20/02/2008 - 22:00

Business Class: Traditional tea house suits all tastes

20/02/2008 - 22:00

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Set among the unassuming shopfronts of Perth’s unofficial Chinatown on William Street in Northbridge, Dragon Tea House has earned a reputation as one of Perth’s hidden gems.

Set among the unassuming shopfronts of Perth’s unofficial Chinatown on William Street in Northbridge, Dragon Tea House has earned a reputation as one of Perth’s hidden gems.

Established by Hong Kong-born Sandy Ng, Dragon Tea House is the first Chinese tea house in Western Australia.

Ms Ng has created an oasis amidst the commercial precinct’s Asian grocers, bakeries, butchers and restaurants, providing a dine-in tea room, tea tasting and retail outlet with more than 30 varieties of premium teas.

The extensive range includes seven different types of green tea, seven oolong teas, five flower teas, two white teas, a yellow tea, a black tea, and two organic teas.

Ms Ng travels to China twice a year to source her products from the provinces that specialise in the growing of different types of teas – from Fujian province’s anxi oolong tea, to the prestigious dragon well green tea from neighbouring Zhe Jiang province.

Moving to Perth to study commerce at Curtin University almost 10 years ago, Ms Ng and her husband decided to make the city their home two years ago, buying the William Street property with the view to establishing the tea business.

“We wanted to do something different that didn’t already exist,” Ms Ng told WA Business News.

“Like Westerners drink coffee, Chinese people drink Chinese tea every day.”

“A lot of people like to come in and just enjoy the atmosphere.”

Gradually building up the business, predominantly through word of mouth, Ms Ng now supplies a number of cafes in Perth and the South West, with her biggest client the InterContinental Perth Burswood hotel.

She also supplies tea to a number of mining companies, which provide tea to their staff and clients.

Ms Ng said the green and white teas were popular with her Western clientele, who were attracted to the teas ‘ perceived health benefits, while the Chinese customers favoured the traditional oolong tea.

“Chinese people believe green tea can reduce the risk of cancer. White tea has all the benefits of green tea but with less caffeine,” she said.

Tea education and culture is a central part of the business. If requested, Ms Ng provides customers with information about the different teas and their associated health benefits, and also about Chinese history and tea culture.

“Because it’s a new business, people don’t have a lot of awareness of the product, so it takes time to educate people,” she said.

Ms Ng recommends people who are new to Chinese teas start with jasmine tea, advancing to green teas and oolong teas, before tackling the more pungent black tea, which is suited to a more sophisticated palate.

In Chinese culture, tea is most commonly given to guests as a welcoming gesture, for use in for ceremonial purposes such as at weddings, and during tea ceremonies.

With a view to expanding the business through a franchise model, using franchisees with a strong knowledge of tea and Chinese tea culture, Ms Ng said she was currently focused on expanding the wholesale side of the business in the short term.

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