We took the tea tour of Mengding mountain in early March, when the early Spring tea buds just began to sprout. It was our first time visiting Chengdu and the south western China. Our guide, Victor, is a native Sichuanese who knows a lot about the history of Sichuan and Chengdu. He’s a nice, friendly guy, well prepared, exceptionally fluent in English, and for the most part, quite accommodating. (For instance, he loaned us money at the tea farm because we were out of cash, and ATMs weren’t available on the mountain). We liked Victor a lot, so it really pained me to write this not-so-stellar review for his tour.
The overall experience of this tour was underwhelming at best. We spent about 5 hours on transportation (driving to and from the mountain, and round trip cable car rides), for a barely 3 hours guided tour that could’ve been condensed into two. The actual activities include (1) a quick stop at a vista point for a beautiful view of the surrounding mountains, (2) a 30 min slow walk on top of the mountain (not much to see there really, and would’ve been better if it was more of a real hike), and (3) a visit to a small tea farm nearby. There was a lot of sitting around waiting for lunch and chatting with the tea lady without translation help from the guide (I know limited Mandarin—not enough to understand everything that the lady said. I was looking for our guide to help with the translation, but couldn’t find him so I just nodded mostly and translated whatever I could to my boyfriend who doesn’t speak a word of Chinese). We had lunch at the farm that was very healthy and delicious. We looked around the small tea garden a bit (the area that we got to see was really small, like backyard size), picked a few tea leaves, and for the most part, watched the tea roasting demonstration by the tea master. The tea master let us try our hands at tea roasting and rolling a bit, and we acknowledged how difficult tea processing is. It’s interesting and all, but I just don’t think it’s worth spending the whole day traveling so far for so little activities. The cost of the tour is also not cheap, and we still have to pay extras for all the entrance tickets, cable car tickets, parking ticket, lunch, and the tea farm visitation.
Just a few days before our trip, our guide informed us that tea farm visit’s price has gone up by 62% due to the price of tea. He asked if we would still like to do it, but it wasn’t clear what the alternative would be. Given what we know now, there is not much else to do on the mountain. Why would we pay for the tour otherwise?
The other thing that is extremely disappointing is that prior to our trip, I asked Victor if he could give us some tips to this other tea house in Pengzhen so we could go there ourselves (not part of the paid tour). Our guide said the transportation might be difficult, and kindly offered to take us to this tea house during our tour date without extra charge (it’s kind of on the way). Because of that, we didn’t go to the Pengzhen tea house by ourselves earlier. However, on our tour date, after we finished the tea farm activities (3pm), our guide said it’s already too late to go to the Pengzhen tea house because all the tea goers would be gone. It was our last day in Chengdu (and our guide knew) so unfortunately we had to miss out on that tea place that I was really looking forwards to (more so than the Mengding mountain). Our guide could’ve taken us there the first thing in the morning if he knew it might be too late after the tea farm. I just wish we had gone to that tea house ourselves prior to the tour date instead of relying on an empty promise that our guide couldn’t deliver.
In conclusion, while we had fun here and there, this tour was really not a good use of our time and money. We felt the need to write this review because I had read reviews of a similar tour on TripAdvisor (done by a different guide) saying that this tour was the highlight of their trips. We booked this tour in part due to those reviews, and Victor seems to have solid ratings from his other tours. We want to provide a different perspective to other travelers. Maybe this tour in particular isn’t what our guide is known for. We don’t recommend this Mengding tea tour, no matter how much you like tea (we do!). As for our guide and the tour operation, they are fine—professional, well prepared, but don’t expect them to go the extra mile.
I’m sad to say that of my 7 days traveling in the China southwest, this tour was possibly the most underwhelming one.