As with wine, terroir plays an important part in tea. The Wuyi Mountains, where Camellia 茗岩 Tea Bar sources most of their teas from, are home to many famous teas and are rightly prized for their amazing biodiversity and mineral-rich soil. This week, we speak to Chloe, the founder of Camellia 茗岩 Tea Bar to find out more about these amazing teas and why she is so passionate about them.
Can you tell us about what you were doing before you started Camellia 茗岩 Tea Bar?
Before I started Camellia 茗岩 Tea Bar, I was working in business development for a media company. But I felt that something was lacking because there wasn’t much opportunity to sit down and appreciate life. I thought of my student days in the UK, where there were many tea houses – I used to hang out there with my friends and share ideas, and I really enjoyed them. All this led to the idea of a tea bar – I want to advocate for a balanced life where you can come together with people and learn something or about each other.
Were you this entrepreneurial since young?
I’ve actually been thinking of having my own business since I was a teen! My father is a businessman and I’ve never thought of working for others long term. I did dabble in it, such as internships and that job right after graduating, but I find that working for myself suits me better.
So why this focus on Wuyi mountain teas?
There are many factors, to be honest. I’ll try to break this down as best as I can!
Firstly, although Wuyi is regarded as the cradle for Oolong tea-making techniques, the craft is still relatively unheard of outside of China, since it was discovered during the Ming Dynasty (1600s). I hope to bring more awareness to this goodness. Secondly, Oolongs are very diverse, and have a wide range of aromas and tasting layers compared to many other types of tea. This can be attributed to their method of cultivation, and this time-consuming craft. In fact, we have to wait at least 3 months after the harvest to truly determine the quality of the tea harvested from that year. Thirdly, it is also mild on our stomach, yet able to trigger different taste receptors, making it the perfect everyday drink. Lastly, I felt that there was a demand for good quality Oolong, but not enough supply to meet it locally.
As for why Wuyi teas, there are not many places in the world that have the same environmental diversity and standards for tea making. The Wuyi Mountains are actually a world heritage site under UNESCO, so I am certain that what we are getting is good for the environment, while offering the highest quality of Oolong – this is almost a cause with me; how much I believe in the quality of these teas, which I believe is the least I can do for our customers.
Can you tell us something interesting about Wuyi tea that most people don’t know?
There are more than 700 sub varieties of Wuyi tea alone. The landscape is very unique so the flavours and cultivars are very diverse. In fact, every batch of tea is a “one time, one meeting” oft chance.
How do you select the teas that you sell?
We get the teas directly from farms that we have a personal relationship – some of these relationships are from my father’s time! Three teas that we’ll always have are Scarlet Robe, Narcissus, and Rou Gui (AKA Cassia), which are the three main varieties of Wuyi teas.
Besides these three, we also bring in varieties that have very unique characters. For example, we have House Orchid, which is one of the more recent teas that we’ve brought in. It’s a lightly rolled tea that is bright and refreshing, yet the finish is smooth and long.
What is your favourite tea?
I really like Rou Gui, or known as Cassia. I think it is reflected on our selection of tea too, which is fragrant forward. There are many sub-varietals with their own distinctive profile, but I find myself going back to this tea that I find very interesting and enduring.
I also really like Narcissus, which is a tea harvested from aged bush. It’s a more mature tree that has been around for about fifty years. Time and environment where the tea is harvested from is reflected in the brew – making every tea tasting a surprise. I normally drink Cassia in the morning and Narcissus in the afternoon – it’s become my routine now!
With Chinese New Year coming up, do you have any recommendations for teas that pair well with Chinese New Year snacks?
Sparrow’s Tongue, which is also available at NomadX, is something that I’d recommend. It’s slightly roasted, which makes it a good entry point for people looking to start drinking Wuyi teas. It also has floral notes, so that it doesn’t get overpowered by pineapple tarts but can hold its own. It’s also very good for cutting down on the greasiness of Chinese New Year snacks.
I’d also recommend Premium Scarlet Robe, since it’s one of the signature teas from the Wuyi mountains, and is a good representation of classical Wuyi teas.
Lapsang Souchong – Legend has it that this tea was created by accident, but its smoky taste found favour, turning it into one of Wuyi Mountain’s most famous teas. It is perfect for people who would like a full-bodied, fragrant tea that has a smoky character.
As part of this brand spotlight, enjoy 8% off all Camellia 茗岩 Tea Bar products at teapasar.com (excluding workshops), with the code “CAMELLIA888”. Valid until 23:59, 27th January, 2019.
In anticipation of Lunar New Year, Camellia 茗岩 Tea Bar will be hosting two workshops on the 26th of January! Sign up for the Tea Personality Workshop, where participants will be taken on a discovery of your senses through tea; or the Rock Tea Workshop, which offers a peek into the mysterious realm of rock tea (Wuyi tea). Limited seats, so grab your tickets now!