Nana Chan is the owner of beloved cafes Teakha I in Sheung Wan, and more recently, Teakha II in Shek Tong Tsui. She tells Adele Wong about her family’s daily tea time ritual and spills a few fascinating facts about tea.
A little background
Taiwanese Nana Chan decided to stop being a lawyer about six years ago to pursue her passion for tea instead. She opened her first tea-centric cafe, Teakha I, on Tai Ping Shan street four years ago. The cozy little shop was such a hit that earlier last year, Chan expanded her brand with a bigger space on Po Tuck Street in Shek Tong Tsui.
How did your passion for tea begin?
I always had tea growing up as a child. I always dreamed about how my own tea shop would be like and things like that, but it’s always been more like a dream. My family, we have afternoon tea at home every single day. Even if people come home at 7pm we still have a cup of tea before dinner. It’s a ritual for us. I wanted to share that experience with others.
What’s your favorite tea?
Because of our family tradition, I always fall back to a milk tea. It could be various different kinds depending on my mood. I like to add things — whatever I have in my kitchen — to the tea and try it out. Milk teas are usually black teas because they tend to be stronger.
Both your cafes are relatively secluded and not on busy main strips. How do you choose your locations?
[My customers’] experience is very important for me. I don’t like being in malls or super busy places. I like Tai Ping Shan Street because it’s a little quirky and still close to the MTR and offices. With the Po Tuck street shop, I guess it has the same kind of element. It’s an area where trendy people are starting to live in, but still away from major traffic.
What do you think about coffee?
Coffee [marketing] is a lot more developed, so people are a lot more knowledgeable about where the coffees come from. When you go to a nice coffee shop you would say “I want the one from Equador” or something. It’s the same philosophy with teas, but people don’t really understand that. People only know the blends, like English Breakfast or Earl Grey. What I want to do is try and educate people on where the teas come from.
Where do the teas come from?
All the different varieties of tea come from one kind of plant called the Camellia sinensis. But depending on where it’s grown, the weather conditions and the way they have been processed, they end up being green teas, black teas, pu-erh… The main thing that changes its flavor is the processing method, or how long it has been fermented. The teas can look so different just because of the way they’re processed. We source our teas from Sri Lanka, China, Japan, Thailand, Taiwan and India.
What’s an interesting tidbit about tea?
India and Sri Lanka only have black teas because of colonization. The British loved drinking black tea so much that they started bringing black teas from China into India [and Sri Lanka].
Do you have any advice for someone running their own business?
I would advise that person to think very, very carefully. My days are like [up and down, up and down] whereas before when I was working it was like a flat line. There are definitely some really up bits but it’s just so tiring and emotionally draining because it’s your own thing, so your brain never stops working. You have to be prepared for the negative bits, but the reward is also so much more.
Read more from our Dishin’ the Dirt series.