Matchali Founder Cara Li Spills The Tea
Matcha maven, Cara Li is the co-founder of Matchali and the brains behind Hong Kong’s first homegrown Japanese tea concept.
Cara Li is no stranger to Tatler: after all, she is the daughter of Alain Li, CEO of luxury distributor Richemont Asia-Pacific CEO. Some might have assumed she would follow in her father’s fashionable footsteps, but Li had a different plan altogether. After studying at the Institute of Culinary Education and the Natural Gourmet Institute in New York, Li and her cousin Laura Li took Hong Kong’s café culture by storm by launching contemporary tea concept Matchali in 2019.
While visiting Uji, a small town near Kyoto that is widely regarded as the birthplace of matcha, Li was able to observe the techniques used to produce high quality green tea and was eager to bring the flavour, health benefits, and old world techniques of matcha-making to the masses in Hong Kong.
Matchali’s menu is filled with creative drinks, including a purple lemonade matcha, iced hojicha latte and a matcha colada for the summer, and there is no wonder why her creations are adored by the likes of Lindsay Jang, Antonia Li, Kevin Poon and Alison Chan.
With successful pop-ups at the Upper House, a new pop up on the way at Pacific Place this September and a new store at the Landmark Atrium where they will be until October, Li is busy brewing big ideas for her Matchali takeover. Here, she talks to Tatler about her dream talk show guests, her love for cheese and her dislike for designer sneakers.
What does Hong Kong mean to you?
A place I can always call home; where my family and good friends live, and the place that I chose to pursue my career and launch my business, Matchali.
What was the inspiration behind your company?
We are Hong Kong’s first homegrown matcha-centric brand. When I was living in New York, I became hooked on drinking matcha for its taste and many health benefits. My business partner Laura and I wanted to share our passion for matcha with Hong Kong and we felt there was an opportunity to create a contemporary brand that highlights what matcha is while promoting its health-boosting properties.
What projects do you have on the horizon?
We have been fortunate to have been given such great platforms to launch Matchali this year. We started with a pop-up at The Upper House and now have our first shop in Landmark. We are planning more pop-ups around Hong Kong and will continue to collaborate with other local brands.
If you could kill any fashion trend forever what would it be?
Designer sneakers. They’re just not for me.
What’s your favourite family tradition?
Sunday dimsum at One Harbour Road
Do you collect anything?
Ceramics. I love picking up unique pieces from different countries that I travel to. Especially anything tea-related.
What are some odd jobs you did as a teenager?
I worked on the shop floor as a sales associate at Joseph Boutique in London while I was doing my fashion business BA. When I moved to New York for culinary school, I worked in many different kitchens to gain industry experience.
If you had a talk show, who would your first three guests be and why?
Chef Massimo Bottura. I ate at his restaurant in Modena last summer and I really admire his approach to cooking. He is a true artist.
Athena Calderone. I love her aesthetic in food decor and lifestyle.
Axel Vervoordt. I really appreciate his wabi-sabi design philosophy.
If you could be a fly on the wall, where would you land?
On a piece of cheese at [Italian restaurant] 8 ½ Otto e Mezzo Bombana.
Name a product or service you love so much that you’d happily be that company’s spokesperson.
My go-to workout spots in Hong Kong that play a big role in my day-to-day routine and in keeping me happy and healthy are The Gym and XYZ. In New York, [I go to] Dogpound and Flywheel.