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Wednesday, December 1, 2010

2011 Spring Harvest Tea Tour to China

Freshly picked green tea leaves
Longjing Xia Ren (龙井虾仁), or shrimp with Longjing tea - a local delicacy from Hangzhou
Understanding tea needs experience. Little by little, as we learn more about tea, all of us also learn how much more we don't know. Tea is deeper, broader and more diverse than any one lifetime. It's an inheritance we have received from the lifetimes of the hundreds of others who have come before us and given us their wisdom. It's a collective effort in which we each have our little part, and it is by sharing them together that we generate wealth.  

This is how culture is different from commerce: The more the former is shared freely between individuals, the richer it is, and the more benefit we get. Conversely, if we don't put much in, we won't get much benefit. Since it's something we have to be able to share, if we've never given much to it, we'll never get much from it; in fact, we'll never even know what we're missing. A lot of life is like this, isn't it?

So, what's the best way to develop a correct education about tea, then? Tea isn't simply an idea. As a practice, we need to give it time to see what perspective it brings into our lives. It's something we need to experience physically and feel emotionally. Mentally, we have to understand its background - its history, culture, production, and to taste the most authentic teas. Where to do this? Well, it couldn't hurt to go to the motherland of tea - China. 

At this point, you might be thinking: "China? That might be the perfect place to learn about tea, but I don't speak any Chinese. In addition, China is so big, just where would I go?" 

Or, some of you might be thinking something like: "China? I went there already - Beijing, Shanghai, Hongkong - lots of tall buildings, shopping malls, cars and people, people, people, all of them running after money. What you write about tea here in this blog is very pretty, but it's not what I saw while I was there."  

I also recently heard a complaint from a Western tea drinker about his last trip to China. "The trip was fantastic," he said, "but it was the longest time I didn't have any tea." Of course I was surprised. "How is it possible you went to China and didn't have tea?" I asked. His response: "Because all the teas in the restaurants there are bad."  

This made me feel embarrassed and sorry, particularly since Chinese tea culture is something I'm rather proud of. I wish I could have been there to tell him where to get the best and freshest teas. 

Well, I've decided to do exactly that, if you are a tea lover, tea explore, in the tea business, want to discover Chinese culture, or just want to release your stress and visit the places in my sideshow (among others), here is a wonderful opportunity for you - a 14-day immersion into the world of Chinese tea; agriculture, production, culture, traditions and landscape. 

The trip is organized by the Cha Dao Foundation. It will offer you a path into the heart of tea, and will be a unique adventure, packed full of fun, education, excitement, surprise, exploration and breathtaking natural beauty.

Some exceptional tour highlights include:

* Meet tea makers and potters
* Explore remote mist-covered tea plantations
* Join the tea harvest with farmers
* Hand-make your own teas and teapots
* Learn about the agriculture and processing of tea from different regions
* Visit ancient tea gardens where Emperors once relaxed with tea in hand and see ancient tea trees over a thousand years old
* Tour historic landmarks of the Ming and Qing dynasties
* Feel the charm of China's many colorful traditions as we visit several famous tea producing and cultural regions
* Experience the beauty and serenity of the tea farmers’ countryside life
* Enjoy local organic food specialties
* Taste exquisite, authentic, freshly handmade teas
* Join excursions to remote tea gardens where you can pick and even hand-make your own tea
* Receive a tea education in the gentle and friendly ambiance of numerous tea houses
* Participate in tea ceremonies and tea performances  
* Plus many more moments of discovery and exploration

Why choose this trip?

1.      The pace of our trip will be relaxed, for you to have time to feel the deep culture of tea and its traditions, the atmosphere and landscape. You will experience authentic countryside tea garden life, which you can not discover in big cities like Beijing or Shanghai, and will miss if you have only been given enough time to take a photo and then hurry on to another viewpoint.

 2.     Our trip limits the number of participants to 8 persons. We have two tour guides to pay close attention to everyone and make sure your trip is comfortable, educational, exciting and fun.

3.      The itinerary of our trip is flexible. We are happy to change our schedule to visit the places which most interest you.

4.      Our trip will provide you ample chances to communicate freely with tea masters, tea makers, teapot potters, and tea business people.

