“Tea Tradition … Gifts for those left behind.”
After 135 years, retailer considers turning over a new leaf
The oldest and largest tea leaf retailer in Hong Kong, Ying Kee was started in Guangzhou by Chan Chau-ying in 1881, in the eighth year of Emperor Guangxu, the penultimate Chinese emperor.
Founder Chan Chiu-ying established three shops in Guangzhou set firmly on the rule that they sold only the best quality leaves ‘and would never compete on price’. It was also the first tea house in China to advertise in a newspaper.
Being a famous traditional brand means it has a stable of mostly elderly customers, but it didn’t stand their feet at where they were. ‘We have many loyal customers who have bought the tea leaves for many years, but we would like to attract a younger generation of customers,’ says, owner of the tea house.
In 2002, it set up a website, then 2006, it opens two shops in tourist areas – one in Causeway Bay and another on The Peak – stocked with English brochures to explain the tradition of tea drinking and the six major types of leaves.
The harmony between innovations and heritage has been as much a key to Ying Kee’s longevity as its strong brand and the inherited knowledge of how to access and price the different leaves.
Ying Kee is selling leaves at a wide variety. Its most expensive leaf – 45-year-old pu-erh – sells for HK$20,000 per 600 grams. Its cheapest costs HK$48 per 600 grams, compared with the HK$20 you might pay for tea at a supermarket.
Some staff who worked for Ying Kee were much older than their bosses and you will be amazed by their acknowledge in the tradition of tea drinking.
Text & edit by longtailtravelhk
Source / SCMP 14 January 2007 Enoch Yiu; Ying Kee Tea House