Immersion: Pu Er



*** October, 2017 ***

Kunming is the capital city of Yunnan Province, the birthplace of tea. It is known as the "City of Eternal Spring" and boast some of the world's most beautiful natural scenery as well as traditional, cultural life. In Southwest China, far from bustling Beijing, the air is fresher, the pace of life is easier, the sun is brighter, the food is more flavorful and the people are open and friendly. 

The optional Pre-Tour begins with our cross-country flight to Kunming and a meeting with representatives of the provincial tea company. Yunnan is home to 35 of China's 50-some ethnic minorities and our dinner this evening is a pageant of colorful native costumes, music and delectable dishes including Over the Bridge noodle soup. The next morning, we set off to see one of the true natural wonders of the world, the legendary Stone Forest. Escorted buy our own local "Ashima"" guide from the Yi minority, enjoy local fables and stories as we make our way through the unique rock formations. Lunch is a feast of the famous tea roasted duck (vegetarian option available) and then a chance to wander freely through the sprawling tea market. Attend a lecture on tea history and trade in the training center of the Yunnan Tea Assn. Then, how about some time to relax in a local tea house after dinner.

In the morning, enjoy some morning tai ji and exercises with townspeople at Green Lake park. At the top of the nearby hill lies the Golden Temple,  the most famous Taoist temple in the province. Actually made of brass, it is constructed of nearly 250 tons of the metal. Our afternoon will be spent touring the sights of the Western Hills including Dragon Gate, which offers a bird's eye view of lake Dianchi, the largest freshwater lake in Yunnan. We'll also visit the Yunnan Ethnic Villages for a look into the lifestyles of some of Yunnan's diverse native groups.

 

What better place for our immersion into Pu Er to begin than begin than in Pu Er City? After a short flight we'll jump in with both feet with a lecture a the Pu Er Tea Research Center including our first formal tea tasting. Before the day is out, we'll also visit the Pu Er Tea Museum for a broad brush-stroke look at the evolution and manifestations of this tea. In the morning we board our private coach bus and head to the most southern part of the province, Xi Shuang Ban Na - the major production area for Pu Er. At the factory based in Menghai, we will tour the tea gardens, factory and perk up our palates in a tea tasting introducing the types and forms of Pu Er you will be making. After a formal reception hosted by the factory manager we'll enjoy a banquet of local special dishes.

For the next 3 days we will be living a Pu Er life. In the mornings we'll learn proper picking methods based on the tea the factory wants to produce, then take our leaves back to the factory for processing. Each day you will spend time in one section of the factory or working on one of the production steps, eventually covering the entire process. Topics covered include comparing and making Sheng (raw) and Shu (ripened) Pu Er, compressed vs. loose and new growth leaves vs. leaf from old tea trees. After lunch each day you will go into the classroom for topic-specific lectures on tea bush varietals and propagation, garden maintenance and cultivation, blending and flavor characteristics and sorting, packaging and storage issues. After the classroom we'll go to the tasting room for training in grading and quality assessment, influence of age factors and flaws and defects.

Brimming with knowledge we trek into the countryside taking a day trip to visit an ancient tea garden with 800+ year old trees. The hour  long hike up the mountain through the lush tropical forest brings us to the pavilion where we will take our final exam in the presence of the ancient trees.  A bountiful celebration feast awaits back at the factory complete with "campfire tea."

The location of the exciting post-tour is historic and beautiful Dali in western Yunnan. After a short flight we'll stretch our legs and walk through the remnants of Fengyangli village, one of the "jumping off" points for the tea caravans on their way to Tibet over the precarious Tea/Horse Road. Some remnants of the old days still exist and we can climb up to the local temple on the spot were the old caravans would stop to pray for a safe journey on their way out of town. We'll enjoy the  "Three Course Tea" , the charming local Dali custom of welcoming guests. For the next 3 nights we'll stay in a wonderful boutique hotel which is an authentically restored villa in the local architectural style.

Dali is also a major production center for Pu Er tea, especially Tuo Cha or "bowl tea." We will visit the famous Xiaguan tea factory and museum and have a chance to make our own Tuo Cha. Enjoy a lunch of traditional dishes at a local restaurant. We'll need to give thanks as well as walk off our full stomachs so we'll pay a visit the famous Gan Tong Si (Temple of Enlightened Consciousness) where there are also some 4oo year old, wild growing tea trees. Next, a visit to a local tea shop and then back home to rest. Besides Pu Er tea, Dali is well known for the snow capped Cang mountain, emerald Erhai lake, romantic Butterfly Spring and the emblem of the city -  the Three Pagodas. Today we will enjoy these scenic wonders and also have free time to wander around the Dali old town section. Lunch (and perhaps a serenade or two) is at the charming old town "Old Wooden House" restaurant. In the evening we'll enjoy a private performance by local musicians and a farewell banquet where we'll reminisce over favorite memories and special moments before packing our things and heading for home in the morning.



The exceptional 6 day base tour program and 3 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.