5.      Our trip will give you the hands-on opportunity to produce your own tea.

6.      Our trip will include lessons about both spoken Chinese and the history of tea.

Trip Details:

Travel Dates: April 01 – April 15, 2011 (exact dates subject to change)
Trip length: 14 days, 14 nights
Activity level: Relaxing, moderate to strenuous
Number of travelers: 5 to 8
Tour cost: $3,250 (Single room supplement: $650)
Minimum deposit: $1,500 (refundable until 45 days prior to departure)
Tour cost includes: All local transportation, meals, hotels, and event + museum tickets from April 01 to April 14 (accommodations for the night before the tour begins are not included)
Tour cost does not include: Airfare to and from Shanghai, visas, immunizations, cost on day 15 in Shanghai, shopping and personal expenses.

To book your tour
Please contact me at or leave a message at (425) 200-5318

Due to the unique nature of this tour, space is limited, so please make your reservations early.

Please click here to learn about the Daily Itinerary or visit to download the daily itinerary.

Whether you can join me for this trip or not, I hope you continue to develop your own experience of tea. It's a path that never ends, but every step of the way is beautiful. I hope I can sometimes offer a small taste of that in this blog. More soon! 

With best wishes and a small pot of Da hong pao,


Tuesday, November 30, 2010

Daily Itinerary of 2011 Spring Tea Tour to China


The Special taste and aroma of fresh Chinese tea…

A fascinating and sensual experience in the motherland of tea – China

The 2011 Spring Tea Harvest Tour is specially designed for tea lovers, tea explorers and people who simply want to release their stress and discover Chinese culture.

Daily Itinerary

Day 1:
After a long flight, we will relax in an historical area of tea farms in Dongting, Suzhou – the original source of Biluochun tea. Many tea gardens and tea houses are waiting for you to experience plucking tea, processing tea, and to savor the freshest tea while you watch the local “biluochun” ladies picking tea in the tea gardens. Here you can feel the strong customs and traditions of tea and be completely surrounded by authentic tea garden life. In the afternoon, we will visit the ancient village of Lugang.
Day 2:
We will visit the unique and breathtaking Suzhou gardens, with their ethereal beauty and classical design. These gardens were the perfect environment for scholars in the Ming Dynasty and were a haven in which calligraphy, paintings, music and many poems were composed.

Day 3:
We will take a short bus trip to Yixing, where we will visit the Yixing Zisha Research
Institute and a ceramic company owned by one of the most famous art and craft masters in China. We will also meet master potters and learn the process of making clay tea wares.  
Day 4:
We will ride through the amazing and unique Shanjuan caves on a barge, where we can admire the bizarre shapes of the many cave formations, then make teapots and other items from clay, which you can take home with you.
Later we will visit the Chinese Ceramics Museum and a ceramics market to understand the importance of zisha teapots for brewing a fine cup of oolong tea, to interview the potters and shop for your favorite zisha tea wares.
Day 5:
We will take the bus to visit the source of a special and unique green tea called Anji Baicha. It contains about 3 times more amino acids than any other green tea, and the leaves change color according to different temperatures. We will also visit a thousand-year-old ancestral Anji baicha tea tree up in the mountains. There we will meet a fellow known locally as “Uncle Gui,” who does not want to go anywhere but stays to care for this ancient tea tree like his child. He is the 13th generation of his family with this responsibility.
Day 6:
Anji is also known as “the capital of bamboo.” Bamboo has long been associated with tea, painting, natural beauty and peace in China and other Asian countries (e.g. Korea and Japan). We are going to see over 380 kinds of bamboo from all over of the world in a beautiful huge bamboo garden where we can enjoy the sights, sounds and then even taste different cooking styles for fresh bamboo shoots. This special place embodies the thousands of years of bamboo history and culture in China. In the afternoon, we will have more fun at the biggest waterfall area in Zhejiang province.   
Day 7:
We are nearing the capital of tea and capitol of the Southern Song Dynasty. We will stay in a tea village which is a major producer of Dragon Well – aka Longjing tea. We will observe and learn the hand processing of Longjing, and then savor the freshest and most authentic tea with real local delicious organic farmers’ food. We will have organic vegetables, and 100% free range chicken (which will taste much more flavorful than any chicken you had in the USA), local wild vegetables and signature dishes prepared with fresh tea. By trying our hands at processing tea, eating farm food and living with the farmers, we will immerse ourselves in Chinese countryside tea culture.
Day 8:
We will stay in a traditional building next to Hangzhou’s famous West Lake. We will visit the National Tea Museum, have a tea class with a certified tea master and then have tea made with water from the famous Long Pau Hu spring (of course, water is very important, and is known in Chinese as “the mother of tea”). After that, we will visit a temple located just next to our hotel. 
Day 9:
We will ride bikes around the West Lake, enjoy the beautiful landscape with its pavilions, willows, lotus flowers, etc. and visit one of many teahouses where we can enjoy tea with many different Chinese snacks and deserts while watching the waves of the lake. We will visit the Hu xue Yan complex, which houses a large classical garden that rivals the best gardens of Suzhou.
Day 10:
We will visit Qing He Fang Avenue, with architecture, decorations, and shops dating back to the Qing Dynasty. It has a famous old traditional Chinese medicine shop and century-old teahouse; in addition it’s an ideal place to purchase little gifts such as Chinese crafts, silk, etc. for family and friends back in the USA. You are free to shop in the morning, and then we will travel to Huangshan in the afternoon.
Day 11:
We will visit a factory owned by the third generation of the family of the creator of Huangshan Maofeng, followed by a tea museum, and then another factory that produces the unique tea Taiping Houkui. We will meet tea masters from both factories and learn special processing details about both teas. 
Day 12 and 13:
Option 1:
Visiting Huangshan, where one feels as if one is in a Chinese landscape painting with ancient pine trees, odd rocks and waterfalls, where we can stay overnight on the mountaintop and watch the sunrise the following morning, refreshed and inspired by the vast landscape with its infinity of distinctive peaks, cliffs, and a cup of simple fresh tea.
Option 2:
Going to Qimen city to visit a Qimen black tea factory; talking to tea masters; learning about the production of one of the world’s most famous black teas; visiting the gardens that produce Qimen black tea.
Day 14:
We will visit the ancient streets of Tunxi, in Huangshan city, which has more than 400 years of history. Buildings with different architectural styles remain from the Dong, Ming and Qing dynasties, with additional elements distinctive to local vernacular architecture. We will experience local culture and history in the morning and have some free time to wander and discover more…
Day 15:
We return to Shanghai and prepare to fly home. 

