KUALA LUMPUR: When you hear someone speak of a teahouse, what probably comes to mind is an arched-roof building and ornate tables and chairs with intricately drawn Oriental paintings.
Chawan Tea co-owners Kim Lee, 39, and Allan Chong, 38, hope to quash that rigid impression through their tea house in Bukit Jalil, Kuala Lumpur.
Although their establishment is indeed decorated with Chinese-themed displays such as bamboo screens and shelves of tea-brewing sets, there’s a modern touch to everything. The feel is cosy and relaxed.
“We were initially planning to open a café but, as you know, the competition in that market is very strong and we wanted to tackle something more niche,” Lee explained to FMT Lifestyle.
One of their mutual friends, Ang Mun Wai, happens to be a tea connoisseur. They turned to him for guidance and the three ended up becoming business partners.
Chawan Tea opened its doors in March. The name is drawn from “cha” and “wan”, Mandarin for “tea” and “bowl”; while the combined word is, of course, pronounced like the Malay word “cawan”, which means “cup”.
The co-founders said they wanted to do more than just serve tea and food: they aim to bring friends and strangers together to strengthen bonds and make connections through what Lee called “an unassuming cup” of tea.
“Tea has this ability to bring people together,” he said. “After our customers sit down, they’ll be able to immerse themselves and connect with their companions as they chat over a cup of tea.
“Even old friends who haven’t seen each other in years can easily get close again just from talking about the atmosphere in the teahouse down to the cups we use, which can be great ice-breaking topics.”
The trio believe that most traditional teahouses have an intimidating aura that can deter youths. As such, they hope the easygoing environment at Chawan Tea, coupled with its fusion-style menu, will help promote tea appreciation to a younger audience.
The menu offers nearly two dozen types of Chinese tea, from Da Hong Pao, Long Jing and Bi Luo Chun to oolong, Tie Guan Yin and Pu Er, all sourced from China or Taiwan.
If you want to take your tea to go, it will be packaged in a nice clear glass bottle, which can be reused after you finish your drink.
Curious about the champagne tea on the list, this writer opted for the peach version. Served chilled in a beautiful glass decanter, it’s bubbly with the subtle fragrance of tea – a good choice for a tea newbie or just someone celebrating with old friends.
The snack platter serves as the perfect accompaniment, but if you want something more filling, give the Da Hong Pao tea rice with salmon a try. Take a bite of salmon, rice, tea and seaweed for optimum taste; it will leave you thoroughly satisfied.
The tea is served separately, so you can adjust the amount you like.
For a non-tea-based meal, the herbal chicken drumstick rice is a good alternative. Full of flavour and cooked until the meat falls off the bone, it’s a healthy and yummy choice even your kids would love. Opt for the tea soup noodles if you’re not in the mood for rice.
Pro tip: if you wish to start brewing tea at home, all the tea sets on display are for sale.
So, today on International Friendship Day, why not sit down and reconnect with old friends over a nice cuppa?
Follow Chawan Tea on Instagram.
C-16, 2, Jalan Jalil Perkasa 1
57000 Kuala Lumpur
Business hours: 10am-7pm daily
Contact: 010-358 3367