When I started working in West London, I discovered this amazing Tea shop/house at the end of Portobello Rd. Here you can travel in time and find excellent Chinese Teas! Juyan, the owner, was very kind to do this interview and to give us the pictures used in this post. I hope you enjoy it!
M&T. Could you tell us about your story with Tea?
J. I grew up with tea. I grew up in a small village in Zhejiang Province, south east of China. We used to produce everything ourselves, such as rice, wheat, vegetables, chickens, ducks, gooses, pig, of course teas too. I started working alongside my mother from very young age from little things to big things. Tea Mountains used to be my playground, and then when I grew a bit older I had to give my mum a hand to pick tea leaves that started at 6 in the morning. We would always keep the first harvested teas which they are the best for ourselves as well as for the guests, and then sold the rest of tea to tea factories. It was this upbringing that shaped a passion for tea and her vast knowledge of production.
M&T. When did you decide to come to London and when did you decide to open a tea shop?
J. I came to London in 2002 for studies, and in the university I met my husband, Chris, so I decided to live in London after my graduation. It was originally his idea to have a Chinese tea shop back many years ago. I used to say to him no, it won’t work; people will not be interested in loose leaf teas. Chris used to take tea to work and offer it to his colleagues. Many of them became curious about the weird looking leaves and the wonderful tastes, aromas and relaxing states of mind each would achieve when drinking the brew. Pretty soon people were asking to purchase the teas for themselves and asked for advice on the world of Chinese tea. So the Chinese Tea Company was born out of our desire to share our personal selections and knowledge with others.
M&T. What is the concept behind the Chinese Tea Company?
J. The real passion is to bring all these wonderful Chinese teas to England so that everyone can also enjoy and have access to the best teas China has to offer. We are very practical with our teas which they are traditional and handmade and bought directly bought from the tea growers and tea masters in China. The Chinese Tea Company is also dedicated to promoting Chinese tea culture.
M&T. Why did you choose West London?
J. Portobello road is a world famous market and there is a such a diverse range of people who visit the area. I thought it would be a good idea to have a tea shop here as I think it would fit in very well with the eclectic range of products that are available to buy there. I think a lot of people visit the market as they can find a lot of things that may not be available to buy in the high street and I think it would be a nice surprise for people to find a tea shop that sells a wide range of good quality tea and unique tea ware tucked away in the corner.
I found a place for rent, got in touch with the landlord and they were immediately very interested in what I wanted to do.
M&T. How do you explain the path of your success?
J. First of all, it is the quality, the uniqueness of our products and our service. We have a lot of customers returning and become good friends and also lots of people come in because of recommendations by others.
M&T. How do you balance the blend between tradition and innovation?
J. I am more focused on the traditional side both in the products and the decoration of the shop. I always search for teas that made by hand in the traditional ways. I think it is important to preserve our traditions. The tea house is decorated in a very traditional way, especially the furniture that is specifically bought from China for the shop. Including the music we play in the shop.
M&T. What are the most common mistakes that people do when making Tea?
J. Making tea can be very simple for some people, pouring boiling water into a pot with some tea leaves or teabags can be enough. People have been making themselves tea for years and they know how they like it – so when they make themselves a drink of tea how they like it they are not making any mistakes at all.
However, on the flip side of this, tea making can be very a intricate process to achieve a desired taste and aroma result of a chosen kind of tealeaves by dissolving a certain proportion of the tea materials into water. This is done with an according combination of teaware, water temperature, water to tealeaves ratio and steeping process.
M&T. From your experience abroad what do you think are the main differences between drinking Tea in China and abroad?
J. Tea originates from China, we are so lucky to have so many different type and quality of teas to choose from. The selection is very limited in Britain especially for the high quality loose leaf teas. People in China have better understanding – tea is not just a beverage in China it is engrained deep within our culture, is drank for pleasure and used for medicinal purposes.
M&T. Finally, what do you want people to feel when they go to the Chinese Tea Company?
J. From all the different types of tea that we stock I want people, who are new to tea, to realize that there is a whole big world of tea they might not know about that is open and ready for them to explore. I want them to enjoy tea as much as I do. When people come to our tea ceremony, I want them to feel relaxed and comfortable and inspired by the surroundings that they find themselves in.
You can get more information on: http://www.the-chinese-tea-company.com/ The Chinese Tea Company, 14 Portobello Green, 281 Portobello Rd, London W10 5TZ Phone: + 44 (0) 208 9600096
Phone: + 44 (0) 7990 898549