Please note that there are a lot of details, events, activities, and places we haven’t listed here yet. The trip will be full of fun, education, surprise, exploration, adventure, relaxation and natural beauty.

To book your tour
Please contact us at or
Leave a message at 425-200-5318

Sponsored by
The Cha Dao Foundation 
1531 1st Ave # 509
Seattle WA 98101

Friday, August 6, 2010

Green Tea: Production Process

Baby tea buds and leaves on the tea bush



Fresh budsets after picking

Machine production (1)

Machine production (2)


Firing and shaping the tea leaves by hand

Longjing (Dragon Well) tea ready to drink

Would you like a cup?

To be able to appreciate the aroma and flavor of tea from little sips is a great pleasure; to understand a little of the art of tea manufacture definitely enhances the experience of drinking.

In general, green teas are produced by one of four methods: pan-firing, oven-drying, sun-drying and steaming (炒青、烘青、曬青和蒸青). Each of these methods incorporates the same underlying processes: plucking, primary drying (called sha qing [lit: "killing the green"] in Chinese), rolling, and drying (採摘, 殺青、揉捻、乾燥).

1. Plucking
There are three main methods to pick (or pluck) fresh tea leaves: hand-picking (single-hand-pick and double-hand-pick), knife-picking, and machine-picking. In terms of efficiency, a double-hand-pick is roughly two times faster than a single-hand-pick, knife-picking is about 10 times faster than hand-picking, and machine-picking is about 80 times faster than hand-picking. The single-hand method of picking is only used for the highest grades of green tea or for tea harvested for personal use by local growers (e.g. my family). The knife-picking and machine-picking methods are more popular and appropriate for big tea companies.
A nice tea education (It reminds me of my childhood)
This reminds me of my own childhood experience of tea production. When I was about 10 years old, I helped my parents and neighbors to pick fresh tea leaves; I was responsible for lighting the fires and preparing everything for the pan-firing process; I selected the best-quality tea leaves for rolling (to help shape and dry the tea - of course, my mother was my teacher and demonstrated this technique to me). It was a hard job, and just picking tea leaves was enough to demand all my energy. I used the single-hand-pick method, in which the left hand holds the tea stem while the right hand picks the tea leaves. My eyes was busy for looking for baby budsets with one bud and one leaf.  I picked about 3 pounds in about 4 hours. (To put this in perspective, 1 pound of dry loose tea needs more than 5 pounds of primary tea leaf. To make 500g of the best quality Biluochun [Green Snail Spring] requires about 68,000-74,000 fresh baby buds,while around 30,000 baby buds are needed for the same amount of the best Longjing [Dragon well]. Why the difference? The buds used for Longjing are bigger.) After a day's work during the tea harvest, everywhere on my body was hurting. I was exhausted, hungry, and thirsty. Yet, I still enjoyed it.

