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It’s All in The Tea Leaves.

November 1, 2017 River Cruising No Comments Email Email

Traditional tea ceremony aboard Sanctuary Yangzi Explorer an experience not to be missed.

Tea was, and remains a central piece in Asian culture, especially in China where it first originated. Nowhere is the esteem in which Chinese society holds tea more in evidence than the traditional tea ceremony, where drinking tea has been elevated to something of an art form.

Tea was first cultivated as an herbal medicine, and mostly within temples, utilized and revered by monks for its calming effects. A blending of Confucian, Taoist and Buddhist philosophies, tea ceremonies first emerged as religious rituals designed to show respect for nature. Over time, however, consumption became an increasingly secular pursuit as people began to enjoy tea for its own sake, with tea ceremonies absorbed into various social, cultural and traditional events as a means of commemorating important milestones and achievements.

For tea fanatics, the daily traditional tea ceremony aboard the intimate and luxurious Sanctuary Yangzi Explorer is an experience not to be missed. There is something truly sublime about sipping some of China’s finest while sailing past incredible scenery and extraordinary landscapes through the breath-taking Three Gorges region of the mighty Yangtze River.

At the tea ceremony guests are offered a selection of teas to choose from including oolong, green teas and pu-erhs, with each variety carefully selected taking into account both its physical and spiritual characteristics. But if you really want to look like an expert, here are Sanctuary Retreats’ top tips for choosing the perfect Chinese tea – no matter where you are.

  • Always start by observing your tealeaves before they go into the pot. Good or fresh tea is characterized by a green lustre and tightly curled leaves, whereas loose and dull looking leaves are a sure sign of stale or poor quality tea. Leaves should also be dry enough to make a rustling noise in your palm.
  • Next up, inhale your chosen tea’s smell. The fragrance of your tealeaves should be pure, with no hint of a charred or acidic smell. Good tea, especially fresh leaves, has a natural aroma like orchid or jasmine, while poor quality teas typically smell a little stale and musty.
  • Once you’re satisfied that your tea is sufficiently fresh and aromatic, taste is next on your checklist. Taste your leaves by chewing them carefully; good quality tea has a fresh mellow taste. You can also infuse some to see if the leaves extend smoothly and sink slowly to the bottom. Good tea liquid is emerald green or golden, and should give you just a hint of bitterness, with a lasting sweet aftertaste. Stale tea, on the other hand, is malodorous and dark brown.
  • Finally, keep a close eye on the infused tealeaves and make sure there aren’t any impurities floating about in your pot, cup alongside them.

Apart from tea ceremonies, guests of the Sanctuary Yangzi Explorer can choose from a variety of activities – both onboard and off, to broaden their knowledge of life along this celebrated section of Asia’s longest river. Carefully curated itineraries combine land excursions to fascinating history-steeped cities, Daoist temples, the ancient Fengdu Ghost City, while onboard guests can try their hand at acupuncture, reflexology, dumpling and calligraphy classes, or just relax and reflect on the day’s once-in-a-lifetime sightseeing.

With the largest cabins and suites on the river, all with private balconies, and carrying just 124 passengers, the Sanctuary Yangzi Explorer offers the finest and most personalized service on the river. Other facilities include a la carte dining, a luxury spa, an observation deck, 24-hour room service, a two-floor theatre, library, and beauty and fitness facilities. The ship also has the most spacious and indulgent spa on board any cruise vessel on the Yangzi.

In 2018 Sanctuary Yangzi Explorer sails regularly from mid March through to mid November, with three and four-night cruises starting from just US$1,235 per person. 

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