In celebration of the first ever international tea day, we round up the best spots for a quality brew

As Hong Kong moves into its annual wet season, I’m reminded of one of my favourite things: namely, the feeling as you slowly sip on a cup of hot tea indoors, warm and dry, while the rain and wind lashes against your window. The rising aromatic steam soothes, particularly when paired with the ASMR quality of the epic rainfalls that we’re accustomed to experiencing at this time of year. As it happens, May 21 is newly crowned as International Tea Day by the United Nations, giving this age-old drink the recognition it deserves. In celebration, we’re spotlighting some of our favourite venues for a lovely cuppa—whether it’s a rich masala chai or a delicate silver needle tea you like, take a leaf out of our books with this brief guide to top tea parlours around Hong Kong.

See also: How Tea Ceremonies Bring Us Back To Nature

1. Teakha & Plantation

Nana Chan’s unwavering dedication to all things tea has gifted Hong Kong with two very distinctive offerings: Teakha, her cosy cafe in Sheung Wan is where you can enjoy wonderful cakes and pastries (many incorporating tea themselves) as well as sip drinks as varied as burnt lemon iced tea and fragrant osmanthus oolong. Second, Plantation is the Mecca for tea obsessives and situated in a quiet side street near HKU station where you can truly appreciate the high-quality brews that Chan has sourced from Taiwan, India and more. There, in zen-like surroundings, you might contemplate a first flush Darjeeling tea (the “champagne of teas”) before moving onto something like a High Mountain oolong from the Taiwan autumn harvest. Beautiful teaware is also on show and available for purchase.

Teakha, Shop B, 18 Tai Ping Shan Street, Sheung Wan, Hong Kong

Plantation, 18 Po Tuck Street, Sai Ying Pun, Hong Kong

2. Green Ginkgo Tea

At this small Poho tea bar, founder Shawn Mak interacts with tea enthusiasts who drift in and out for his hand-brewed Japanese and Chinese teas. Bright, minimalist and entirely focused on premium brews, Green Ginkgo Tea has found its place among connoisseurs looking for their teas to be prepared in a professional and dedicated manner. As their name may suggest, green teas are their specialty; in particular, sencha, gyokuro and matcha are the house signatures and sourced mostly from Shizuoka near Mount Fuji. For those wishing to get even deeper, they can discuss with the tea baristas and partake in the omakase where they will be given two types of tea tailored to their preferences.

Green Ginkgo Tea, No. 1 Tai Ping Shan Street, Sheung Wan, Hong Kong

3. Basao

While Basao only set up its first tearoom in the Star Street precinct in 2018 (and, later, an even larger branch in Causeway Bay), it has long been a go-to brand for tea lovers to purchase single origin teas from China, Taiwan, Japan, India, Sri Lanka and Nepal. With their brick-and-mortar cafes, Basao brings an appreciation for the mindfulness of tea through its tranquil interiors, intimate brew bars and array of delicate tea-flavoured desserts. As they put it, their teas are “crafted to cultivate calmness and presence of mind”. The team also work closely with tea farmers to ensure the quality of their products from leaf to cup; among their signature collection are teas such as Lingia First Flush, a prized Golden Valley Darjeeling, and the Honey Orchid Dancong oolong from the peak of Wudong Mountain in south-eastern China.

Basao, 17 Moon Street, Wan Chai, Hong Kong

Basao, 16 Pak Sha Road, Causeway Bay, Hong Kong

4. Tell Camellia

While Tell Camellia started off as a tea-focused cocktail bar, co-founders Sandeep Hathiramani and Gagan Gurung recently launched the zero-proof section of their business: serving the same high-quality teas that you’d normally find in their signature cocktails. The tea room, during its soft opening phase, will be serving a concise menu of drinks including masala chai, Turkish rize tea, cold brew teas such as yuzu and green tea. Signature brews such as Taiwanese milk oolong, fruit teas and Moroccan mint tea will be available also.