2. Primary Drying
A family hand-processing tea (I miss my parents' tea)

This process is the key to maintaining the natural green color of the tea leaves and liquor. Heat (either dry heat from a pan, tumbler or oven, or steam - which is commonly used in Japan) is applied to arrest any further activity of the enzymatic compounds in the primary leaf and thereby prevent oxidation. This process not only keeps the leaves green, but also increases leaf flexibility, thereby creating a better condition for the next procedure - rolling. Moreover, it helps to remove any grassy odor from the tea and enhance its fragrance.

A special high-grade green tea must be produced by hand in a basket or large wok, but most green teas produced commercially are made largely by machine.

3. Rolling - Shaping                                                                

This process imparts a distinctive shape (such as flat or twisted) to the tea leaves and breaks the cell walls inside each leaf, to reduce the bitterness and astringency of the tea.

4. Drying

This not only removes the moisture from the tea leaves, but also stabilizes the shape, appearance and quality of the tea, and helps to develop its aroma.

There are three common ways to dry green tea in China: pan-firing, oven-drying and sun-drying. The most famous pan-fired green teas are Longjing (龙井) and Biluochun (碧螺春), mentioned above. The most famous oven-dried green teas are Huangshan Maofeng (黄山毛峰 "Yellow Mountain Fur Peak") and Taiping Houkui (太平猴魁 "Great Peaceful Monkey Chief"). A typical Sun-dried green tea is Dian Qing (滇青 "Yunnan Green") from Yunnan.

In summary, each of these process can be done by hand, partly by hand and by machine, or entirely by machine. The quality and character of any given tea really depends on the technique and taste of the production master, whether produced by hand or machine. Of course, the best quality tea is usually produced by hand.

Since green tea is a fresh product, it should be enjoyed while it's still fresh and full of the life and art carefully brought out by the artisans who produced it. That's why I'm almost out of mine! I'll just have to survive on Pu'er and Oolong until next spring. Later, I'll write something about how their production is different from that of green tea. Bye for now!

Saturday, July 24, 2010

Worldwide Pronounciations Of Tea

Chinese character tea (茶cha) in 108 different ways 

‘Tea' and all its worldwide variations in spelling and pronunciation come from China. There are two pronunciations have made their way into other languages around the world. 

1). Derivatives from cha-the Mandarin pronunciation of the character “Tea” (茶 chá) 
One common pronunciation is chá, used by the Cantonese dialect spoken around the ports of Guangzhou (Canton), Hong Kong, Macau, and in overseas Chinese communities, as well as in the Mandarin dialect of northern China. This term was used in ancient times to describe the first flush harvest of tea. 
ሻይ shai
شاي shāy
pronounced chai
Azerbaijani çay Bangla
চা cha
чай chai
čaj (2)
चाय chai
ჩაი, chai
τσάι tsái
ચા cha
, チャ, cha
ಚಹಾ Chaha
шай shai
чай, chai
ചായ, "chaaya"
चा cha
,, cha
ชา, saa
чај, čaj
चहा chahaa
цай, thai
chiya चिया
چای chai
چای chai
چا ਚਾਹ chah
чай, chai
чај, čaj
ชา, chaa
ཇ་ ja
чай chai
چا ٔےchai

*trà and chè
*தெய்னேர்/டே theyneer and tee
Kenyan language
cai kikuyu
តែ tae

2). Derivatives from tê - Xiamen (Amoy) Fujian Dialect "的" (tey)            
The other common pronunciation is tê, which comes from the Hokkien dialect, spoken in Fujian Province, Taiwan and by expatriate Chinese in Indonesia, Malaya and Singapore. It reached the West particularly from the Amoy Min Nan dialect, spoken around the port of Xiamen (Amoy), once a major point of contact with Western European traders. This pronunciation is believed to come from the old words for tea (tú) or (tú).        
տե te
or thé (1)
West Frisian
תה, te
or thè
, da [ta](2)
scientific Latin
Low Saxon[disambiguation needed]
Tee [tʰɛˑɪ] or Tei [tʰaˑɪ]
തേയില Theyila
Scots Gaelic
, teatha
තෙ thé
tea [tiː] ~ [teː]
te [tʰeː]
தேநீர் thenīr (nīr = water) "theyilai" means "tea leaf" (ilai=leaf)
తేనీళ్ళు tēnīru
chè [cɛ]

About Me

My photo
Seattle, WA, United States
I grew up with tea, and it continues to fill my life with so much beauty and discovery, pleasure, peace and friends. It is always leading me toward a greater understanding of culture, nature, myself and others. It is my hope to use this space to share the joy of tea and tea culture with you.