Despite the cross-cultural influences between China and Australia, hardly anyone seems to be interested in Chinese teas. At Carriageworks’ tea festival, for example, there were very few. Sunny Huang is trying to change that. He’s the owner of Tea Journal, a modern Chinese tea cafe and shop in central Chatswood.
“China is bad at marketing their teas. I've been to so many traditional teahouses in China and overseas, if you don't know much about tea they're like, ‘What are you doing here?’ If America made tea, everyone would drink it. We want tea to be accessible,” says Huang.
That’s not to say Tea Journal is just a cheap entry point. There are some less expensive, more generic black and green teas here, but there’s also an extensive selection of pu’er, oolong, white and herbal teas (including a $600 16-year-old pu’er tea that’s been fermented for three months). If you have no idea what any of these teas are, that doesn’t matter – Huang and his staff run free classes every Wednesday. They also take pride in answering any tea-related questions in-store.
All the tea sold here is grown on Huang’s family or family friend’s century-old tea plantations in the Yunnan mountains. “Any tea is good tea, don't look at price or packaging. If you drink it and your body feels good, the tea is for you,” says Huang. “When you really start getting into the taste, then we start talking about leaves, how old the tree is, what mountain it's from, which master made it and how old the tea is.”
If you’re thinking about the $600 tea, Huang (wisely) recommends trying it first; everything in the shop is available in a pot. There are also iced teas and a range of appropriately delicate cakes from Carmen Ng, Sunny’s wife – look for the black-tea-and-rosewater chiffon cake and the matcha sponge.
Although hidden in the Chatswood interchange, Tea Journal is quite a tranquil place to sit, too; soft folk music, light timbers and tea paraphernalia as decoration.
Shop 44, 436 Victoria Avenue, Chatswood Interchange
0420 713 382
Tue to Sun 10am–9pm