Tell Camellia, LG/F, H Code, 45 Pottinger Street (entrance alley on 48 Cochrane Street), Central, Hong Kong

5. Fukien Tea Company

Fukien Tea Company, a historic tea shop in Sheung Wan, is run by a third generation tea master Patrick Yeung who has been working in tea since he was 12. During his early years, Yeung spent most of the time in the factory, learning about the art of tea: how to roast it, plus how to store and serve it. Today, he still works every day, offering customers little tea tastings at the back of the modest store he runs with his younger brother and son. Fukien Tea Company prides itself on their own roasted Tie Guan Yin (Iron Goddess) oolong tea, one version roasted for 6 hours (light and golden) and one for 60 hours (auburn, rich tasting and complex with riper fruit aromas). Chef Hideaki Sato of Ta Vie, who we took to meet Mr Yeung back in 2016, credits the experience as when his fascinating journey into Chinese tea began.

Fukien Tea Company, 6 Mercer St, Sheung Wan, Hong Kong

6. Yú Teahouse

The yú in Yú Teahouse means ‘jade’ in Mandarin, but it also happens to be a homonym for ‘heal’—exactly what the founders hope their teas will do for the body and soul. This understated, sophisticated tea shop had humble beginnings, serving their tea in a modest space located in a Fo Tan industrial building. Attention to detail has been present from the start, and moving to a light-filled, ocean-facing corner of Eslite Spectrum in Tsim Sha Tsui’s Star House has done little to detract from the tea bar’s calming aura. Designed by local agency Studio Adjective, the venue exudes elegance, with little bonsai plant details and natural, tactile materials. The staff can expertly guide you through tasting notes for teas such as freshly harvested pre-Qing Ming dragon well tea from West Lake Meijiawu, or aged mandarin puerh; for them, provenance is key, as are minute details such as plucking dates and cultivars and will be more than happy to share.

Yú Teahouse, Shop L230, 2/F, The Eslite Spectrum, Star House, 3 Salisbury Road, Tsim Sha Tsui, Hong Kong

7. Tealosophy

Wyndham Street may be better known for its stretch of bars and clubs, but it’s exactly where you’ll be able to find a little slice of calm in the form of a Japanese-inspired tea haven. Tealosophy is all about the small details, from the scrolls of calligraphy that hang on the walls to the intricately crafted bento meals that they serve alongside their premium teas, or the fact that even their takeaway teas are prepared with precision and thought (a small strainer of loose tealeaves are included in the cup). Wilson Fok, Senior Dining Editor for Tatler Hong Kong, recommends Yame Kabusecha (a Japanese green tea), the Sichuan Jasmine (a traditional green tea) and Da Hong Pao Oolong (a strong oolong).

Tealosophy, 38 Wyndham Street, Central, Hong Kong

8. Lock Cha Tea House

Lock Cha is a true Hong Kong institution, now with four different locations around the city—including the beloved Hong Kong Park teahouse serving vegetarian dim sum, and a new flagship at the historic Tai Kwun. Their range is among the best in the city, with a spectrum of specialist brews from Alishan Oolong to Wuyi Yanzhonglan. The company takes a no-frills approach, preferring to spend their time and efforts on rigid sourcing and quality control direct with tea farmers, selling their teas in simple packages and eschewing most forms of marketing. Puerh is one of Lock Cha’s specialties, and you can sample them by the pot in the most languorous way throughout the course of an afternoon.

Various locations

9. Matchali

Matcha enthusiasts Cara and Laura Li set up their brand simply to share their love for the iconic Japanese green tea with Hong Kong. After starting as a pop-up at The Upper House for several months, the duo have landed a semi-permanent kiosk at The Landmark, where they’ll be brewing their signature teas until October 2020. Their focus is ceremonial-grade matcha sourced from Uji, Kyoto, but don’t be mistaken—Matchali is about pushing the limits of this age-old tea as much as they are about promoting its purity and quality. Tea lovers can indulge in traditional whisked matcha as well as matcha-based drinks in colourful and multi-layered formats.

Matchali, Shop 239, 2/F, The Landmark, 15 Queen’s Road Central, Central, Hong Kong

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