CHINESE CAFÉ IN NOTTINGHAM A RELAXING HAVEN FOR TEA LOVERS
But my phone rings and it’s the interviewee calling, she wants to know where I am and before I know it I’m walking into her studio, seated in front her, awaiting a warm cup of tea.
A quiet chatter of conservation over the comfort of a warm drink has the ability to put the most wounded up minds at ease, and that’s the basis on which August Moon Tea was founded.
Hidden on the third floor of a quaint studio, on Goose Gate, in Hockley, the café is soothing. The stress of the day melts away instantly, as I step in.
The idea behind August Moon Tea is about enjoying the unique culture of Chinese ceremonial tea, while also finding a moment of peace within your own mind. Estelle Liu, who set up the café, lights up with a smile as she says, “I held my first tea ceremony, exactly one year ago, that was the starting point”
The 28-year-old originally comes from the south-eastern part of China, the prefectural city of Yaan. She tells me that it is the land which boasts the record of the first ever of tea made in the world, and also the place where the first panda was spotted by the Westerns
Arriving in the U.K for her degree at Loughborough University, four years ago. She stayed on and decided to spread her love for tea and her knowledge of the Chinese culture among the Nottingham locals.
Inspired and motivated by the fact people tend to be misinformed about the Chinese culture – mostly known for its political situations - she set up August Moon Tea, to highlight the intricacies of the simple, polite culture.
The café –with cosy, subtly lit up wooden interiors and quiet music in the background -is a cultural experience, promoting peace, silence and mindfulness.
Chinese tea ceremonies, which up until a decade ago, was considered old-school in China, is now a luxurious lifestyle that enforces positivity and calm.
Estelle – who I instantly bonded over being an international student with - gives a tidbit of how her tea ceremonies work.
She says; “People are really tired from work, and come here to stay quiet and relax. So the tea ceremonies I conduct are formal, with a 12- 15minute meditation session before the start, followed by ‘quiet’ tea with the first three cups shrouded in silence.”
She explains that regular customers become familiar with each other and want to talk, but when you talk you miss out on the details of the tea and forget to appreciate or enjoy the drink.
“But it’s not all quiet though”, she says as she pauses to pour the tea, leaning over to let me have a sniff of the tea leaves, “We have social events too We have workshops to learn some simple Chinese, art sessions with Mandala (a traditional Chinese musical instrument) or the process of making traditional Chinese tea. All of these are really therapeutic” Estelle knows that immersing yourself completely into a new, unfamiliar culture can be overwhelming, so she tries to include some events the locals are more used to; like the most recent social event at the café, a Halloween party, cleverly called Mad Hatters Tea ParTea.
The demographic of her customers range from students as young as 19 year olds to people in their 50s and 60s, and they are from various different ethnicities. People from Poland, Lithuania, Czech Republic, Pakistan, India, and France, and many more countries all frequent the café.
At the café, the love of tea is more than enough to strike up a friendship, that blurs all cultural and language barriers. “That’s the beauty of tea, it brings people together regardless of where you’re from”, says Estelle.
Estelle narrates an anecdote of a friend from China, who was initially reluctant to come to the café but found herself enjoying it and making friends despite not knowing much English at the time.
What sets apart this café from the rest is that Estelle knows and is friends with most of her customers. The café is a business and her full-time job, but she values the relationships she forges with people who walk in, over tea.
She tells me another story about a customer turned friend, “When I started the business, a customer walked in- a Spanish girl. We hit it off and became friends. I found out she was looking for a house to live in and I was looking for a housemate and she moved in. And now we live together”
The one group of people that the café cannot attract, are the Chinese, who are looking to experience a culture different from their own while in the UK, but this doesn’t discourage the motive of the café; to enjoy your own company and that of others, in a quiet atmosphere.
This hidden gem in Hockley is all about slowing down to enjoy a cup of tea, learning about yourself and others. And I find myself completely free of worries as I leave to go home after 40 minutes of conversation, five cups of tea, and a new friend.