Leaf Tea Boutique

Last night I visited Leaf Tea Boutique with MadameN.  We were there for a small art exhibit, and the proprietor of the place, who was also the host of the event, also decided to make it a tea tasting. I’ve walked by this store a number of times before, never bothering to go in as it looks, from the street level anyway, to be just another tea shop, situated in Central in an area frequented by foreign tourists and expats, which means, at least for me, that it probably sells uninteresting teas. When I arrived at the place I was a little confused – where was this art going to be had? This being Hong Kong, space is a real premium, and I couldn’t see any space for any art, until, of course, the staff directed us to go downstairs – turns out they have a little space in the basement that is normally used for seats and has been converted into a little gallery.

In Hong Kong, despite its tea guzzling culture, there are very, very few places where you can actually sit down and drink tea. While plenty of places sell tea, and some will brew for you if you want to try something out, if you want to just buy a cup or a pot of tea to drink, or if you (god forbid) want to bring your own leaves to brew, you’re fresh out of luck. There was one place in Causeway Bay that did that in a Chinese setting, but that store is long dead.  For those who need tea in Central or any other place, for that matter, your only solution is to go to Starbucks, Pacific Coffee, or any number of hotel cafes and the like for a cup of bland and overpriced teabag tea. Leaf Tea Boutique, therefore, is a nice, welcomed addition, and as you can buy a cup to go or for on-premises consumption, that’s a much better alternative for those of us teaheads who need a caffeine fix but don’t want yet another Harney teabag.

Of course, drinking tea in a basement doesn’t sound too exciting, but it also offers something that a lot of places in Hong Kong lacks – peace and quiet. You can’t hear the hustle and bustle at all from their basement, which is quite nice.

There are a number of teas on the menu there, and the proprietor lined up ten teas for us to try in succession. It was slightly wasteful, as we only got to drink one cup out of every brew, but it did allow us to sample more of their teas. As is typical in a tasting, we went from green to black (I skipped the mint tea at the end). Some, such as the sencha and the tieguanyin are merely ok, while others, like the baimudan (white peony) is quite nice. They only offer one of every type of tea, and give very little information on the tea itself, which I understand may turn off some people, but given their business model, location, and potential customer base, that’s not such a bad thing.  The young puerh that we had is probably in the 5 year range, seemingly a blend with a bit of smoke leftover.  I think it’s a big factory production, although it’s not quite clear, and I didn’t ask to look. I don’t like to be too inquisitive the first time I visit a store.

I just noticed that they have a flat pricing structure – which may explain the quality levels I found in the teas. Finding a decent baimudan that sells for $25 USD per 100g is pretty easy. Finding a good tieguanyin for the same price is considerably harder. You’ll never find anything near a top flight longjing at that price.

All in all, it’s a nice place, and a welcomed addition to the general availability of teas here in Hong Kong in a different format. For the general public and even those of us who just want a decent cup of tea while in the city doing other things, it’s not a bad place to go.


Comments

Leaf Tea Boutique — 11 Comments

  1. I am wondering if you have ever been to the Lock Cha tea shop in Hong Kong Park, near the teaware museum. I’ve walked by there a few times but have never had the time to stop and drink tea. Curious to hear your opinion if you’ve visited.

    • I haven’t been to that outpost for years, so any comments will be pretty outdated. FWIW, it’s probably not the most cost efficient place to buy tea.

      • Thanks. I guess that is not surprising given the location. I am about to move/work near there though, so I may visit now and again. If you ever find yourself looking for possible blog topics, I would be curious to read more about tea options in HK, from milk tea to restaurant tea to leaf vendors.

    • I’ve been there last year. I enjoyed a meal there, and the tea and teaware that they bring to your table is not at all bad. I wouldn’t go there to buy tea leaf, probably, but it’s a nice place to spend a little time.

  2. I visited Lok Cha earlier this Spring. Solid tea, not the most cost effective like Marshal said. They have a pretty cool tea house on the island too.

    Marshal, have you noticed any yum cha restaurants 茶樓/飲茶 type places beginning to carry a more extensive tea menu? From my experience in the past, most people who care about it bring their own tea. But I was wondering if that’s changing.

  3. Hi there. A colleague of mine is travelling to Hong Kong over christmas. He has kindly offered to bring back some pu-erh cakes. Can you recommend a shop that he could go to? The only pu-erhs available here are cooked loose teas and some flavoured pu-erhs (blah!) so I’m hoping to try something a little different but not too expensive (no more than USD$40).

    • There are plenty of tea shops in Hong Kong. A good place to start, though not the cheapest, is the Best Tea House. They have multiple branches.

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