Amble within the concrete jungle of Singapore and you’ll likely be met with the defined lines and reflective glass characteristic of modern urbanity. However, if you peer a little closer between the neatly-lined blocks and along hidden streets, you can still find traditional Chinese teahouses hidden in plain sight.
Typically relics of the past seemingly frozen in time, these teahouses provide a temporary respite for all those enchanted by the comforting fragrance of their soothing brews. Broach past the wooden doors and you will be transported into a space resistant to the erosion of time and modernity.
There will likely be an array of speciality teas from black to white awaiting your perusal, with each unique blend offering a distinct flavour meant to whisk you back to the misty mountains of China’s historical past. Besides a cup of your preferred tea, these teahouses provide a safe, self-contained opportunity for introspection amidst the hushed melodies of Chinese instruments.
More than just a drink for our parents and grandparents, with its milder taste profile that belies easy drinking and purported health benefits from being anti-inflammatory to having cleansing efforts, the next time you seek a cuppa, why not swap it for a cup of pleasant, warm Chinese tea instead? To begin you on your journey, here is a list of 9 Chinese teahouses in Singapore that offer quiet escapes from the bustle of our daily lives.
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CAMELLIA TEA BAR
Camellia Tea Bar can be best described as a quintessential display of what a modern Chinese teahouse would look like: a fine blend of traditional elements in an otherwise contemporary space, with an age-old dedication to fine teas not unlike that of its traditional predecessors, and serving exquisite brews alongside cultural appreciation courses and events.
Visit Camellia if you’re a fan of oolong tea and sustainability. Specialising in the opulent wuyi rock oolong – a renowned tea that was once employed as an imperial tribute for its excellence – this teahouse only sources leaves from the UNESCO World Heritage Site, Wuyi Mountains, to ensure its products are all sustainably grown and harvested.
Due to their stringent sourcing requirements, the tea plants are grown in mineral-rich volcanic soil and nurtured by microclimates. Thus, you can expect the oolong leaves here to be of unparalleled quality.
88 East Coast Road
Katong Square, #01-08
Tel: +65 8783 1993
Daily: 11am – 7pm
Nearest Station: Dakota
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CHINESE THEATRE CIRCLE’S CHINESE OPERA TEA HOUSE
Did you know there is a functioning Chinese opera theatre in Singapore? Even if you did, are you aware that it contains a teahouse where patrons can enjoy their tea to live professional Chinese opera showcases?
With opera at the core of its operations, bask not just in the cosy atmosphere reminiscent of mid-90s era tea spaces, take the time to learn and appreciate a part of Chinese culture and history that you will rarely come into contact with. Don’t forget to take the chance during these live opera performances to get up close and personal with the intricacies of this rapidly disappearing art.
Despite its quiet reputation locally, the Chinese Theatre Circle has performed in 29 countries and territories, with over 2,500 performances under its belt to date. In attempts to modernise traditional plays for a wider market, the Chinese Theatre Circle has adapted the original scrips into full English performances as well.
5 Smith Street
Tel: +65 6323 4862 / 9630 2886
Tue to Sat: 12pm – 5pm
Sun: 2pm – 6pm
(Closed on Mondays)
Nearest Station: Chinatown
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KOONG WOH TONG
Fancy some Chinese herbal dessert alongside your pot of Chinese tea? At Koong Woh Tong, not only has this Malaysian brand spent the past few decades researching on the herbal tea concoctions with the most pronounced health benefits, they have a similar dedication to their guiling gao (a type of herbal jelly) dessert as well.
Housed in a gold-draped and wood-lined interior adorned with large urn-like shiny metal dispensers, you get to enjoy the best of both worlds: the present-day conveniences of sipping tea in a modern shopping mall while enjoying the nostalgic notes of Koong Woh Tong’s herbal creations.
Especially welcomed on warm, humid days, their herbal jelly is an authentic, albeit expensive, treat unlike the manufactured, artificial flavours of commercial variants. Enjoy it with a herbal tea on the go for a fantastic way to beat the heat in a healthier manner.
90 Hougang Avenue 10
NTUC Hougang, #B1-22/23
Daily: 10am – 10pm
Nearest Station: Hougang
** Multiple outlets islandwide.
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PEK SIN CHOON
If you’re looking for a teahouse that still radiates an old-school charm, Pek Sin Choon has been providing traditionally roasted and prepared tea leaves since 1925. Currently helmed by the third generation of the founding family, the current owner did not just inherit the business, he inherited his predecessor’s knowledge and love for Chinese teas too.
Despite its nearly century-old legacy, the brand is still going strong despite the present-day population’s departure from the habit of drinking Chinese tea. Besides the requirement of suppling high-quality leaves, Pek Sin Choon attributes much of its success to the building and maintaining of relationships with its clients, be it individuals or businesses.
When appraising their sizable selection of China-imported tea leaves, you are encouraged to tap into the knowledge of the brand’s staff and owners. Whether you are seeking gentle notes of Royal Daffodil, the intense wafts from the Dragonball Supreme, or the classic Renowned Unknown Fragrance blend utilised by many notable bak kut teh stalls, few other places can rival the intricate profiles and nuances of their blends.
36 Mosque Street
Tel: +65 6323 3228 / 6323 3005
Mon, Tue, Thu & Sat: 8.30am – 6.30pm
Fri: 9am – 5pm
(Closed on Wednesdays & Sundays)
Nearest Station: Chinatown
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PHOENIX HILL TEA MERCHANT
Nestled along the heritage streets of Joo Chiat, Phoenix Hill Tea Merchant offers an intimate tea appreciation space filled with pieces whisked away from a long-gone era, managed by a family with roots that span not just space, but time as well.
