Yang Chun Lei, a century-year-old herbal tea shop struggles to survive
By Shell Zhang
Most people nowadays go for soda and alcohol for a drink. But in the old days, a cup of herbal tea was a more popular choice. They would gather at a herbal tea shop to chat with one another while having herbal tea.
Yang Chun Lei, a herbal tea shop in Wan Chai, has been in operation for 105 years. It is one of the few traditional herbal tea houses in Hong Kong. Yang Wen-jia, the third generation owner of the shop, says he inherits the shop from his father and grandfather.
“You can say it is our uniqueness, or just being simple,” Yang laughs as he explains why there is only one item on the menu. Different from other herbal tea stores, Yang Chun Lei only sells “24 Herbs” (二十四味). He explains that 24 Herbs is good for health and therefore they focus on producing this kind of herbal tea.
Yang explains the key to enhance herbal tea’s effect is to keep it fresh and maintain the temperature. He says at first customers just walk by his shop and give the herbal tea a try. When they find the tea is really effective, they visit regularly. “Some Westerners are also our regular customers,” he says.
Although the business has been quite successful, Yang says he has never thought of expanding the business scale. He says the major concern is the quality of herbal tea. The preparation of 24 Herbs now requires manual labour. But if they increase the scale of production, he is afraid that the tea quality might be compromised.
“If you do not produce the tea yourself and rely on factories to manufacture, the tea will no longer be fresh after being packaged and then transported here and there,” Yang says.
He admits that the herbal tea industry is shrinking, but says his store still manages to survive. “We have the advantage of cost since we own the store. We do not have to pay rents.”
Yang says he does not view the recent revitalisation projects in Wan Chai as a threat to his business. “When it is time for our community to be redeveloped, we have to leave.” Yang says he will strive to continue the family business. “It is a family asset passed on through generations. I have to protect my family’s name.”
Want to try the 24 Herbs and stay healthy? Pay a visit to Yang Chun Lei at 29 Spring Garden Lane, Wan Chai.
Edited by Edith Chung