Tea plantations worth visiting in China

photo by CC user Shizhao on wikimedia commons

Being that the history of tea starts in the Far East, it stands to reason that there should be many tea plantations worth visiting in China.

Sure enough, there are – try out these four on your travels to the Middle Kingdom…

1) Hangzhou Longjing Tea Plantation

Home to the world famous Dragon Well blend of green tea, the Hangzhou Longjing Tea Plantation is a stop on your tour of China that you simply cannot afford to miss.

This drink is one of the reasons that Hangzhou is famous around the world, and once you sample a cup at this verdant estate, you’ll quickly understand why.

In addition to the tea ceremony that you will take part in within the compound here, you’ll have a chance to see locals hard at work harvesting and producing one of this region’s most celebrated exports.

2) Wuyishan Mountains

Another nationally famous production centre of tea in China can be found in the Wuyishan Mountains, where numerous plantations can be found along the slopes of their peaks. Recognized by the United Nations as a UNESCO World Heritage Site, you’ll want to seek out a type of tea known as Dahong Pao, which was served as a tribute to nobles during the Ming and Qing dynasties.

After tasting this drink, be sure to take some time to wander throughout the surrounding countryside, where the mountains and rushing rivers will give you a sense of the epic place where one of China’s most famous teas is produced.

3) Mengdingshan Tea Plantation

Want to be educated on the entire tea making process in painstaking detail, all while taking in some of the most epic plantation scenery that you will see in China?

Heading out on a tour to the Mengdingshan Tea Plantation from Chengdu will accomplish just that, as guides that are fluent in a number of languages will communicate to you how the ancient masters derived the nectar that made a nation famous from the tea leaves of this farm, and how it is honored in the modern day.

Complete with a Chinese lunch and a bag of your own tea to brew at home, it is an excellent day for a tea enthusiast to spend a day.

4) Seven Star Tea Plantation

When you aren’t exploring the awe-inspiring karsts of Guilin, make time to visit Seven Star Tea Plantation, which is located nearby.

With the blends here winning awards as recently as 2009 for the flavors they give to drinkers, this spot is well worth dropping by just for the free samples, but the look at rural Chinese life along the way from the city is added bonus that can not be ignored.

The Best Hotels for Exploring Literary London

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by thehipmunk

From the shopping at Selfridges to the culture of The British Museum and the history underlining every step through the city, there are countless reasons to visit London. But the bookworm’s most compelling incentive is the rich thread of literary genius woven into the city’s very identity. Virginia Woolf, Charles Dickens, George Eliot, and Geoffrey Chaucer are just a few of the authors whose homes, favorite haunts, or most famous tales are spin on the city’s axis.

You can walk London Bridge and re-live the despair Pip felt when he learned Estella was to be married, or retrace Clarissa Dalloway’s steps to Hatchards Booksellers. To explore all the city’s tales would take lifetimes — that’s why we read books. But if you’re keen to take on a few of your favorite authors or stories in Bloomsbury, Wembley, and Whitechapel, here’s the definitive guide for what to see and where to stay.

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1. The Strand Palace

Right in the thick of Central London, The Strand Palace is walking distance from Buckingham Palace and The National Gallery. A stone’s throw from the John Nash-designed Trafalgar Square, note The Fourth Plinth — originally intended to hold a statue of William IV, the plinth is now a platform for temporary, commission-based sculptures. The Square is now the site for many political demonstrations, and a young poet or playwright scribbling in the public square would not be out of place.

From the hotel, it’s just a short bus ride to The British Library. Originally part of the British Museum, the library  plays host to over 150 million items. The only larger library in the world is the Library of Congress. The archival collection in theSir John Ritblat Gallery is a treasure trove containing original copies of Beowulf,Jane Eyre, The Canterbury Tales, and Shakespeare’s first folio. It also houses the Magna Carta and a Gutenberg Bible.

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2. St. Ermin’s Hotel, Autograph Collection

A literature lover can’t visit London without spending an hour (or five) at Westminster Abbey, a spot walking distance from St. Ermin’s. While the uninitiated may wonder what a church has to do with literature, to stop shy of doing the research would be a grave mistake (pun intended). See, Westminster Abbey isn’t just a thousand year-old church or the site of every monarch’s crowning since William the Conqueror’s in 1066. It is the burial place of hundreds of famous figures, and plays host to memorials for many more.

