Basao delivers ‘sineculture’ at Star Street

Homegrown Hong Kong fine-tea brand Basao was launched online four years ago. Now the fast-growing brand has opened its first physical retail outlet on Moon Street, in Wanchai’s hip Star Street foodie precinct.

Since 2015, Basao has been attracting a growing following for its teas, which appeal for not only their fine taste, but their holistic health benefits. The teas are handpicked by partner growers in Mainland China, Taiwan, Nepal, India and Japan.

“We believe tea appreciation will evolve in the same way as drinks like coffee, wine and craft beer,” explains founder COO Oliver Ma. “They have all started reaching a new generation of discerning enthusiasts in recent years and I think tea is ready for a very similar experience. Interesting times are brewing for long overdue respect and admiration of this ancient craft.”

Basao tea is named in honour of an 18th century Japanese Buddhist monk with the slightly different nickname of Baisao, or “old tea seller”, who became famous for travelling around Kyoto selling tea.

Ma says Basao is now similarly admired for pioneering a “modern holistic era of sineculture,” (the science of everything relating to tea), working closely with small artisan growers across Asia, promoting sustainable, eco-friendly cultivation and production of highest-quality tea without chemical pesticides.

“Our tea engineers advocate the holistic ecology and craft of tea as an art, not just a mere commodity, connecting personally with our partner growers from cultivation and picking to brewing, packaging and fair trade,” he says.

A diverse tea range extends from Basao’s collection of black tea, green tea and oolong brewed by experienced tea masters, through to chilled bottled tea, Japanese matcha, traditional blends and Chajito specialties.

Matcha latte

Hitherto sold only online, now these brews can be tried and purchased at the new Basao tearbar. Visitors to the store are greeted by a bright white and warm-wood interior in a laid-back venue with a bar where tea masters explain their brews.

Workshops are held at the cafe, conducted by renowned Hong Kong tea master Katherine Yu Man-sum, a protege of tea pioneer Master Yeung Chi-sum in the 1980s, and founder a tea appreciation course called Teaism, teaching Cha Tao (The Way of Tea), at the Jockey Club Creative Arts Centre.

Basao’s single-origin, clean-grown signature authentic loose leaves are highlighted by black teas including Lingia Second Flush, a coppery summer tea from Darjeeling’s Golden Valley in the Himalayan foothills of India, with a spicy mineral flavour and hints of tangerine and waffle cone; sweet and refreshing Seaside Honey from the Kararuan Coast of southeastern Taiwan; and Traditional Smoky Bohea from the home of China’s Wuyi Mountain smoked black teas located in the highlands of northern Fujian in China.

Among the oolongs are sweet, crisp and floral Gardenia Dancong from Phoenix Mountain, Guangdong; and slightly sweet Red Heart Tieguanyin from Anxi, Fujian China Spring, with a hint of daisy, lily and dry-wood aroma; and honey and jasmine flavour.

Headlining the Japanese green tea offer is sweet and savoury Wazuka Sencha green tea with a unique fresh spinach flavour and light, delicate finish from the legendary plantations of Wazuka, near Kyoto.

Cold brew teas also include Nitro Cold Brew, Cold Brew and Fruit-Infused Nitro Cold Brew, steeped in cold water, rather than brewed, for a sweeter, milder, low-caffeine, low-tannin option high in vitamin C.

Also launched is First Crush Kombucha, an ancient, refreshing cure-all elixir that is naturally bubbly and deliciously sweet and tart, crafted from Lingia First Flush in a new partnership with local Kombucha brewery Taboocha.

Basao’s teabar also serves desserts incorporating its signature teas, with a menu including Homemade Tea Cake Roll, Basao Tea Ice Cream, Tea Crystal, and Belgium Waffle, with Basao homemade tea syrup.

Tea crystal
Tea crystal

The Basao teabar is located on the ground floor of 17 Moon Street, open daily from 11am to 8pm.

This feature originally appeared in the Inside Retail Hong Kong magazine edition. Subscribe to the digital or print version here.

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