In Search of cre­ativi-tea

En­tre­pre­neur Allen Wong is on a mission to rev­o­lu­tionise tea cul­ture. He tells Mar­i­anna Cerini how and why—over a fresh brew, of course

Hong Kong Tatler - - Concierge -

s we sit down for high tea at Sea­sons by Olivier E to talk about Or Tea, Allen Wong’s premium tea ven­ture, the en­tre­pre­neur takes out a set of tea bags for me to try. Pack­aged in brightly coloured wraps fea­tur­ing a stylised hero­ine in an ar­ray of fairy­tale-es­que sce­nar­ios and punny names like La Vie En Rose (rose tea), Tif­fany’s Break­fast (good old break­fast tea) and Beeee Calm (chamomile tea), the sa­chets— stitched, biodegrad­able and made from un­bleached corn­starch—con­tain un­usual com­bi­na­tions of in­gre­di­ents, most of which are or­ganic and have been sourced from around the world. There’s lemon­grass with gin­ger, green tea and gin­seng, and black tea with liquorice roots and roasted cof­fee beans. Wong be­gan cre­at­ing these spe­cial­ity blends in 2010 and launched them on the mar­ket three years ago. His goal? To give the clas­sic drink a hip, glossy makeover. You have a back­ground in hos­pi­tal­ity and ad­ver­tis­ing and used to run your own ad firm. What spurred you to start a tea com­pany? At first it was the wish to ex­port Chi­nese tea and cul­ture to Europe. Or Tea de­buted there first and was only re­cently launched in Hong Kong. The West has a vague knowl­edge of our blends and brews, but most of the Chi­nese teas you find in France or Eng­land aren’t ac­tu­ally Chi­nese brands. That was a clear gap to me. I founded Or Tea with the aim of of­fer­ing au­then­tic Chi­nese tea pre­sented in a Western way. Now it’s more than that, though. Our se­lec­tion ex­tends to break­fast teas, in­fu­sions, South­east Asia-in­spired brews. It’s about rein­vent­ing a tra­di­tion, if you want, and giv­ing it a lux­ury, very con­tem­po­rary feel.

Are you a cof­fee drinker? Of course. I love cof­fee, but tea is what I grew up with. It’s so in­te­gral to any­one born in Hong Kong. Peo­ple drink it with yum cha, dur­ing a game of mahjong, or in any so­cial cir­cum­stance, re­ally. It’s more fun than cof­fee. You can play with dif­fer­ent in­gre­di­ents, too. Or Tea has some 20 blends at the mo­ment.

Who de­signs the sa­chets? My team and I. I’ve al­ways been quite creative, and com­ing up with clever, eye-pop­ping de­signs for the var­i­ous dif­fer­ent brews was quite an im­por­tant fac­tor for me. Again, cre­at­ing cool im­agery was part of a con­certed ef­fort to give tea a thor­ough makeover. Each packet tells a dif­fer­ent story, with the same young girl as the pro­tag­o­nist. In the fu­ture, though, I would like to have Hong Kong artists de­sign some of our pack­ag­ing. I’d love to col­lab­o­rate with lo­cal tal­ents—as long as the brand main­tains a true Hong Kong iden­tity.

Where do you source your in­gre­di­ents? The right ques­tion would be where don’t we source them from. Quality is piv­otal to what we’re do­ing, so I put a lot of ef­fort into find­ing the right ma­te­ri­als.

You’re prod­uct is avail­able in Har­vey Ni­chols, Le Bon Marché and Prin­temps in Europe, and the Man­darin Ori­en­tal here. What’s your am­bi­tion for the brand? For it to be­come some­thing in­trin­si­cally re­lated to Hong Kong. I’d like for peo­ple to men­tion Or Tea and think of Hong Kong and vice versa. And, of course, to make tea an as­pi­ra­tional drink. When you hold a can of Coke, re­gard­less of whether you like it, there’s an emotional con­nec­tion. I’d like Or Tea to trig­ger that same ef­fect.

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