There may be artisan coffee shops on seemingly every corner and real ale might be on the menu at many restaurants, but Hong Kong is still tea country. From a cup over breakfast to some bubble tea on a night out – Hong Kong runs on the stuff. It’s even one of the few cultural traditions that bind the cities dual British and Chinese identities – both believe there is nothing that can’t be fixed by a good brew.
The only way to truly taste tea is through a traditional Chinese tea ceremony. This will take you through the special Gongfu style of brewing the leaves, where you’ll learn about when to let it breathe, for how long and offer tasting notes for when you actually get a mouthful. It’s a fantastic experience that’s full of tradition.
Where to Find a Hong Kong Tea Ceremony
Sadly the Hong Kong tourism board has dropped its free tea ceremony sessions but there are still a couple of excellent options around the city. Our pick of the best is below.
A number of tea shops run tea tasting ceremonies but Ming Cha stands out. The tea ceremonies run regularly and are timetabled; English is always available as a language and while the shop itself looks thoroughly modern, tradition runs deep. Stacked with cases of tea from around China (as well as a few local brews) you can just pop in and pick a tasting menu, or plan for a full, scheduled class.
Classes are in small groups and run three or four times a week. They are usually led by Ming Cha’s owner, Vivian, who keeps things detailed but light-hearted, and the session lasts about an hour and a half.
You’ll be introduced to four or five teas; from black and white to oolong. There are explanations about the differences in flavor and the health benefits of the different types of tea. Tea is weighed, steeped and poured into hand-sized cups for tasting. It’s a relaxing way to unwind and enjoy a good cuppa.
Flagstaff Museum of Teaware and Gongfu
One for the experts. The Flagstaff Museum of Teaware runs semi-regular tea ceremonies in partnership with the Lok Cha tea house, one of Hong Kong’s oldest. To find out when the next ceremony is and whether it will be in English it is best to call the Museum as accurate information on the website can be hard to track down.
The ceremonies here are dedicated to showcasing the Gongfu method of tea preparation that was once common throughout Guangdong. This roughly translates as making tea with precise, careful technique designed to bring out the full flavor in the tea.
You’ll also learn about the history of tea in China and Hong Kong, what the different types of tea are and why some are pricier than others. It’s the complete experience and you can expect to spend two to three hours at the tasting. It’s advisable to book in advance as places tend to fill up quickly.
If there are no tastings coming up, the Lok Cha Tea House who runs the ceremonies are a good back up. They rarely have formal tea tastings and few staff members speak English so don’t expect much information, but the preparation of tea in their tea house is first class. While it’s become a bit of tourist trail haunt, Lok Cha is still popular with Hong Kong’s older tea aficionados and offers plenty of old-world atmosphere.