Thanks for visiting TeaLife. My name is Jay Khilnani and I was born and raised in Hong Kong. I drank Chinese tea throughout my childhood and teen years, and never really gave it much thought. It was just something we drank with meals when we went to Chinese restaurants. While I always enjoyed it, my real passion was coffee. I started drinking espressos when I was seven or eight years old, and started brewing my own drip coffee by twelve!
I went to college in New York in 1998 and moved back to Hong Kong in 2004. I learned how to brew Chinese tea in Shenzhen, Guangdong (right across the border from Hong Kong, in Southern China) in 1999 or 2000, but I was brewing up jasmine green tea, which as many (or all) of you will know is not a tea that is commonly brewed gongfu style. I remember brewing tea for my landlady in New York with my cheap porcelain gongfu tea set. It was her first time drinking Chinese tea and she absolutely loved it and couldn't wait for me to brew some up for her again!
I started a business in 2010, and eventually rented premises down the hill from my home. In Hong Kong, the higher up a hill you go, the higher the property prices get. Moving to a lower-income neighborhood (at the time--the rent is now so high, many businesses have been squeezed out) meant I was faced with a plethora of Cantonese and Chiuchow dining options that weren't readily available a few hundred meters up the hill. I found myself craving Chinese tea (Chinese tea and Chinese food go together like bread and butter, of course) and you don't usually get tea with takeout since almost everyone drinks tea at home. One morning, I found myself unable to get ripe pu erh tea to drink with my dim sum. This upset me greatly, since I had to settle for a Nestea from McDonalds! The next morning, I bought the first bag of loose ripe pu erh tea I had ever purchased. That set off an interest in Chinese tea of all sorts. I quickly realized there was tea -- and lots of it -- all around me.
While I've learned a great deal in the last six years (I'm definitely in the right place for it!), I still have a lot to learn, and I'm enjoying every minute of it. Through this site, I hope to share some very unique teas with you. In particular, teas that are uniquely Hong Kong in style and flavor. Hong Kong is traditionally a pu erh city, since the Cantonese majority choose pu erh as their de facto choice of beverage with meals and for consumption at home, but the city is full of first, second and third-generation families from other provinces in China. These families brought their culture and history with them, as well as their tea drinking habits, knowledge and skills. Much of this knowledge all but died out in China after the Cultural Revolution, but was preserved in Hong Kong. These Hong Kong families still process, store and sell tea the same way they have for decades, and I hope they always will.