In search of the perfect cuppa

Tea lovers should head to the source, says Chris Carter.

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Jade Mountain: a visit may prove good for the blood

© Copyright 2006 Macduff Everton

It's tea-picking season in the mountains of Xishuangbanna Prefecture in China's Yunnan province, says Lisa See in National Geographic Traveller. Over the years, more and more visitors have come in search of Pu'erh, "the most valuable and collected of all the world's teas". The drink is the world's second-most popular after water, and this is its birthplace. Pu'erh is grown on ancient tea trees, some of which are a thousand years old. No one waters or sprays them they survive on their own and the flavour of the tea from each tree is unique. People collect and savour Pu'erh teas that are up to 50 years old, while just a few grams can fetch $10,000.

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Tea "master" Chen Guo Yi, a local celebrity, takes See to the Tea Horse Ancient Road Scenic District in Menghai County. There are demonstration tea terraces, recreations of tea warehouses, tea processing rooms and an area where men and horses slept. For more than a thousand years, tea was carried from here in various directions towards the capital, Hong Kong, Guangzhou, Vietnam, India and Thailand. "Tea is alive," Chen tells See, "and every sip opens our hearts to remember family, love, and hardships overcome."

Caffeine highs

The Kau Coffee Festival runs from 26 April to 5 May on Hawaii island, says Jay Jones in the Los Angeles Times. Visitors can drop in to the Pahala Plantation House in the south coast village of the same name for music, food and traditional hula dancing. The festival's highlight, however, is the hoolaulea, "a celebration of all things coffee", featuring guided coffee tastings and informal chats with growers and roasters. If you can't make it to the festival, then Kau Coffee Mill is open all year round.

Certainly the most unusual way of getting there is by air. Blue Hawaiian Helicopters' new Craters & Coffee Tour lands guests at the mill for a "seed to cup" walking tour of the orchard, as well as the milling and roasting rooms. (From $439, bluehawaiian.com)

Those who enjoy taking their coffee by means other than imbibing it should head to Auberge Resorts' Hacienda AltaGracia in Costa Rica. Its spa is the largest in Central America, saysEric Rosen on Travel + Leisure, while the Auberge Spa Mixology Bar treatment on offer is a tailor-made body exfoliation and massage using locally sourced ingredients, including coffee. ($255, aubergeresorts.com)

Chocolate treats

The Jade Mountain resort on the Caribbean island of St Lucia "has the feel of a spaceship that's landed in an ancient civilisation, with futuristic walkways reaching out like wheel spokes from a central hub, and suites with infinity pools instead of walls", says Alison Wood in Country Life. It is also exclusive. "If you see someone and you think it's them, it probably is," says Peter Jean-Paul, the executive manager of Jade Mountain's sister resort, Anse Chastanet.

But the real star of the show is the Chocolate Lab. Here, "guests can learn to make their own sweet treats using cacao pods grown from one of the 2,000 trees on the estate". Ingredients grown on the estate are used to flavour the chocolate such as coffee beans, cashew and cinnamon. "I try the chipotle, which is 70% cocoa the kick is subtle and it tastes delicious," says Wood. "Most St Lucians grow cacao trees in their garden, and use the pods to make cocoa bread and tea," Jean-Paul explains. "The older generation swear by it. It's good for the blood." (From $1,165, jademountain.com)

 

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The Great British Easter egg huntWith Easter Sunday coming up, you can find plenty of chocolate closer to home than the Caribbean (see above) find being the operative word. Cadbury has teamed up with the National Trust and the National Trust for Scotland to run Easter egg hunts in more than 300 locations across the UK this weekend, says Rachel Dixon in The Guardian. Clues will be hidden around the various properties and landscapes to lead hunters to the chocolate treats. "Many sites also have newborn lambs, spring chicks and daffodil displays. Others have Easter crafts, such as making a ladybird house on Dunstable Downs in Bedfordshire, or seed bombs at Canons Ashby, Northamptonshire, or activities such as archery at Bodiam Castle, Sussex." (From £2 for standard admission, easter.cadbury.co.uk)

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