Immersion: China~Oolong




October 6 - 18, 2016
(preceding the Xiamen Intl. Tea Fair - Oct 20-24)

Vibrant Hong Kong is the our first destination and the optional pre-tour extension for this special program. An eclectic mix of Chinese and foreign cultures, Hong Kong is a simmering melting pot which has long been one of the main trading ports for tea. What better way to start than with a boat cruise to get a broad view of the harbor. Like Hong Kong herself, our lunch will be a combination of culinary delight and tea discussion as we visit the renowned Lok Cha tea house and meet with owner and celebrated tea expert Ip Wing Chi. Taste some specially selected teas as we learn about Hong Kong's tea history and trade.

Next we'll wander the exhibits of the Flagstaff Tea Ware Museum which is housed in an old colonial mansion. Enjoy a welcome banquet of special Hong Kong delicacies. Day two starts with a visit to the shoppers paradise, Stanley Market. Then we see the island from the top taking in the view from "The Peak". Prepare to gorge as we enjoy a Dim Sum lunch at a local favorite spot then walk it off again visiting several of Hong Kong's famous tea shops. Fill up again with another amazing dinner then rest up for our flight to mainland China in the morning.

 

Our training begins with our arrival in Chaozhou, Guangdong Province's historic and culturally rich tea hub. Wasting no time, we'll first meet with tea researchers for a lecture on oolong teas, how they are categorized and the Dan Cong oolongs in particular. After lunch we'll meet with a tea company for a tasting of some of the main teas produced in the area. Chaozhou is also the home of Gongfu tea style and we'll enjoy some tea with locals as we take in some of the sights of the town. Dinner is in the old street section tonight with favorite Chaozhou dishes.

Escorted by our mentor for this part of the program, an award winning tea maker and owner of the factory, the next morning we take our private coach to Fenghuang Mtn. home to several oolongs. We'll start our education with a walking lecture through a 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 of Dan Cong oolongs. Tea picking here is done in the afternoon and our first lesson in tea productions starts with 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 tea leaf picking, production, focused topic discussions and evaluative tea tastings.

With our taste buds well schooled in Dan Congs, the next morning we say goodbye to Fenghuang and take the train to the energetic city of Xiamen, known as Amoy in the old days. One of the original export points for tea shipments to Europe, upon arrival we'll transfer to the tea research center for and informative program on Tie Guan Yin oolongs as well as traditional and contemporary issues of tea cultivation. After a meet with a tea trading company we'll enjoy some sights of Xiamen, including a port cruise and even a walk on the beach! The next day we head for the tea hills of Anxi, famous for Tie Guan Yin (Iron Goddess of Mercy). We'll stop at the tea museum and then check out the tea merchants and action at the Tea Capital Market.

As before, we'll have a hands-on walking lecture as we walk the trails through at tea garden, learning these local tea bush varietals. Then, we'll transfer to the tea factory to get started on our new tea making skills. We just have two days to learn the complete production process, including withering, rolling, oxidizing and firing. We'll also cover comparative tasting, blending and grading. For our section quiz we'll drive to the mother Tie Guan Yin bushes for inspiration as we sip some freshly made tea. Then, it's back to Xiamen to catch our flight to Wuyi Shan in Northern Fujian.

The scenery and teas are legendary, even mystical and we'll uncover the secrets while studying at the university, living on a tea estate, picking, making and tasting the baked and roasted teas from this area. Wuyi teas are quite different that those from Fenghuang and Anxi and this will round out our knowledge of Chinese oolongs teas. It can take several months and re-bakings to bring these teas to perfection and we'll taste samples of teas at varying stages. Our final exam for the program is held under the watchful gaze of the ancient Da Hong Pao tea bushes that grow on the cliff-side. (the tea estate we stay on also makes the famous Lapsang Souchong and we'll learn a bit about that too!)

Wuyi Shan is also one of China's most beautiful natural scenic spots and our fun continues on the optional post-tour extension. The day begins with a relaxing raft ride down the winding 9 Bend Stream. with a break for lunch we'll stretch our legs and follow the trail to the scenic Heavenly Peak which overlooks the stream below. In the afternoon we'll drive into town and go tea shop hopping. And, after dinner we'll enjoy the ambiance at a local tea house.

On our final day we'll start with a demonstration and training in the Chinese Tea Ceremony. Next we'll ride into the countryside and enjoy a tour of the Rui Yan Buddhist temple including a fabulous vegetarian lunch. This evening we'll have time to run wild in the tea markets and acquire some more tasty teas then enjoy a 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.