Local Tea House Revamps Their Business to Survive Pandemic: West China Tea House shares Gong fu cha culture with Austin – Food
This year has put the power of fellowship to the test and shed light on the things that really matter. The devastation that divides us also inspires the connection. This is the story of West China Tea House.
This local, minority-owned company imports Chinese tea direct from the farm and works to share a different kind of socialization culture than Austin. But Covid-19 threatened to derail its goals.
Courtesy of West China Tea Shop
Since 2012, owner So-Han Fan and his team have been building two tea houses, The Tea Spot and Guan Yin Tea House, before this year’s obstacles hampered their progress. Her constant focus is on sharing the traditional Chinese tea set – Gong Fu Cha – with Austin. The practice, it is said, “promotes a safe, collaborative, and fun environment in which non-alcoholic people can connect.”
For So-Han, it started with a desire to celebrate Chinese culture and bring people together. Gong Fu Cha is known for cultivating connections between people. Strangers sit at the same table and tell their stories over tea. And in a friendly city like ours, this concept and practice has proven its worth. In addition to tea tastings and tea parties, events such as dance parties and yoga classes were also held. Businesses like hers, which are about people coming together, stalled when the pandemic broke out.
In the spring of 2020, Guan Yin was shut down “to renovate, rename Austin, and showcase the brand new and improved West China Tea House – and then Covid happened.”
But So-Han wasn’t ready to let go of his passion project. They decided to change their business plan and started a new website (the proceeds helped them cover certain overheads). However, with that came other problems: The website had functional issues that cost it much more. Coupled with the burden of paying the full rent for a tea house that they couldn’t fully utilize, the situation was dire, along with other financial problems. So-Han started an ongoing GoFundMe campaign with fans of the shop which helped raise a fair amount of money that they will hopefully use towards their recent reopening.
Courtesy of West China Tea Shop
Despite economic hurdles, So-Han proudly rolls the bars and bars when he talks about the Passion Project. “Our goal was to preserve some of Austin’s unique community spirit with a beautiful authentic Texan-style tea house.” He refuses to let the pandemic steal his creativity, identity and his goal of spreading Chinese culture. In fact, they have now even started producing a free educational series on the Tea House Ghost YouTube channel.
“Austin has already lost so many small businesses to the pandemic,” he says. “I think the way to survive this is if we all come together and support one another. We’ve been keeping Austin weird for a while now and hope we can go on for many more. “
In a world where getting together in person is not advisable, small steps are helping small local businesses continue to make Austin a dynamic place to call home. After months of difficult renovations, completely carried out by him and his team, the refreshed tea house is open (2 p.m. to 7 p.m., Tuesday to Friday, 12 p.m. to 5 p.m., Saturday to Sunday, closed Monday, Monday) and is taking all the precautionary measures of COVID -Era. In addition, their website has many teas, tea sets, and flights (including one for Hanukkah).
Perhaps all of the quarantine downtime is helping us as a community realize the importance of human connections despite the roadblocks. And a good cup of tea is always welcome.