There’s a tea shop I like to visit in Kuala Lumpur – it’s called Hojo Tea, set up by Japanese Akira Hojo, who set up his own tea business in 2005 after many years of working in the food industry in Malaysia. It isn’t a big store, but there’s a lot of love put into the tea and teaware they choose to sell. Every year, Hojo goes with colleagues to tea factories in China, Taiwan and Japan to pick out the tea which they feel have the best flavours. Thus, you’ll probably find things you won’t find even in the most serious of teahouses e.g. this Wild White Tea Bud from Yunnan which is totally different from the typical varieties of Chinese white teas ( it is fuller-bodied with rich plum notes at the end). Apparently, a lot of the tea Hojo gets are from wild tea bushes as opposed to cultivated plantations because of the more pronounced flavour.
The Director of Hojo Tea, Ms Lai, was kind enough to spend an afternoon taking me through some tea-tasting. Besides the remarkable Mi Lan Xiang oolong from Phoenix Mountain (Guangdong) that smelled like milk and cookies and tasted like lychees, there was also an enlightening ‘experiment’ done on different clay teapots. She basically made a batch of Chinese green tea in a glass pot (the control) and proceeded to poured the brew into four different Japanese clay pots.
I tried the tea from the glass pot first (to know its ‘neutral’ taste), followed by the same tea from the four different clay teapots. I was truly astounded by the difference in taste – two of the pots ended up with sweeter tea, while one of the pots managed to bring out more leafy, refreshing tones of the green tea. Apparently, this is due to differences in mineral content and baking methods of the clay.
While a lot of tea books tend to prescribe what kind of teaware to use with particular types of tea, Ms Lai says that it is a subjective thing, and part of the service Hojo Tea offers is to help find the ‘soulmate’ pot for customers, which is often a very specific preference. “There really is some logic to grumpy old Chinese men insisting that they can only use one particular kind of pot for one particular kind of tea,” she said.
Hojo Tea sells around 80 different types of tea at any one time and also retails a wide range of teaware.
The Gardens Mall
Third Floor, Lot T-215