What it's like to be... tea expert and celebrated Melbourne restaurateur David Zhou.
We all enjoy a cup of tea, and often hear about the health benefits associated with the world's favourite beverage.
Since originating as a medicinal drink in China, tea has played a central part in cultural traditions around the world for centuries.
Known for its calming qualities and antioxidants, some scientific studies have even linked it to reducing the risks of heart and liver disease and depression.
One man who has become an expert in all things tea is celebrated Melbourne restaurateur David Zhou.
We sat down with the man behind Oriental Teahouse to find out how he found his passion for tea, and why coffee-obsessed Australians should reach for the leaves.
What inspired you to become a tea expert?
I am not a master, simply a true believer and a practitioner of tea spirit. I have been talking about these core values every week, if not every day for many years. Each day we work towards becoming the best tea house in the world.
What's the secret to your success with Oriental Teahouse?
I genuinely think it’s the best tea house in Melbourne, Australia. I went to Shanghai earlier in the year and visited a 100-year-old tea house in the countryside. Even then, there was nothing like what we do here. We keep the core of the tea house and have adopted Melbourne dining culture which is world class. This has evolved into what nowadays people expect. It's not just about the tea for us, it's a destination for social interaction and for people to hang out. The tea house is very much a community.
What are the main health benefits of drinking tea?
In Chinese tradition we believe tea refreshes your mind and clears heat within the body, as well as aiding weight loss. When enjoying tea, you have the ability to savour the colour, fragrance and flavour of the tea, which automatically allows you to feel calmer, and more grounded. Adding a cup of tea to your daily routine will help to extract the maximum benefits from everything you do.
How important are the cultural traditions?
Chinese tea law places a strong emphasis on spirit. Tea embodies the spirit of respect, clarity, joy and truthfulness. These are core values for our team [at Oriental Teahouse].
What are the big trends you're seeing with tea?
Everywhere serves tea nowadays. More and more people are ordering tea. It's not uncommon to see more tea pots than latte glasses at many places, especially compared to when we launched Oriental Teahouse. Ordering tea as opposed to coffee some years back, you were almost considered second class. Looking ahead, I can see that more people will start asking the specific names of tea rather than the tea category.
What's your favourite tea?
Calm and Concentration [orange] or my Relaxing [liquorice and peppermint] tea blend. Depending on the time of day, or the season - I'll drink tea based on how I feel too. I'll always pair these with small sips of tea when I'm having seafood and red meat.
What inspired your tea cocktails?
Ying and yang, hot and cold. It's that simple.