Sunny Gold Market in Lido is gone. In its place, rising from the ashes like the Phoenix (okay, rising from the rubble of the remodeling and rebranding) is Jin Jie or Gold Street Market. Gone are the cramped stalls where vendors tried to hawk their wares to reluctant shoppers (it was a smaller, less expensive version of Yashow Market). The good news is that about ten of the old vendors are still there selling toys, t-shirts, shoes, and other trinkets, along with Joy’s Fabric and a nail salon or two. Joining them are more upscale clothing retailers, pottery shops, and jewelry vendors. Best of all, just a few doors inside the entrance, is the new teashop of Mr. Koan Chen selling his family’s very own award-winning brand of tea from the family’s tea plantation in Taiwan.
At first glance, it was the beautiful teacups and other pieces of porcelain that drew me in (also made by his family), but it was Koan’s encyclopedic knowledge of all things tea, his passion for the brew, and his charm and generosity that kept me drinking innumerable cups of tea from his family plantation, his father’s friend’s brand, and even teas from around China. Koan only sells a handful of teas from Taiwan, but he seems to collect various teas from around China for his own drinking pleasure and the joy of trying them with friends and clients.
His family’s Oriental Beauty Tea (originally known as Pom-fong Tea before Queen Elizabeth II renamed it) won 2nd prize last year in the annual tea competition in Taiwan. Second place is a worthy finish considering there were over 2,000 entrants in that tea category alone.
Koan’s family began growing tea in Taiwan more than 40 years ago. By its nature, the tea is organic since the flavor depends on the plant being bitten by a particular breed of insect. Remarkably, once the plant is bitten, the tea must be harvested within 7 days or the leaves will fall off and die and the crop will be lost. It is a delicate balance that produces a quality of tea that is rarely matched. It simply must be sampled to appreciate how fantastic this type of oolong tea tastes.
Stumbling upon Mr. Koan Chen’s shop has been one of the great finds for me this spring and I look forward to returning often. Though modest about his English, he studied for his master’s degree in east London for two years. Koan said, “I studied banking and finance, but I drank tea everyday. I like Finance, but tea is my life.” Fortunately for us, his wife, whom he met while studying in London, is from Beijing, and so they decided to bring Koan’s award-winning tea to the capital.
Spending time with Koan while drinking tea is like having your eyes opened to this ancient beverage and all it has to offer. Picking up a tin or two of great tea to take home is practically a bonus.
To find the shop, look for the name Formosa (the only thing in English) on the sign for shop A032 inside the Jin Jie Market, just down the road from Jenny Wang’s in Lido. You can also visit www.mitnatural.com or call 138 1053 7719 for directions or more information.