The Chinese Tea Shop sits at the corner of East Pender and Columbia Street. It is a small yet intriguing shop filled with Chinese antiques, carved stamps, displays of teacups and packages of premium Chinese tea. The shop had a fine aroma of dried tea and the ambiance was warm and inviting.
The owner of this shop is Daniel Lui. He is both a Chinese seal carver and a tea specialist. Seal carving is an ancient art form that is still practiced today. A seal stamp or “chop” is usually used for signing important legal documents and acts as one’s signature. During my visit, I had the pleasure of having Daniel carve my Chinese name on the bottom of a stone stamp. There are countless types of stone stamps to choose from but most people choose an animal from the Chinese Zodiac calendar that represent the year in which they were born. If you don’t have a Chinese name, Daniel can even help you come up with one. Some people choose to have both their Chinese and English names carved on the stamp.
It was remarkable to be able to watch Daniel carve my stamp by hand. He comes from generations of seal carvers in his family. I was amazed at how fast and precise he was in carving my name. He was precise with his knife, carving the stone with intention and strength, not making a single error. This ancient art takes a tremendous amount of practice, concentration and skill. Within ten minutes, Daniel was done carving my stone stamp.
Next, Daniel gave me a step-by-step lesson on how to make Gong-Fu Cha. The term Gong-Fu Cha means making tea with great skill. We sat across from each other with a small tray between us. The tray contained two tiny teacups, a small ceramic teapot, some dried tea, and a strainer.
Usually when I make tea at home, I boil the water and pour the boiling water into a cup with a tea bag. But with the Chinese, as with the Koreans and Japanese, they regard tea making as an art form.
During my demonstration, Daniel first selected the proper sized teapot for two people. Second, he measured out the right amount of tea according to the size of the tea leaves. Third, he checked that the water was at a certain temperature for the type of tea that we were having. Fourth, he warmed the teapot, sterilized the teacups and the strainer. Fifth, he quickly rinsed the tea leaves for 5-8 seconds and then flushed the water out. Lastly, on the second brew, we slurped and enjoyed the distinct tea and aroma of the Gong Fu Cha.
This was definitely a longer tea making process than what I’m normally used to but it was an eye-opening experience as I learned that the journey is just as significant and enjoyable as the destination. It was peaceful and relaxing to practice this ancient art in tea making in our fast paced world that we are living in today.
101 East Pender Street