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Back in August when I visited Antwerp, I walked into a bookshop and stumbled upon a brand new book about tea: Teatime: Fashionable New Tea Shops. I had never seen the book before so I was inclined to buy it. Unfortunately, I lost track of time while shopping for other things and didn’t have enough time left to go back to the book store. I more or less forgot about the book until a few weeks ago. I ordered it online and finally read it.
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Teatime: Fashionable New Tea Shops
Teatime: Fashionable New Tea Shops is a book about tea that is completely different from other tea books. It is about an important aspect of tea that one tends to forget, especially in literature. The focus of this book is tea shops and their design. It focuses on the latest design trends and how tea is branded in different retail spaces.
The tea market is growing rapidly and more and more people are getting into the world of tea. This means that more and more stores and shops see the advantages of combining tea with the latest trends in interior design. The book gives an overview of how different shops/brands try to combine these elements to make sure the customer feels at home.
This unusual book was written by Zender, the lead designer and brand consultant of Heytea (a Chinese tea chain). In 2016, he founded his own design studio that focuses on interior design of commercial spaces for young people.
In the introduction of the book, he gives a lot of information about how he started his design studio and how was influenced as a designer. He also talks about how he started working with/for Heytea and the approach they wanted to take to connect young people with the tea culture.
The book consists of 45 case studies of different tea shops from all over the world (Europe, Australia, Asia and America). The goal of this book is to discuss the design of tea shops and see how they offer the customer an experience that goes further than solely drinking tea. The case studies are divided into three main categories:
- Stylish tea shops around the world
- Modern tea shops in China
- Distinctive tea factories and tea brands
For some people, tea is a way of escaping the continuous flow of everyday life by drinking it in the comfort of their own home. This is exactly what modern tea shops try to achieve in their shops: giving the opportunity to have a time out from everyday activities. People nowadays are not just looking to buy tea anymore but they want the full experience. You can see how the different shops try to accomplish this by the numerous photographs in the book. This way, you can see every corner of the tea shop in full detail. A final element worth noting is that there is also a map/layout of most of the shops so you get all the information you need.
Stylish tea shops around the world
This part of the book focuses on tea shops from different countries (and cultures) to see how they try to bring about the same effect. The different tea shops are located in Sydney, Porte Alegre, Brookline, London, Tokyo, Bangkok, Athens, Warsaw, Vancouver, Copenhagen, Gold Coast, Prague, Hanoi and Panama City.
It’s interesting to see that there is a reason for (almost) every element in these shops. They are vastly different from each other and try to offer a complete experience and peaceful environment to the customer, each in its own way.
Don’t know where to buy tea online in Europe? I made a list of over 80 online shops and I keep updating it regularly. You can check it over here.
Modern tea shops in China
The second set of case studies is about modern tea shops in China. It shows that the traditional tea room is not the right way to attract young people. The traditional elements are still important, but each shop tries to make its own version.
One aspect worth mentioning is the fact that to some people, this part might seem like an advertisement for Heytea. They talk about 24 different tea shops in China and 9 of those are different establishments of the Heytea brand. For me personally, this is not an issue but some people might find this troubling. It doesn’t disturb me as the shops are unique and offer an interesting take on design trends for tea shops.
Distinctive tea factories and tea brands
The final part of the book is about how prominent tea brands try to incorporate their vision in the design of their tea shops. An example of this is the Teatea Pu’er & Café in Menghai. Most people have already heard of this brand but there is also a tea shop in the Menghai Tea Factory. Another brand that is quite famous is Australia’s T2. There is a T2 store in Shoreditch, London, and has some distinctive features that make it stand out.
I think it’s pretty obvious that I like this book. It’s not something you would read in one go, but it offers some interesting ideas behind tea shops. A tea shop is something crucial when selling/buying tea (even in an era of online shopping) but a lot of people don’t really pay attention to the design of these shops. Nowadays, most shops try to attract more and younger people by combining trends in interior design with tea. This book offers a nice overview of how different tea shops try to achieve the same thing: provide a time out from everyday life to enjoy a relaxing and peaceful cup of tea.