People in Southern China refer to drinking tea as “eating tea”, because in addition to tea itself, the food along with tea is also very important. In the past, Chinese were very particular about drinking tea: place the tea ware on the tea table in turn, choose high-quality tea leaves and water, make an excellent pot of tea, and serve several kinds of tea pairing food in fine bowls and dishes. Drinks and food. That’s what’s called “good tea”.
Talking of the Chinese history of “tea eating”, as early as in the Qin dynasty, people used tea to boil thick tea ‘soup’. When it came to the Tang dynasty and Song dynasty, tea gradually became a kind of drink, and tea food started to develop. During the long history of the development, various kinds of tea food have emerged at different times in different regions.
“Sweet food for green tea, sour food for black tea and sunflower seeds for oolong.” That’s the most wellknown tips for choosing tea food for the drinks. Appropriate tea food will not steal the show but would be the frosting on the cake. Among them, the “Four Precious Tea Food” from Huzhou is probably the most famous, which includes rose crumble candies, sticky candies and pepper salt peach slices, and contemporary walnut pastries. The Peking tea food also has a long history and wide varieties, of which JingBaJian is the most representative.
In addition to tea and desserts, tea food also refers to food that contains tea. For example, drinks made from tea, soups using tea, cereal and fruit as ingredients, pastries tasting of tea such as tea biscuits, and candies made from tea. These kinds of food along with tea not only taste good but also are excellent things to welcome guests with.
However, nowadays, less and less people are particular about “eating tea”. Many youngsters think of tea as not varied as coffee or other kinds of drink. The Japanese tea ceremony and the tea culture are too complex for young people to explore, and they think that drinking or eating tea is excessively elegant or enigmatic. But in fact, drinking or eating tea is just a time-honored life habit of Chinese people. On the other hand, most tea houses seem so old-fashioned. A pot of hot tea, several kinds of nuts or traditional desserts. These are boring in youngsters’ eyes. Luckily, there are some people who are working to reduce the sense of distance between tea and the youth, and to create a more tolerant and more intimate space that’s very distinctive from traditional tea houses.
Yuan Gu store in Beijing is a new type of tea space that focuses on creative tea food but also offers household utensils and groceries. During weekend mornings, many people will choose to go into a café and order a cup of coffee with milk as well as a croissant spreading the aroma of butter and fresh pastry. But in the Jianchang Hutong of Beijing, you’ll also see many young people waiting at the gate for Yuan Gu to open.
A Tea Space in Hutong
The Yuan Gu flagship store is located in the Jianchang Hutong in Beijing. Its design is a combination of the traditional Chinese garden and the modern style. The bold innovation in tea desserts and the way of making tea attracts new customers every day.
What do we need to know about Yuan Gu?
We offer new kinds of Chinese desserts. Following the change of seasons and solar term, we choose ingredients in season to present the original taste of food. Being inspired by nature, we use fresh handmade ingredients. We care about not only food but also the environment, the ambience and customers’ emotions. In Yuan Gu, what you’ll have is not only food itself but a feast of seasons. Yuan Gu is more than a dessert shop. It’s the combination of food and beauty, a life space of food.
What are the reasons to open the Yuan Gu store?
The store was established by friends who share the professional background of arts, share the love for food. There are French or western desserts all over the market.
The Japanese Wagashi has become international. But in China, although as early as in the Tang dynasty emerged “Tang-gashi”, the time-honored traditional desserts have been ignored by young people nowadays. We want to combine tradition with innovation. We want to make new Chinese desserts that are welcomed by our generation. We want to create a space which can provide people with more experiences of food, beauty and sharing How did you come up with the name and logo for the shop? Yuan means the origin, while Gu means the past. Yuan Gu means to find inspiration from Chinese traditional culture and lifestyles. The culture and lifestyles. The simplified derivative of the singing figurine in the Han dynasty. It means to create happiness.
What about design of the shop? Where did you find the inspiration?
The inspiration stems from Chinese traditional culture. We add elements of the Chinese tea house, the Classical Gardens of Suzhou and Chinese gardens, and present a space of eastern life aesthetics.
Most objects are works of China’s young ceramics artists. Handmade objects are warm and gentle. The artists’ lifestyles are also very interesting, that match Yuan Gu very well.
Four Season of Tea Tasting
Yuan Gu follows China’s solar term to offer new tea food. Enter Yuan Gu at a different time and you’ll taste different flavor. The change of ingredients reminds people of changing seasons. What Yuan Gu wants to do is to present the beauty of the nature by a cup of tea and a small delicate dessert.
How did you come up with the idea of launching tea & food matching?
The lifestyle of ancient Chinese is to eat according to the time. Eat food in season based on the change of solar terms. For ingredients, select ripe food in season, and feel the harvest of each season. For appearance, get inspiration from scenic views, local customs and the change of four seasons, and use desserts to indicate the scenery in season. Eat the beauty, look at the beauty, experience the beauty, and feel the beauty of nature.
Can you recommend to us 4 kinds of tea food that can represent four seasons?
Lichun – Green Moss. It looks like grass sprouts at the beginning of spring. Clusters and clumps of grass poke their heads out. It’s the scenery of Lichun. For ingredients, we choose matcha and kidney beans.
Lixia – Duckweed. It looks like duckweed of the lotus pond at the beginning of summer, floating on the surface of water. For ingredients, we choose fruits in season, trichosanthes pilosa and litchi.
Liqiu – Goji Rice Wine Cake. It comes from the childhood memory about self-made rice wine. We add goji which is a warming medicine material that is suitable for the autumn. The weather in the autumn is very dry, and goji and rice wine are able to warm the body and relieve the dryness.
Lidong – Maple Leave. Lidong is the beginning of winter, and winter is the season for a hoard. To eat more warming food is good for the heart and the blood, and you’ll feel warm throughout the winter. Furthermore, on the day of Lidong, maple leaves are all over mountains. To use colorful kidney beans to imitate colorful mountains is the way to express our feelings about Lidong – red leaves scattered across the hill, a diversified and layered view of early winter Tea Houses for Young People.
The traditional Chinese tea ceremony is strange to young people nowadays. What Yuan Gu is trying to do is to make young people and the traditional culture connect by means of the new Chinese tea food – new space, new way to drink tea, and innovative desserts. “We want to make “eating tea” again become the daily habit of people again.”
Are there many young people going to Yuan Gu to “eat tea”? How do you attract young customers?
Most of our customers are youngsters. We want to make young people know more about traditional Chinese culture by means of tea food. We’re always thinking about creating innovative desserts for young people by using ordinary traditional food and incorporating the idea of aesthetics. Talking of tea drinks, besides the traditional way to make tea, we also offer something like milk foam tea which is popular among youngsters. Let young people find out the beauty of tea through their favorite way of drinking and eating.For many people, to drink tea is not only about tea itself, but also about the experience you’ll get with your friends. To drink tea in a tea house is to create connection between people. That’s why we’ve established such a quite space where you can enjoy the afternoon leisure time with friends.
Could you please recommend to tea newbies how to select food that goes with tea?
In Yuan Gu, you can try Lily dumpling to go with cold-brew green tea or oolong, which is characteristic of Yuan Gu. The dessert also looks beautiful, since we’ve incorporated the idea of oriental aesthetics of tea ceremony into its design and plate presentation. The combination between the tea and the dessert emphasizes the abundant layers of tastes of the dessert, and makes drinking tea more interesting. The aftertaste will linger in your mouth.