Seven Cups Tribute Tea Tour 2013
Throughout China’s history, the term “Tribute” has been used to denote products that were made especially for the Emperor, from the best ingredients and materials available. Tea gardens, factories, plots of rice, and even colors were reserved exclusively for the Emperor and his court. Commoners were not allowed to use these products.
Tea was no exception — Chinese tea producers received the prestigious title “Gong Cha Yuan” for factories that were set aside to make tea for the Emperor and his court. During our Tribute Tea Tour, we will visit some of the places that have made teas for the Chinese Emperor, including the oldest one in Zhejiang Province, which has been rebuilt so you can experience what it looked like in its heyday. The best quality tea always grows in beautiful areas, and the tea bushes become an integral part of the natural ecosystem. These areas provide the perfect settings for our trip.
For general information about our tours, including what you need to do to get ready, take a look at our 2013 China Tea Tour Home Page. You can also view ourblog posts to see videos and pictures from previous tours.
Tour date: April 16 – April 28, 2013 (exact dates subject to change)
Duration: 13 days in China
Tour cost: $3,950
Single room supplement: Rooms will be shared. Single rooms will require an additional cost of $600.
Minimum deposit: $1,500 (refundable until February 15, 2013 minus credit card processing fees.)
Tour cost includes: All local travel, all meals, all hotels, and all entry fees to events/museums from April 16 to April 28
Tour cost does not include: Airfare to and from Shanghai, visas, immunizations, and tips are not included. We’re happy to advise you in booking your flights to China and procuring your visa. Just let us know.
Day 1 (April 16) Pickup at Airport
To be on time for the beginning of this tour, you must arrive in Shanghai’s Pudong International Airport (airport code PVG) no later than April 16, 2013 at 2:00pm. Zhuping will meet everyone at the International Arrivals Terminal at 2:00pm on April 16th. She will drive with everyone to the hotel in Changxing, which will be your hotel for the first few days of the tour.
Important note: If you cannot schedule a flight to arrive before 2:00pm on April 16th, then please plan to arrive on April 15th. You can stay at the Ramada Pudong Airport Hotel, which is close to the airport, and meet Zhuping and the other travelers at 2:00pm at the airport on the 16th.
Day 2 (April 17): Gu Zhu and Yi Xing
Twenty minutes from the hotel, you’ll drive into the beautiful bamboo forest that surrounds Changxing. Our first stop is the Great Tang Dynasty Tribute Tea Museum, a stunning monument to tea built as a replica of the Tang Dynasty’s imperial tea factory (8th Century). Seven Cups will arrange a special Tang Dynasty-style tea ceremony for you at the Museum. Then we’ll have lunch with our Purple Bamboo Shoot tea master’s family. She will take you on a hike into the forest and up into her tea gardens. You’ll see how Purple Bamboo Shoot green tea is harvested and made in her small factory.
After lunch we’ll drive to Yi Xing, a city bordering Tai Lake and famous for its pottery. You’ll meet master potters and artists who will show you how to appreciate and use this type of teapot, and they will make a pot in front of you. If you love Yixing pottery (we do!) this is the place for you. Yixing was famous during the Tang Dynasty for its Tribute Tea, called “Yang Mu Cha.” We’ll try the local black tea while we’re here.
Day 3 (April 18): Daytrip to An Ji
Day 3 is all about An Ji, an area famous for its green teas, such as An Ji Bai Cha. An Ji Bai Cha is one of the Song Dynasty Emperor’s favorite teas, but was lost for centuries until the early 1980′s. This tea is famous for being extremely rich in amino acids, which lend the tea it’s famous sweetness.
In the morning we’ll hike up to see the hundred-year-old mother bush of An Ji Bai Cha, which is the only one still alive. Then we’ll have tea on the mountain with the family that guards this mother bush. After tea, we will have a fresh countryside lunch with bamboo shoots in the mountain village where the family lives. After lunch we’ll head to the An Ji Bai Cha’s organic tea farm, walk through the field, and visit the factory to see how this tea is made.
Day 4 (April 19): Daytrip to De Qing County
Learn about Mo Gan Huang Ya, a rare yellow tea grown in Zhejiang. Only a few older countryside tea masters know how to make this tea! You will meet Wang Qi Zhen, our Mo Gan Huang Ya master, who has gained notoriety not only by being the best in the countryside, but also because she’s a woman in a traditionally male-dominated industry. We’ll take a walk through her organic tea garden at the top of Mo Gan Mountain, where you’ll have vistas of the whole county. Master Wang will show you how she makes her tea, which requires several people to help.
Day 5 (April 20): Daytrip to Lu Yu’s Tomb and Nanxun
Today we go to visit Lu Yu’s Tomb in Huzhou city. Tea lovers from across China visit the tomb to pay their respects to Lu Yu, especially during the Qing Ming Festival in April. Lu Yu, who is considered China’s “Tea Saint,” is the author of the “Cha Jing,” the first book on tea and tea culture ever written, which he wrote in the 8th Century. Then we’ll drive to Nanxun county, an incredibly beautiful place lined with canals and renowned for its affluence during the Qing Dynasty. It was such an important place that these merchants paid to build canals directly to Shanghai to take their silk to market.
Merchants in Nanxun built their wealth in the silk trade. Over generations, wealthy families built houses using architectural techniques that are hard to find elsewhere in China. We’ll have tea in one of these garden houses, and take a tour so you can see how wealthy Chinese lived in those days.