Unlike other teahouses that import their tea from third parties, Phoenix Hill Tea Merchant achieved its moniker from the place where their tea plantation is located: Phoenix Hill in the Guangdong province. Specialising in traditional oolong tea, the family continues to monitor every step of the process from growing to charcoal-roasting to ensure that the leaves they offer will always be of impeccable quality.
Besides their signature oolong varieties, Phoenix Hill offers a vast array of other tea types as well. Whether you are looking for a peaceful place to rest with a warm drink, or perhaps you’re hunting for genuine traditional tea-making paraphernalia, Phoenix Hill has them all.
52 Joo Chiat Place
Tel: +65 9670 2699
Daily: 11am – 6pm
Nearest Station: Eunos
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TEA BONE ZEN MIND
After four moves, Tea Bone Zen Mind has finally settled down in the reticent neighbourhood of Emerald Hill, transforming two venerable, preserved three-storey shophouses into a relaxed museum of sorts for all things tea.
As with the intertwining Art-Deco and Chinese Baroque flavours of the space, the brand upholds a similar synthesis in the duality of their teas, unafraid of experimenting with the traditional to create new and exciting flavours suitable for the contemporary palate. Departing from more traditional teahouses, a visit here involves not just excellent brews, but a meticulous pairing of tea with a mix of gourmet and street fare.
Made to be approachable by both tea aficionados and beginners alike, the staff is happy to entertain requests to learn more about the teas on premises, and can cater to unseasoned palates by offering both commonly found teas and specially curated blends.
98 Emerald Hill Road
Tel: +65 6334 4212
Mon to Sat: 11am – 7pm
(Closed on Sundays)
Nearest Station: Somerset
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If your tired self is looking for a place where time trickles just that bit slower, a place where your hurried thoughts of the day’s schedules can be stifled, and a place where you can properly revel in the present, and the present alone, seek solace in Tea Chapter’s muted space.
As one of the more prestigious teahouses in Singapore, Tea Chapter extols all aspects of the art tea brewing to its visitors. As their staff educate the room on the history of their brews and the culture that surrounds these teas, all dining patrons can sample from a host of traditional snacks like the assorted Dim Sum Platter and Dragon Rice Balls to accompany any ongoing tea explorations.
When you do manage to visit, feel free to partake in a workshop held by the brand’s own Grand Tea Master. Whether you are a student or a working professional, Tea Chapter’s workshops are a light, refreshing way to rediscover parts of our own history and culture through the medium of tea. With notable figures like PM Lee Hsien Loong and President Tony Tan among his clientele, a session with the Grand Master will undoubtedly be an invigorating and enlightening one.
9 Neil Road
Tel: +65 6226 1175 / 6226 1917
Sun to Thu: 11am – 9pm
Fri & Sat: 11am – 10.30pm
(Closed on Wednesdays & Sundays)
Nearest Station: Chinatown
TIAN FU TEA ROOM
Looking for sumptuous Chinese fare before an equally lavish Chinese tea session after? Head over to your nearest PARKROYAL hotel and into their resident Chinese restaurant, Si Chuan Dou Hua and be indulged in a tea appreciation session unlike any other.
Much more accessible given its placement within an existing Chinese restaurant, Tian Fu maintains every other facet of a successful traditional teahouse: a hefty variety of 30 teas, a comfortable and tranquil ambience, gracious and graceful service, and an elegantly poised interior.
In addition to enjoying their teas, a trip here allows you to try your hand at tea brewing and engage in fine traditional Chinese arts like Chinese calligraphy. Moreover, given how the tea room shares a kitchen with its sister restaurant, patrons can expect the accompanying morsels to be of a quality exacting enough to properly complement the splendid brews.
Si Chuan Dou Hua
7500 Beach Road
PARKROYAL on Beach Road
Tel: +65 6505 5722 / 6505 5724
Daily: 11.30am – 10.30pm
Nearest Station: Nicoll Highway
** Multiple outlets islandwide.
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YIXING XUAN TEAHOUSE
For coffee lovers who scoff at the joys of tea drinking, spend some time with the owner of Yixing Xuan Teahouse, Vincent Low, and hopefully, you too will be able to understand the captivations of Chinese tea. An ex-coffee connoisseur, Vincent, along with his daughter, are eager to spread the craft of tea brewing in an uncomplicated and palatable way.
A trip to Yixing Xuan is akin to a trip to a friend’s dining room; unpretentious and strangely familiar, it allows for not just an informal and comfortable environment to learn and enjoy what could be an intimidating art for the uninitiated. Not only is it a space where the curious of all ages can savour fine teas, the family longs for it to be one that’s safe enough for strangers to bond over their love for teas as well.
Holding workshops every Saturday at 11am, the father-daughter duo personally demonstrates the constellating aspects of tea appreciation, coupled with a course of dim sum samples to complement the collection of premium teas. Be it a more special afternoon tea session or an educational experience, Yixing Xuan is more than happy to welcome those who have even the slightest fondness for tea between its doors.
78 Tanjong Pagar Road
Tel: +65 6224 6961 / 6226 1646
Mon to Sat: 10am – 8pm
Sun: 10am – 7pm
Nearest Station: Outram Park