Last Saturday, I visited Chinatown. I was on a quest to find a cheap yet decent quality tea cup. (Yes, I’m a random person with random needs).
As I walked along Temple Street, I chanced upon a tea shop. Behind its window were jars and jars of tea leaves. I was intrigued by the display and decided to go in.
There, I was greeted by a young lady who asked, “Table for one?”
I stared at her, confused. I had expected this place to be a shop selling tea and tea wares. I didn’t expect it to be a tea house.
There was an awkward silence for a few seconds as I struggled to make sense of the difference in expectation.
I looked around and saw sofas and really comfortable chairs. There were tables, and on each table was a full Chinese gongfu tea set: a tea pot, tea cups, wooden apparatus for handling the leaves and the cups, and an induction kettle designed specially for tea appreciation.
I was amazed, to say the least.
In the end, I found words within me to break the awkward silence: “Oh sorry, I thought this was a shop selling tea sets and tea leaves. I’m looking for a tea cup, do you have any that’s on sale?”
The young lady tried her best to be as hospitable as she could. She handed me an iPad displaying the shop’s selection of teas, and told me that they only have a very limited collection of tea wares.
This day was rather unique, in the sense that I had imposed on myself a mandatory no-work day. The past week had been incredibly stressful and hectic. I needed some time alone to wander and unwind. Seeing how I was the only customer in the shop (it was early in the morning) full of comfortable furniture and lovely teas, I thought this would be the perfect place to have a little tea retreat from the hectic world of work and worry.
I took a seat and ordered a pot of Chinese red tea.
Immediately, the lady prepared the kettle and went off to bring the tea leaves.
In the meantime, I took out a book – which I had been carrying for days hoping for a chance to read – and began reading it.
After a while, the lady came back and started brewing tea.
They serve high grade tea leaves, and so, the same tea leaves can be used to brew 6-8 pots of tea! Each pot can fill 6 small cups. For just one person, I could enjoy 48 small cups of tea for half a day!
And enjoy for half a day, I did! I found myself staying in the tea house for almost 4 hours, finishing the book I had with me. Lovely!
Given how hectic my life is, it has really been a long time since I’ve ever finished reading a book in one sitting. That I was able to do it in this tea house was a miracle by itself. But more importantly, the place is just so comfortable and wonderful to enjoy a good read. The sofas and chairs are really nice to sit on, the tea was just delicious, and the ambiance was conducive for reading and relaxing!
I really like the modern concept that went on with this. It’s so refreshing. Most tea houses tend to show themselves as incredibly Chinese. The interior would be filled with everything stereotypically Chinese. It’s nauseating, and frankly, it puts off a lot of young Singaporeans who have developed an allergy to the Chinese language and culture due to the way Chinese is taught in schools.
The concept of this tea house and its interior is a world apart from the traditional tea houses. It is refreshingly modern without the pretentiousness, and its interior invites you to have a seat and relax, as you take a short refuge from the crazy hustle and bustle of the outside world.
Perhaps what I like most is the fact that the service staff are so down-to-earth. They will readily admit not knowing too much about specific teas, and will be there to brew tea for you from time to time even if you know nothing about tea! They will not judge you. And this is the important point.
In stark contrast, the service staff of a few tea establishments I’ve visited can be very snobbish and arrogant. “You don’t know anything about tea? Go away you barbarian!” Of course, they won’t say that out-rightly, but they can make you feel culturally inferior and stupid. This is perhaps why so many young people are not embracing the wonderful Chinese tradition of chilling out at a tea house. It has become a place for snobbish elites to gather and pat themselves on the back just because they happen to know a little more than the average person.
You don’t get any of this in this tea house. And that for me is a great plus!
Come to this place if you love tea. Come to this place if you want to learn something about the art of Chinese tea. No one will judge you. It’s the perfect tea house to be initiated into this fine Chinese tradition.
Since my first visit, I’ve been recommending this place to friends. I love it a lot! Do come here for a short tea retreat, either by yourself or with a friend or two.
It’s such a nice place to relax on a Saturday. I think I’ll try to come back here regularly to enjoy tea and a book, or the company of friends.