Chinese teahouse adds to cultural experience

By Hong Xiao in New York | China Daily USA | Updated: 2017-04-06 11:03

Chinese teahouse adds to cultural experience

A sit-down cafe with a Chinese teahouse theme at the Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York is offering visitors an opportunity to experience an ancient tea-drinking culture that emerged around the eighth century and continues to the present day.

Located on the second-floor balcony overlooking the museum's Great Hall, the cafe - called Tea Drunk at the Met - is surrounded by antique Asian ceramics in long wall cases.

"Visitors can enjoy the opportunity to sit and relax for a while, adjacent to the tables are beautiful works of Chinese and East Asian ceramics. So we feel this is a wonderful enhancement of the visitors' experience," said Mike Hearn, chairman of the Asian art department at the Met.

Hearn said the balcony has long had a tradition of offering cocktails and food on Friday and Saturday evenings, "but we are now experimenting with a new option to have Chinese-style tea served during open hours every day of the week".

"We felt that being in the Asian galleries, it's very appropriate for the Metropolitan Museum to offer authentic tea next to authentic works of art," he said.

Opening on March 8 to coincide with Asia Week New York, Tea Drunk at the Met is scheduled to operate daily for three months.

The cafe serves a selection of authentic Chinese teas harvested from renowned tea-growing mountains in China, as well as small plates featuring light delicacies.

All teas - green (Gua Pian), black, white, Pu'er (fermented), and Oolong - are offered at Tea Drunk, a popular tea house in the City's East Village known for its artisanal teas.

"At Tea Drunk basically we specialize in traditional Chinese tea, so we don't have anything novel or flavored, it's all just tea that comes from the actual tea plant," said Teng Shunan, founder of Tea Drunk who is also an avid tea educator.

Half raised in China and half in the US, Teng has always been fascinated by Chinese tea and its culture.

When she realized there was no place in New York offering authentic Chinese tea, Teng thought it was a great opportunity for her to be the first, "given that New York is such a large metropolitan city, it is supposed to have everything," she said.

Teng fixed this problem in 2013 when Tea Drunk opened.

"Tea is a perfect vehicle for someone to really get to know about Chinese culture because it's related to taste and taste is universal," she said. "You do not need to know a lot about Chinese culture in order to appreciate tea."

To maintain the high quality of tea leaves she offers, every year Teng goes back to the mountains of China, visiting heritage tea farmers to harvest and bring back teas to the US.

"We're very impressed with their (Tea Drunk's) commitment to quality and we believe that their attitude towards quality and authenticity reflects the values that we hope to embrace with the works of art that are on view here at the Met," said Hearn.

"My mission, along with Tea Drunk's mission, is to promote traditional Chinese culture through Chinese tea and I know the Met receives a lot of visitors from all over the world, including an increasing number of Chinese visitors, so I think it definitely fits the bill," said Teng.



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