - Today we travel by train to one of China's most scenic spots, Yellow Mountains - Huang Shan in Chinese. Get your taste buds ready this afternoon as we visit a local tea shop for an introduction to the famous teas from the area and taste several examples of freshly made teas. In the old Tunxi street, a key trading center for tea in ancient times, you'll be free to roam the shops and alleys seeing stores selling herbs, antiques, calligraphy supplies, art, costumes, and many other goods, including of course, tea.
Day 7 - This morning we'll take the scenic gondola up to the top of the mountain for a bird's-eye view. A prized photo in every direction you look, we'll trek around the pathways and lookouts to see the unique formations. If mother nature so desires, we may be permitted to see the "Sea of Clouds" below us since the area is blanketed in clouds over 200 days a year. A subject of artists' inspiration, the area is home to many famous teas. After lunch, we'll come down from the mountain and pay a visit to a local tea tea factory and garden where you can pick and hand-make your own tea.
Day 8 - After a good night's rest, we hit the road and head for the beautiful city of Hangzhou. An ancient capital, the Hangzhou area is also famous for tea, especially Long Jing (Dragon Well) green tea. We'll visit the old Dragon Well and hear a folklore story about how this tea got its name. See the mother bushes of this popular tea and then enjoy some tea and conversation with a stop at a local tea merchant. Dinner tonight features dishes made with Long Jing tea.
Day 9 - Today we will spend the morning in Meijiawu, one of the most highly regarded villages for authentic Long Jing tea production. Under the tutelage of a 22nd generation tea master, learn how to pick and process this prized tea. Our lunch is in the ancestral home of our host and features delicious, home-made "farmer style" dishes. Next, it is time to explore the scientific side of tea with an exclusive visit and meeting at the National Tea Research Institute.
Day 10 - Continue our study of tea at the National Tea Museum with displays and exhibits covering tea history, proliferation, processing, culture and even art. After lunch, enjoy a relaxing ride on the placid West Lake aboard the Dragon boat. Then, we make our way to the elegant city of Suzhou by day's end.
Day 11 - We are up early this morning and head for the tea gardens of Dong Shan. The eastern and western peaks are the origin of Biluochun (Green Snail Spring), a tribute tea for centuries. We'll walk through the garden learning the precise plucking techniques and then visit the factory to learn the unique steps in making this tea. We'll also have a chance to taste several examples of freshly made teas. After returning to Suzhou we'll enjoy cultural performances at the Master of Nets villa, a former residence and one of the famous examples of traditional gardens.
Day 12 - Suzhou is called the "Venice of the East" for it's honeycomb of canals. It is also famous for its gardens. Lion Garden is well known for its interesting landscaping, especially the rock gardens. We'll enjoy the morning roaming through the gardens then take a boat ride through the canals to glimpse this special living style. In the afternoon we visit the silk / embroidery museum and workshop to learn about how the intricate designs are crafted using threads which are barely visible. Leaving Suzhou, we leave for the bustling metropolis of Shanghai, one of the world's busiest and most influential cities.
Yixing/Shanghai 4 Day Post-tour Extension
Day 1 - Our adventure continues as we coach to the birthplace of the teapot, Yixing. We'll tour a teapot workshop to see the artists in action and then sit down with our own clay for a tutorial where you will make your own teapot.
Day 2 - This morning we step back in history with a visit to the ancient Dragon Kiln, to see how pottery has been fired for nearly 1000 years. It is still in use today! Then, we'll visit the National Pottery Museum for an overview of Yixing and the functional art that has been created there for millennia. After lunch, we'll spend the whole afternoon in the teapot market. Find new treasures and talk directly with artists. Dinner tonight is with potters and teapot friends.
Day 3 - Before we head back to Shanghai, we'll pick up our freshly fired teapots and say goodbye to our new friends. Along the way we'll make a stop for lunch in Wuxi. Arriving back in town, we head straight for the expansive tea market. Enjoy the afternoon sipping more teas than you can count and trying new as well as favorite teas from all over China.
Day 4 - Today we'll join the pulse of the city with a morning walk along the iconic Bund and then enjoy the city skyline as we take a cruise down the Huangpu river, the main shipping artery for the city and much of this part of China. Our lunch today is in historic Old Shanghai and we'll feast on delicious dim sum delicacies. The Yu Garden is right next door and we'll stroll through this former residence and finish our afternoon sitting in the Mid-Lake Pavillion Tea House. At our farewell dinner tonight we can share stories and favorite memories from the tour, think about when we'll be able to come back for more.