To see the world is a delight. To try new things is an adventure, and to explore new places is always a surprise.
After having tried different local street food here in Chiang Mai, we wished to explore a certain culture we love so much, one which varies in each country around the world, despite having similar roots – the tea culture.
Honestly, starting to look for tea houses here in Chiang Mai was a bit challenging. As we were told, Thai people do not drink tea that much, although they grow it. Then, considering this, to open a tea house for the westerners, who, accordingly to massive amount of cafés in the old city, prefer coffee and sandwiches, is basically a bit of a mad decision for potential businessmen.
Nevertheless, we were very lucky; it seems we arrived just on time as couple of tea houses had opened just recently. We visited all six of those that you can find online, and one of them that we found randomly. In this post we would like to share with you our “tea trips”: different tastes of a traditional and medicinal beverage.
When you go to a tea house, you’re not only searching for high quality tea and service, but also for a place where your body and mind feel relaxed and comfortable. This (sub)conscious feeling probably comes most from the fact that tea was originally used as a medicine 4000 years ago and it still serves as one of the healing alternatives.
The majority of tea houses here have an indoor space and a garden where you can enjoy your drink in the shade of trees and bushes
Location: 119/1 Kampangdin Rd
Our exploration of places serving good tea started in TianZi Tea House.
We couldn’t have started off better! We discovered a cosy space with indoor rooms furnished with wood and ceramic, decorated with packets and boxes of tea, plus dishes and jars to prepare the infusions. TianZi (Seeds of Heaven) cares about more than just the plain taste of tea and food. By their attitude towards the products they serve, prepare and grow, they pay respect to nature and protect the biodiversity of the Earth.
The staff is very friendly and warmhearted. Apart from a good choice of tea (we chose pu-erh tea), you should definitely try their macrobiotic food. We tasted three meals and the winner was whole wheat spaghetti with sesame sauce. All the dishes were very light, easily digestible and full of delicate tastes and flavours.
If you prefer to stay outside, there is a roofed patio where you can sit on the mattresses at small wooden tables.
There is also an option to book a tea ceremony; for 4-8 people you pay 2500 THB (79 USD). In any case, bring mosquito repellent with you, as sitting near the small ponds with insects might spoil your teatime. Highly recommended to visit!
Sati – the art of Tea and Yoga
Location: 5 Chaiyapoom Rd Si Phum
Well, this is our absolute winner so far: Sati – the art of Tea and Yoga. We were led there probably by someone from above, since we arrived there just before the tea ceremony that was about to start. Mrs. Echo Ai is a soft, present, warm-hearted woman, a storyteller and tea artist. The ceremony she held was a peaceful ritual done with love and passion. She explained the procedure, including the right way to hold a cup, to sip and to serve the tea. In fact, all this information would be pretty much long enough for a single post. The tea we did the ceremony with was high quality, fermented pu-erh tea from the year 2008.
Heavenly, refreshing but calming, it had a pure taste and a mild fragrance. The vocabulary Mrs. Echo uses to describe the tea and its preparation is simple but clear, as is all the equipment and ambience of the tea house. Zen was just breathing through the entire space. For her, as for all good professional tea masters, each movement and thought was incredibly important, and as she said, she could never afford to hold a tea ceremony if she weren’t feeling well. In the Pali language, “sati” means “mindfulness”, which is the base of this tea house and the owner’s daily life.
Here we could understand by watching her picking the dry leaves, pouring the water into the cups and drinking the tea in a proper manner, what she meant when she said that one should pour water into a pot in a circular way, so that the tea can dance in the water. And we felt it did, in fact. According to Chinese tradition a good tea artist should be the one who awakens the spirit of the tea and if it is true, then we have had an honour to see the ceremony of true revival. Also this tea house offers daily yoga classes.
Siam Seladon Raming
Location: 158 Tha Pae Rd
Our next stop was at the Siam Seladon Raming Tea House. This was an elegant and bright place with a small shop of traditional ceramic in the front part and a nice garden in the backyard, with French chansons floating in the air. For us it was more a place perfect for a European breakfast than for Asian tea. The tea list contained just a few choices without specifying which kinds of tea they were. Although the staff was very kind, they couldn’t tell us more about the tea we asked for. The taste of white and jasmine tea we ordered was mild and delicate, though.
Vieng Joom On
Location: 53 Charoenraj Rd
If you are more into luxurious and fashionable interiors, then the next place is what you will appreciate a lot. The Vieng Joom On is a stylish tea house, often called a Pink Tea House in Chiang Mai. Here, either you relax indoors on comfortable sofas, surrounded by shiny boxes of tea and some accessories to prepare tea, or you might be more pleased to sit on their patio outside. Maybe you would even like to choose a romantic table for two just next to the Ping River. The staff is very kind, and as we were the only early customers that day, I personally had a feeling like there was a movie shoot going on with two people on the scene and the crew running around them.
The tea was served in a manner totally matching the milieu, with style and grace, accompanied by jazz music. Together with a good selection of teas, you might fancy ordering appetizers, salads or desserts that are fresh and remarkably tasty. The place is a bit pricey, but how many times in your life have you had your dessert spoon and fork wrapped in a pink bag? Worth the visit.
Location: 14/1 Soi 11 Sirimangkalajarn Rd
Another peaceful place where you can just sit comfortably and enjoy your break in a hot afternoon is the Homm Tea House.
We appreciated the mild air-con here, as well as the gentle ambience and music in the background. The staff here was very friendly, polite and professional, and offered us a glass of water with ginger and ice before we ordered, a big relief at the hottest time of the day. You will be able to choose a nice tea from the tea list, which unfortunately does not specify what kind of tea it is.
We tried also an amazing traditional Thai pudding with coconut topping which was a top taste discovery that day. Upstairs you can find more sofas and chairs a downstairs a desk where the tea ceremony is held.
The prices are very reasonable and the location is just perfect for those who work at the co-working Pun Space which is just next door to the tea house.
The only con of our experience there was a plastic tea filter inside the pot of hot tea that in our opinion, just did not fit with the nice aromatic flavour of the drink. Otherwise, a recommended visit.
Update December 2014: The tea house is closed.
Location: Nimmanhaemin road, Soi 17
The next place we discovered randomly was the Tichaa. Although it is not a proper tea house, as they focus mostly on tisanes and beauty products, it is worth the visit if you are keen on herbal infusions and fashionable interiors. You can find a decent choice of tisane, in combination with essential oils, too. We went for red roasted rice & white mulberry tisane and ginger & white mulberry tisane.
The taste and fragrance were indeed unique, especially of the first one. The staff is polite, filling your pot with additional hot water just before you reach the bottom of your first pot. All in all, the ambience and tea went well together. The place is furnished in style, with massive wood pillars, stone floor and richly embroidered pillows all around. Nice jazz music at the background. You need to be a fan of this particular style of place to enjoy it.
Tea Tree Cafe
Location: Moon Muang Soi 6 (across Sompet market, upstairs)
As all the previous places mentioned above, the next one has a special atmosphere too. The Tea Tree Cafe – a lovely, happy, hippie-shared place, with loads of paintings, mindful and hearty quotations painted all around the place, comfortable mattresses, wooden tables, flowers and nice blues music in the background. Being there, you can easily forget about the noisy masses of tourists and the small market just below the windows.
We tried Masala Chai with coconut milk and ginger tea with spirulina powder, lime and honey. The first one was absolutely real Masala, no more, no less. The other one was a truly new experience, especially with the fragrance, but the taste was very delicate.
The space also offers yoga classes, jam music sessions, movie screenings and much more.
What is your favourite place to have a cup of tea in Chiang Mai or in any corner of the world?