Taipei, Bangkok, Hong Kong
Looking for an antidote to Starbucks’ global ubiquity? These three establishments give ancient tea traditions a new twist. By JENNIFER CHEN
+ SMITH&HSU, TAIPEI
Many teahouses here cleave closely to classical décor. But there’s been a groundswell of more modern approaches lately—as with this sleek space. Unveiled in May 2007, smith&hsu unites Chinese and British tea traditions: William Morris–like prints grace the packages for the in-house teas, while the menu’s 22 tea varieties include British stalwarts such as English Breakfast. The East–West theme also plays out in the dining room, which is furnished with Hans Wegner’s Wishbone chairs (inspired by Ming dynasty design). We watched a young boy polish off a plate of scones, washing them down with Taiwan’s famed bai hao oolong tea. Now that’s fusion we approve of.
No. 33, Section 5, Zhong Xiao East Road, Taipei, Taiwan; +886 2 2747 4857; www.smithandhsu.com.
+ THE CHINA HOUSE, BANGKOK
An extensive renovation two years ago has transformed the interiors of this Bangkok mainstay into a seductive homage to 1930’s Shanghai—but with contemporary touches. In the restaurant’s heart lies a cloistered sitting room that houses the tea apothecary. It’s a sight that would set a tea aficionado’s heart racing: 35 canisters bearing blends and pure leaves from Mariage Frères, France’s oldest purveyor of fine teas. Don’t settle for familiar brews such as Earl Gray and Pu-er. Instead, try the Aiguilles d’Argent Silver Needles—the rare and costly yinzhen white tea from China’s Fuijian province that produces a delicately complex liquor.
The Oriental Bangkok; 48 Oriental Ave., Bangkok, Thailand; +66 2659 9000
+ GREEN T-HOUSE, HONG KONG
This airy, all-white eatery is the brainchild of musician-artist-entrepreneur Zhang Jinjie. Often called China’s first celebrity chef, Zhang launched Green T-House in Beijing in 1997. Doubling as an art gallery, the Hong Kong outlet, which opened in January, features a long communal table and a ceiling bedecked with delicate white branches. Make sure to accompany your cha with some of the culinary offerings. Helming the kitchen is chef Alan Yu, who Zhang plucked from 66, Jean-George Vongerichten’s haute Chinese restaurant in New York. We recommend his divinely decadent dumplings stuffed with foie gras.
208, The Arcade, 100 Cyberport Road, Hong Kong; +852 2989 6036; www.green-t-house.com.