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(following the Xiamen Intl. Tea Fair )
Wuyi Shan Pre-Tour
Hong Kong Post-Tour
Besides being one of the most historic tea areas in the country, the Wuyi Mountains is one of China's most beautiful natural scenic spots and our fun begins here on the optional pre-tour extension. After taking the train from Xiamen, our adventure starts with a relaxing raft ride down the famous winding 9 Bend Stream and see the 36 Fairy Peaks. Afterward we waste no time in getting started with our training and enter the class room for study in the Chinese tea ceremony. Our welcome banquet with some new tea friends completes our day.
Get out your notebooks. On the second day we pay homage to the Da Hong Pao mother trees and have our first introduction to different tea bush varietals. Enjoy some of the famous tea as we hear the legend of its discovery. Lunch today is in the Yongle Temple, where we'll nourish our bodies and spirits with a vegetarian meal and interact with the monks while we tour the temple that was the original caretaker of the Da Hong Pao trees. In the afternoon we'll have a more academic curriculum as we enroll in a lecture on tea history, culture, botany and chemistry at the Wuyi University. We'll have some time to do some tea tastings and visit tea shops before dinner.
The base tour continues the momentum we have started and kicks our study into high gear as we start the day with a visit to the tea museum to learn about ancient tea preparation and production methods. Next we tour through one of the largest collections of tea bush varietals and cultivars in the world. Learn to recognize the major ones at sight. After lunch we put on our work clothes and head to the tea fields for instruction in tea plucking, tea bush propagation and then take our harvest back to the factory for withering. We'll go into the tasting room for a comparative examination of different types of Yan Cha (rock teas).
In the morning, we get started early and head back into the factory to learn the next steps in manufacture; rolling, oxidation and baking. In the afternoon we'll explore the differences that light and heavy roasting make on the final product. This evening we'll have time to run wild in the tea markets and acquire some more tasty teas.
Brains and bellies full of Yan Cha, we'll say farewell to Wuyi and board the train back to Xiamen (known as Amoy in the old days) where we'll learn about tea export past and present, take a walk on the beach and hop aboard a private boat cruise to enjoy the beautiful coast line and see the ocean liners being loaded with freight. This afternoon we switch gears and start filling our tasting cups with Tie Guan Yin and oolongs produced in the area.
In the morning we drive to AnXi, cradle of Tie Guan Yin and the tea factory guest house that will be our home for the next few days. We'll arrive just in time to start picking tender green leaves and will begin to learn about the different tea bush varietals. Learn the differences between seed planting and cloning as well as organic farming practices. It's time to spread our leaves out in the sun to wither and then enjoy a plentiful tea-worker's lunch. As our leaves wither, we'll be in the tea tasting room slurping and comparing different Qing Xiang (light oxidation) oolongs discussing valuation assesment. Also learn about blending for optimal aromatic and flavor.
After a nights sleep in the fresh mountain air we go downstairs to the factory to begin the rolling, shaping and de-enzyming steps. Taste the tea's progress at each step along the way. Before lunch we'll taste the differences resulting from different oxidation levels, baking times and temps. This afternoon, we'll drive to visit the Tie Guan Yin mother bushes; a national heritage site that is protected by stone fencing. Then it's back to the factory to finish the baking, sorting and grading steps for our finished tea.
No visit to AnXi is complete without seeing the bustling Capital Tea Market where farmers come to sell their tea each day. Find some exciting teas and negotiate for some deals before visiting the special VIP tea museum. After lunch we catch the train to Chaozhou. As well as tea, Chaozhou is the home of Gongfu style of tea preparation and we'll enjoy some tea with locals as we take in some of the sights of the ancient town. See the old city wall and enjoy favorite Chaozhou dishes at dinner is in the old street section tonight.
Before driving up into the Fenghuang (Phoenix) mountains the next morning, get out your notebooks and pens for a meeting with a Dan Cong tea expert and researcher on the history of this special oolong tea varietal which boasts dozens of sub-types. After arriving in Fenghuang we'll have lunch and meet with a tea company for a tasting of some of the main Dan Congs produced in the area.
This morning we'll start our Dan Cong education with a walking lecture through a mountain tea garden learning about tea bush varietals and propagation. Before lunch we'll arrive at the tea factory, our home for the next 2 days. First we'll focus on tasting several teas and exploring different variations. Tea picking here is done in the afternoon and our first lesson in tea productions starts with harvesting leaves from some ancient trees then it's back to the factory for withering. Get elbow deep in tea leaves as we guide them through the multi-stage process which goes into the night. The next day we continue our training with learning more of the steps in tea leaf production, focused topic discussions and evaluative tea tastings. Rolling, oxidation levels, baking and even aging are different than the previous oolongs we will have learned about. Dan Cong teas are quite different that those from Wuyi and Anxi and this will round out our knowledge of Chinese oolongs teas. Brain's brimming with new knowledge, we'll have our final exam this evening while enjoying limitless tiny cups of the teas we have experienced along the trip.
In the morning we drive back to Chaozhou to catch our train to vibrant Hong Kong. After lunch we'll wander the exhibits at the Flagstaff Tea Ware Museum then have a final culminating lecture on oolong teas by world renowned tea expert Ip Wingchi, owner of the celebrated Lock Cha tea houses.
Our final destination and the optional post-tour extension for this special program, Hong Kong is an eclectic mix of Chinese and foreign cultures. It is a simmering melting pot which has long been one of the main trading ports for tea. What better way to finish our study than with a boat cruise to get a broad view of the harbor. Then get a top down view as we take the tram up to "the Peak". The lunch menu today is dim-sum, Hong Kong's favorite meal of bite-sized dishes. Local restaurants can be quite noisy as the carts loaded with steam baskets circle around. Locals love high-fired and aged oolongs but also have a passion for Pu Er. What tea will you choose? We'll need to walk of our lunch and the best way to do that in Hong Kong is to go tea shop hopping. Visit some of the most famous tea shops and taste teas that have been carefully stored for decades.
The second day starts with a visit to the shoppers paradise, Stanley Market. Taking in some other sights of Hong Kong, by early afternoon we'll find ourselves at the luxurious Peninsula hotel where we'll enjoy a "proper" Afternoon Tea service. Tonight we'll enjoy our farewell banquet when we'll reminisce over the favorite memories and special moments that will stay with us forever.
The exceptional 9 day base tour program and 2 day optional pre- and post-tour extensions are filled with exciting, educational and authentic experiences, sure to delight both professionals and devoted tea drinkers, providing memories that will last a lifetime. Due to the unique nature, space is limited, so please make your reservations early.