Q- What’s the history behind the company, how did you get your start?
A- The original Imperial Tea Court opened in San Francisco Chinatown in 1993. It was started by Grace and Roy Fong. Grace is a native of Beijing while Roy is from Hong Kong and was previously working as a tea wholesaler. They opened Imperial Tea Court to bring the finest Chinese teas and tea ware as well as their experience of traditional Chinese tea houses and tea culture to North American tea lovers.
Q- Where are you located?
A- While the original Chinatown tea house has closed, there are two Imperial Tea Courts in the Bay Area, one in the San Francisco Ferry Building and another in Berkeley’s Gourmet Ghetto, adjacent to Chez Panisse. In addition, the spirit and fine teas of Imperial Tea Court are available to a global audience on the Imperial Tea web site.
Q- From what countries do you get your tea?
A- Imperial Tea Court is focused on the finest green, oolong, and puerh teas from China. These teas are personally selected by Roy Fong on buying trips to China. Unlike most Chinese tea vendors in the U.S., we do not rely on middlemen. Because of customer interest we also offer a few top-quality Japanese and Indian teas. In addition, Roy is preparing newly acquired ranch land in Northern California as a tea farm. We look forward to offering customers some unique California-grown teas when the plants are mature in a few years.
Q- What do the customers mean to your company?
A- It’s all about the customers! Our greatest pleasure is opening the eyes of Western tea lovers who may not know about the extraordinary history of tea culture in China and the exquisitely rare and delicious historic teas of China.
Q- What are some of the difficulties with selling tea?
A- One of the biggest challenges is overcoming the common view of tea as a quick, cheap beverage. It’s a tribute to the tea plant that even the processing remnants that are used in commercial teabags have a pleasant, refreshing taste. Imagine how much more potential there is in fine tea leaves carefully picked and processed by trained professionals. Cognoscenti in China pay hundreds, even thousands of dollars per pound for the rare teas that we offer in our tea houses.
Q- This is a three-parter. What tea does everyone order? What tea would you suggest for tea newbies? What is your most unique tea?
A- Our two most popular teas are our Organic Everyday Green, a delicious and affordable green tea with the additional health benefit that it’s certified organic, and Roy Fong’s signature Monkey-Picked Tie Guan Yin, a richly flavorful oolong tea that Roy personally processes with traditional firing techniques. For newbies we recommend the Monkey-Picked Tie Guan Yin. Packed with flavor and aroma with both floral and roasted notes, this tea appeals to a wide range of palates and is truly an awakening, for people used to teabags, about what they’ve been missing in terms of fine tea. Our most unique tea is unquestionably our incredibly rare Imperial Tribute Harvest Purple-Tip Puerh, which was produced entirely from the first leaf-buds of a grove of ancient wild puerh tea trees deep in the tropical forest of China’s Yunnan Province. The leaves are so full of nutrients that they’re actually a reddish purple color, rather than green, and the tea tastes sweet and fruity with no bitterness. This tea is delicious to drink now but will continue to improve with age over many decades, similar to Bordeaux wine.
Q- What makes your tea company unique?
A- What truly sets us apart is Roy Fong’s 25 years of experience in Chinese tea markets, his deep contacts with Chinese tea producers that give him access to teas that simply aren’t available to the average buyer, and our commitment to offer some of the world’s finest traditional Chinese teas to our customers.
Q- In three words, can your sum up the culture of your company?
A- Our tagline says it all: “Experience the tradition.”
Q- What is the company’s mission?
A- Our mission is to share some of the world’s rarest and finest tea with our customers and spread the appreciation of Chinese tea culture around the globe.
Ken, over at lahikmajoedrinkstea, shares the British way of tea, by explaining what high tea really is.
Over at Chadao, they review Jing Mai, a Shu Pu-erh from Canton Teas.
Tea is becoming a drink of the youth, as Gingko of Life in a Teacup observes.
Samovar announced this week they are rounding up some of the most influential tea people in America and having a chat. If you’re in San Francisco on September 14th, stop by, or watch the live stream from home.
Chama Tea Blog shares Nestle’s new toy, called the Special T.
Jess, of Insani-TEA, takes a trip to Kenya to check out the tea scene.
This week it was announced by Groupable, that our friends over at Leaf Box Tea were ranked as the top online tea club. Congratulations to Peter, Jackie and company.
For links to these stories and more, please visit our delicious bookmarks.
Who are you?
My name is May King Tsang and I am the founder of MayKingTea. I conduct tea-tastings in the comfort of people’s homes, to celebrate a special occasion or as a corporate team-building experience. As a public speaker, I also raise awareness of the health benefits of loose leaf tea one cup at a time :o) I also retail and wholesale loose leaf tea.
What Blogs do you run?
How did you get into tea?
Funny story. I’ve been drinking tea since I was yay high (imagine me indicating my height with my left hand ) but just like everyone else, I was probably drinking the not so great stuff. Jasmine tea that was loose leaf but probably scented with jasmine essence rather than scented with the real flowers; drinking Pu’erh in Chinese restaurants when ordering Dim Sum on a Sunday but none of the lovely aged cooked stuff that I’m accustomed to now.
A very good friend of mine asked me to go into business with him, to open up, wait for it, :o) a coffee house with art evenings such as film showings, poetry readings, talks by artists, that kind of thing. We did a bit of research and I reluctantly went into a Starbucks coffee house to check out the competition. I had to call my husband up to find out from him what coffee I ought to drink! And when I looked at the tea menu, all they had were tea-bag herbal infusions, and that was when I had my eureka moment. It wasn’t a coffee house I was interested in but a tea-house!
I went back to my friend and impressed on him about the tea-house idea. He loved it, and we refined our research. As time went on we realized that our visions for the tea-house were quite different and so we went our separate ways but he’s still a very good friend of mine, and that’s how I came into the world of tea.
Whats your favorite tea?
Difficult question. Depends on what I fancy that day, but I tend to like greens, oolongs and pu’erhs
What’s your preferred method of steeping?
Whatever I can get my hands on. I remember growing up and my mum just filling a flask full of tea, leaves at the bottom and the flask would just be topped up with hot water as and when required. These days I might have a flask of hot water so that I don’t need to keep using the kettle, I’ll have an infuser over my cup and reuse the leaves as required. Gaiwan is also a favorite.
What advice do you have for people just coming into tea?
Just keep asking questions. In the world of tea, you’re never alone! LinkedIn is a great place for tea discussions and advice. There are so many tea specialists out there who will be more than happy to help. Tea is a wonderful community to be involved in as the community is all about sharing.
Green or Black? Why?
Not sure what you’re asking here. If you’re asking my preference, then I would say green tea, just because of the huge variety of flavors you can get depending on country, region, estate etc. There are some absolutely delicious red teas though, but if you regard Pu’erh tea as a black tea, then that would be a difficult decision for me :o)
How many cups or pots daily?
Never really counted, 5-6 cups? 2 teapots?
Tea enjoyed better with friends or solo?
Absolutely with friends although I often enjoy being in a tranquil room, placing my hands around a cup and smelling the aroma of the tea. With the delicious oolongs I have in my range, it just makes me smile when I smell the wonderful aroma
Share with us some randomness?
Not sure if you wanted a tea random or a random random so I’ve shared both:
Tea random: I loved Lapsang Souchong so much that I drank it very several months every day, until one day I couldn’t face it anymore. That was about 20 years ago but I tried it again a few weeks back and I rather liked it!
A random random: My parents and their friends sing Karaoke so much they call it K :o) Reminds of Al Pacino in Scent of a Woman when he refers to Jack Daniels as John because he’s known ‘him’ for so long.