Day 6 (April 21): Drive from Changxing to Yellow Mountain City
We depart early in the morning for a van ride to Anhui Province. Yellow Mountain City is an artists’ town with a bustling shopping street rebuilt from the Song Dynasty. The street is lined with family museums (old family homes) where you can see how Chinese used to live from the Song to the Qing Dynasties. It also has old shops where you can find local art, sweets, handicrafts, jewelry, tea, and other goods. This is one of Zhuping’s favorite places to see ancient architecture and shop for traditional Chinese goods.
Day 7 (April 22): Daytrip to Mr. Wang’s Factory
We’ll stay in beautiful Yellow Mountain City today to visit Mr. Wang Fang Sheng, the tea master behind our Imperial and Premium Huang Shan Mao Feng green tea. He also invented display teas (blooming teas) in 1986. We’ll have the opportunity to tour the Display Tea Museum and his factory to see how he produces the tea by hand. He will explain how to judge the different grades of Huang Shan Mao Feng. We’ll have dinner in a famous restaurant that is full of Chinese antiques.
Day 8 (April 23): Drive to Wu Yi Mountain
Today we’ll meet a young tea master who is continuing the tradition of making Rock Wulong teas and the famous Lapsang Souchong black tea. We’ll drink many different Wu Yi rock wulongs and Lapsang Souchongs to learn about the characteristics of Wu Yi teas. Wu Yi Shan is the birthplace of both wulong tea and black tea.
Day 9 (April 24): Daytrip to meet Famous Rock Wulong Tea Master Liu Guo Ying
Today we will hike into the heart of Wu Yi Shan Preserve and the top of Wu Yi Mountain to visit its famous tea gardens. We’ll study many different tea bushes, so you can understand how many different bushes can be made into Rock Wulongs. From his garden to his workshop, Master Liu Guo Ying will show you the entire process of picking and producing traditional rock wulong teas by hand. He will teach you how different bushes, soils, roasting techniques, and grades all yield different flavors of wulong. Come thirsty…we’ll taste a lot of tea today!
After meeting Liu Guo Ying, we’ll relax and enjoy some of the culture around Wu Yi Mountain. Zhuping and her local friends will help you shop in Wu Yi’s famous San Gu Market.
Day 10 (April 25): Daytrip to Meet Master Jiang
Today we will visit Master Jiang in her factory. We’ll walk through her organic tea garden to see how she has planted the garden, how she cultivates the tea using organic methods, and how she makes a very fragrant wulong. She will also teach you the differences between tea bushes in a special demonstration garden where she has many different varietals of rock wulongs. We’ll have lunch in the area’s picturesque bamboo forest. After lunch we’ll head to the Dragon Kiln Ruins, where the original Mo Cha (Matcha) tea bowls were produced. Mo Cha is a powdered green tea popular during the Song Dynasty, when it was drunk in a bowl.
Later that day we’ll go to visit Da Hong Pao (Big Red Robe) Park and the ancient temple that is believed to be the first place that wulong tea was made by monks.
Day 11 (April 26): Daytrip to Nanping
Today we’ll visit Nanping, a city with a long history of tea production and trade. We will visit an organic tea garden to learn about different varietals of the white tea bush, and see what makes white tea different from other types of tea. We’ll taste a variety of white teas and some brand-new greens, wulongs, and black teas that these producers have invented.
In the afternoon we will visit an ancient village near the tea gardens. The village is renowned for its original stone streets and houses, which have been preserved for hundreds of years. This village is not a well-known tourist destination, which means it has a lived-in feel and has retained its historical charm. From a Chinese perspective, it is rare to find such a village that survived wars and the Cultural Revolution.
Day 12 (April 27): Drive to Kai Hua
Today we’ll move to Kai Hua, which is famous for producing green tea. It’s in the Golden Triangle of green tea, where many of the most famous green teas are made. We’ll visit an organic tea garden and meet tea scholars who have devoted their careers to studying tea. They will accompany us to the gardens and taste the local Kai Hua Long Ding green tea. Kai Hua was a tribute tea during the Qing Dynasty, toward the end of the 19th century.
We’ll enjoy a delicious local meal and then depart for Hangzhou city, one of China’s most important cultural sites.
Day 13 (April 28): Daytrip around Hangzhou
We’ll take a daytrip around Hangzhou, a beautiful city that’s popular with Chinese and foreign tourists alike. Hangzhou is known as the Tea Capital of China. We’ll take a walk through the Emperor’s Tea Garden and visit the Hangzhou Tea Museum.
In the afternoon we’ll take an electric car tour around West Lake, which was the capital of China during the Song Dynasty. It’s also one of the most important cultural sites in China — many of China’s emperors spent time here.
Back to Shanghai: At the end of the day, Zhuping will help you get back to the hotel in Pudong, close to the airport. You’ll have a good night’s sleep (covered in the cost of tour) and be ready for your flight home the next day.
Day 14 (April 29): Back home
You can schedule your departure for this day, or spend more time in Shanghai if you choose.
Touring the Chinese countryside is physically demanding. On this tour, be prepared to walk, hike, and travel by van and bus.
The days will be long, because we want to make sure you see as much as possible. We usually start our day around 8:00am, and get back to the hotel after 8:00pm.
Over the past several years we have learned that plans in China are always subject to change. Flexibility is key, especially in the countryside where few foreigners have ventured. We appreciate your flexibility, and will do everything possible to ensure that this tour exceeds your wildest expectations.