In the Abbey’s aptly named Poets’ Corner, Charles Dickens, Robert Browning, Rudyard Kipling, and Alfred, Lord Tennyson all have their final resting places. There are memorial busts and plaques to Jane Austen, Shakespeare, Christopher Marlowe, William Wordsworth, Oscar Wilde, and many more.

Fun fact: Geoffrey Chaucer is buried in the Abbey, but not because of his distinction as an author. Chaucer was, for a time, Clerk of the King’s Works at the Palace of Westminster. When he died in 1400, he was still in favor with the king, and so was buried in the Abbey, with a plain slab to mark his grave. It wasn’t until 1556 that Chaucer’s existing marble monument was erected, and his bones moved to the new location.

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3. Grange St. Paul’s

Grange St. Paul’s is a comfortable distance from the Tower of London — a must-see for history and historical-fiction lovers. Famed as a prison for royals throughout history, the Tower has housed Anne Boleyn, Sir Walter Raleigh, and Guy Fawkes, to name a few. A glass pillow marks the spot where Anne Boleyn, Catherine Howard, and Lady Jane Grey were executed on Tower Green. If you time your visit right, you could attend a reading by the queen of Tudor historical fiction herself, Philippa Gregory.

A ten-minute stroll from Grange, Shakespeare’s Globe is a few hundred yards from the original Globe, and has been rebuilt based on the evidence (including sketches, literary references, and similar structures of the time) to provide the closest possible facsimile to the experience theatergoers in Shakespeare’s time would’ve had — down to the reed thatch roof that might leave you soggy on a rainy evening.

Before or after you take in a show at the Globe, stop off at the George Inn — a haunt of both Dickens and Shakespeare, and the only remaining “coaching” inn in London. With all its 16th-century charm, it’s easy to see how the spot earned itself a callout in Little Dorrit.

This sampling of literary London only skims the surface, but this itinerary will show you enough of the city’s charms to keep you hooked for life. As

This post was posted by thehipmunk on Hipmunk’s Tailwind blog on January 11, 2016.

Top cafes in Miami

photo by CC user Miamiboyz on wikipedia.org

Looking for the top cafes in Miami on your next visit to Florida? This article will give you the lowdown on what we believe to be our favorites…

1) Panther Coffee

Located in the artsy neighborhood of Wynnwood north of downtown Miami, Panther Coffee has been gaining the adulation of critics for some time, and with that, coffee travelers in the know have been slowly but surely beating a path to their door.

Staffed with baristas that have been pouring java for decades, and with tables here filled up with the most diehard of cafe culture aficionados in the city, you’ll love it here if you are similarly serious about how you love your coffee.

Despite the avant garde nature of this place, prices are reasonable for the quality you’ll be getting here – it is unheard of to pay more than $5 for a cuppa at this neighborhood hotspot.

2) Cafe Demetrio

South of the downtown core in the affluent suburb of Coral Gables is another core of quality coffee shops, the best of which is Cafe Demetrio.

Unlike Panther, the scene here is open to all types – business people, artists, and young people all congregate here for their fix of caffeine, and all without a hint of pretension.

Regulars report that the quiche her is to die over, and the patio is the place to be on dry and warm winter days in Florida.

3) Versailles

Looking for a Latin twist on your daily coffee run? Heading over to Little Havana will take care of that, but it is in an establishment with a French name where you will find the finest java in the Cuban section of town.

At Versailles, you will find décor that may not be as palatial as you might expect, but the espressos are on point, making up for the letdown in the former department.

Those wishing to mingle with the locals will want to show up around 3 o’ clock, as this is when this portion of town grinds to a halt to take a coffee break every work day.

4) Eternity Coffee Roasters

Bringing their expertise from growing coffee in the highlands of Colombia to the streets of Downtown Miami, Chris Johnson and the Garces brothers know what beans create a flavor experience that has and will continue to have their customers coming back for more.

For this reason, stopping by Eternity Coffee Roasters will prove to be a great way to start or end your tour of attractions in the downtown area. Be sure to try the nitrogen infused cold brews … just don’t challenge the regs to a game of Scrabble afterward; you will lose.