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Coffee? Not our cup of tea in these spots!
By Li Anlan

The bustle of modern-day life and the emergence of the coffee culture have diminished the popularity of traditional Chinese teahouses for some years, but lately they are making something of a comeback.

Unlike the youthful, buzzy boutique cafes that have come to dominate Shanghai, the teahouse culture is based on tranquility and a leisure respite from the hectic pace of life. Its spirit is rooted in Zen.

The varieties of Chinese tea are many, from green and black to white, oolong and herbal. At teahouses, patrons choose their favorite blend and then take the time to enjoy it, sipped from a classic gaiwan, or lidded bowl, or in a gongfu cha, or kungfu tea ceremony.


New teahouses are beginning to spring up again in the city, offering not only premium tea blends but also the experience of traditional Chinese tea culture.

Chen Sisi, 24, said she has been patronizing Chinese teahouses since high school.

“At that time, I was simply looking for a quiet environment to study and think a bit,” she said. “Cafés usually have strong coffee aromas, while the environment of a teahouse is cool and refreshing, which calms the mind.”

Chen and like-minded friends find teahouses perfect places for get-togethers.

“My friends and I all love the vintage ambience, so we choose teahouses that convey that theme and design,” she said.

Her favorite tea is tieguanyin (a variety of oolong tea) and black teas jinjunmei and lapsang souchong.

“I often pair Chinese tea with traditional desserts like jujube cake, flower cake or yam and red bean paste cake,” Chen said.

Prices at Chinese teahouses vary greatly. Less premium teas cost less than 100 yuan (US$16.2) per person, while expensive, rare teas can cost more than 1,000 yuan.

Here are some Chinese teahouses in Shanghai that offer both good tea and the traditional relaxed atmosphere. A tip to remember: many teahouses have a minimum charge for private tearooms, so check if you are making a reservation.

Zenjoy Tea House


A newly opened high-end teahouse in the Xuhui District, Zenjoy is located in a three-story garden house and offers a high quality tea menu.

The exterior and interior design is elegant, with great attention to detail. In addition to classic Chinese furniture and teaware, Zenjoy’s walls are decorated with traditional artworks.

The menu offers 17 varieties of Chinese tea, including various types of cooked and green pu’er tea, jinjunmei, peony white tea, rose tea and longjing green tea. The cheapest tea is 168 yuan per person, while the most expensive is Daxue mountain pu’er raw tea at 1,198 yuan per person.

Tea art experts dressed in white clothing are there to help customers brew the tea for those not familiar with the gongfucha process.

Snacks on the menu include nuts and fruits. If you are especially hungry, there are also soup noodles.

Private tearooms in Chinese, Japanese and Western styles can be reserved for small or large groups.

The round booths next to the small courtyard pond are a perfect place to enjoy tea on a sunny day.

Average cost per person: 200 yuan
Address: 17 Yuqing Rd
Tel: 6417-0117

Chi Cha Qu

The name of this teahouse translates as “go drink tea.” There are two outlets in downtown Shanghai.

The ambience is leisure and relaxed. Both teahouses are located in old villas with small gardens and meandering friendly cats. Shelves of books, teapots and teacups are arrayed in the hall, and there are also private tearooms for groups.

Traditionally, teahouses were gathering places where people often spent hours, playing cards, eating sunflower seeds and sometimes listening to storytelling or music. Some of them can be a bit loud, but that isn’t the case at Chi Cha Qu, which prides itself on maintaining peace and quiet.

Chi Cha Qu uses different tea ware for various types of Chinese tea. It specializes in tea from Yunnan Province, so pu’er is a good choice here.

The menu also includes homemade desserts like plum tea jelly, rose cookies and sweet osmanthus cake.

Average cost per person: 100 yuan
Addresses:796 Julu Rd,
Tel: 6209-2690

Casual Nest


When entering this teahouse, you are greeted by two parrots, one of them a cheeky cockatoo.

This teahouse is spacious and has several private tearooms. In keeping with its avian theme, some of the chairs are shaped like giant birdcages.

The quality of tea and desserts is good, and black teas like pu’er are recommended. Mixed blends, like peach oolong, are also available.

This teahouse is next door to the popular Chengdu hotpot restaurant Spicy House, so many people finish off a heavy meal with cups of tea here.

Average cost per person: 80 yuan
Address: 603 Dapu Rd
Tel: 6377-0717

T Modern Chinese Tea Cuisine

T Modern serves traditional Chinese afternoon tea and offers a comprehensive menu ranging from black tea to herbal blends.

The highlight of this place is its dessert menu. There are traditional osmanthus cakes and yam cakes as well as sweet taro mash with rose jam, and double topping hawthorn pudding.

The jasmine tea cream jelly (68 yuan per pot) is a house specialty. Served in a small black teapot, this dish is made with a brew of 20 grams of jasmine green tea combined with milk, without any artificial flavorings. T Modern makes only 30 servings of this dessert daily.

Average cost per person: 200 yuan
Address: L4-01, North Building, Hong Kong Plaza, 282 Huaihai Rd M.
Tel: 6352-7609

Xiangye Fu Tea House

This is one of the most popular teahouses in Shanghai. Located in the Yu Garden, it is a classic example of a traditional Chinese teahouse with large, open spaces and a view overlooking the beautiful garden scenery.

In Chinese, Xiangye Fu means “prime minister’s house.”

Oolong tea is recommended here, and a buffet of snacks comes with tea orders.

On weekend afternoons, Xiangye Fu also stages pingtan performances, the art form that combines music and storytelling.

Average cost per person: 100 yuan
Address: 4/F, 235 Fangbang Rd M.
Tel: 5877-7797

Wuyutai Tea Salon

Wuyutai Tea Salon is a modern teahouse with a contemporary Chinese design. Its name comes from a famous Beijing tea brand.

The teapots and cups are mostly Western style, with heating candle stands. They also have traditional clay teapots and gaiwan.

Green tea costs an average of 88 yuan per person. The cookies and desserts are nothing outstanding.

Here, you can also try grinding some matcha green tea leaves with a stone mill.

A house specialty is green tea noodles, a cold dish served with wasabi and soy sauce.

In summer, the salon also sells green tea ice cream.

Average cost per person: 100 yuan
Address: 1/F, The River Mall, 1368 Expo Ave
Tel: 3119-0216

Daketang Pu’er Teahouse


Daketang is a villa teahouse specializing in pu’er tea.

The ambience here is superb. It’s quiet, elegant yet warm, and comfortable. The tables in the garden are great for afternoon tea when the weather is pleasant. The owner has included paintings, calligraphy and antique furniture in the traditional Chinese decor.

The menu is on the pricey side. The cheapest tea is 300 yuan per person.

In addition to snacks like nuts, fruit and cookies, Daketang also offers several traditional Shanghai dishes, like wonton and rice dumplings.

Average cost per person: 300 yuan
Address: 25, Lane 388 Xiangyang Rd S.
Tel: 6467-6577

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