According to architect and owner Shin Chang, ‘chocha’ means ‘to sit down and drink’ in the Hakka dialect, or it may also mean ‘the first brew of tea’ in Mandarin, or even a reference to the Malaysian yumcha culture – which clues us in to what Chocha’s all about.
When at Chocha, have some tea. While the tea menu will be constantly updated (teas are mostly from HOJO, as well as the owners’ personal collection), we like the collection so far – lapsang souchang (a smoky black tea from Fujian), autumnal Darjeeling, aged shui hsien, raw pu-erh and more.
Teas are served with a tiny platter of roasted chestnuts. When the weather gets too hot, opt for one of their cold brew teas (dong ding oolong, gold rush blended tea or sencha).
After a wave of specialty coffee bars in KL, it's tea's turn in the limelight. For a good dose of Zen, head to Japanese tea house Tea Press at Damansara Uptown for soothing cups of genmaicha served by trained tea sommeliers Ami Sugiyama and Shaveisha Bathumalai.
The menu includes interesting renditions of tea such as tea espresso, green tea leaves blended with Japanese orange marigold, and even roasted green tea blended with cinnamon and Japanese chilli. Fun fact: Tea Press uses premium Japanese tea leaves from Shizuoka.
As for the food menu, every item on the menu is thoughtfully created to bring out the flavours of tea, with dishes such as the ochazuke (a traditional dish where dashi or green tea is poured over mackerel and rice, much like cereal and milk), chimaki (sticky rice dumplings wrapped with lotus leaves) and onigiri.
This homegrown tea brand is headquartered at Shaw Parade, with a tea restaurant that’s accessible from the road, and a tea art centre located within the mall.
The spacious tea centre includes a large section dedicated to tea-related equipage (ceramic ware, bamboo trays, teapot cleaning brushes, tea knives, and more), while several varieties of tea (aged white peony, rare puer, silver needle white tea and more) are displayed along the walls.
There’s also a mini library with books on tea. For the tea enthusiast, make an appointment for a tea tasting session, or sign up for tea appreciation classes.
This modern teahouse is perched in a corner of Bangsar Shopping Centre’s second floor, and provides a temporary breather for when you don’t want to be seen in a mall. Teas are sourced by owner Sumita and playfully infused with unconventional ingredients; think caramel, mango and hibiscus in classic teas such as rooibos.
No exploration of Petaling Street is complete without a stop at this tea house. This little tea shop along Jalan Sultan (opposite the iconic Pak Tai photo studio) is full of shelves lined with packets of tea (all carefully sourced by proprietor Chan Yeow Wah), an impressive array of delicate gai-wan (china cups with covers used to brew tea) and teapot sets, tea paraphernalia – perfect for the tea enthusiast. Even if you’re a beginner to the art of tea, the affable Chan is quick to invite you to sit down for a chat and a cup or two.
The clue’s in the name: Premier Wuyi Da Hong Pao specialises in the Da Hong Pao tea. A type of premium oolong rock tea from the UNESCO-protected Wuyi Mountains (‘Da Hong Pao’ means big red robe – this tea has a legend that involves the Emperor, a Chinese scholar rising through the ranks of ancient Imperial China, a monk, and a red robe), this tea is a strong oolong that’s suitable for all occasions. Chan also stocks organic flower and herbal teas.
Someplace Beautiful is what you’d expect of a modern tea bar. A sleek white space offset by pale wood furnishings, there’s a minimalist calm to the space. Well-known tea specialist HOJO supplies the tea. There are currently 14 varieties to choose from, ranging from black tea to white tea, flower tea, oolong, green tea and pu-erh. The latter is the most interesting of the lot, as Someplace Beautiful also offers raw pu-er – this unfermented variety has a slightly sweeter aftertaste compared to its darker and bolder fermented counterpart.
Cream may primarily be a specialty coffee roaster (it's an evolution of The Roast Things) but they serve a good cup of tea too. The menu includes premium loose-leaf tea from Yunnan such as wu yi shan (oolong tea), wu liang shan (raw pu-erh) and sun-dried buds (wild pu-erh). Pair your tea with a slice of cake or two from Cream's selection.
Japanese boutique tea shop HOJO Tea at The Gardens Mall stocks a wide range of teas (from Japan, China, India and Taiwan) and various tea-related paraphernalia – all of them imported. Make an appointment with the staff who will give you better insights into the art of tea brewing and tasting; beginners are welcome too. Depending on the price of tea leaves, the tasting sessions start from RM10 and goes up to RM20 per person.