The back room of a convenience store would strike most people as an unwise location in which to open a business. But when Joelie Zhou saw the storage area at the back of Bondi Square Tobacconist, she decided it would be a perfect location for her tea shop.
“In China, tea shops are usually hidden in secret, quiet places – like at the end of a street,” says Zhou, owner of Taishan Tea Club in Bondi Junction. “Tea shops are quiet places where people go to relax. They stay for the whole afternoon drinking tea and talking with friends.”
She took over the space in June 2019, opening her shop-within-a-shop along the pedestrian strip of Oxford street mall where hundreds of people pass by daily en route to the train station. Most do not notice the tea shop, but for the ones that follow the green neon "tea and cake" sign in the window, there is the joy of discovering the unexpected, that wonderful feeling of curiosity having paid off.
To reach it, you must first walk through the unremarkable, fluorescent-lit shop out front. Just beyond the usual rows of refrigerated soft drinks and snacks, a decorative wooden archway, quite out of place in your common-or-garden convenience store, draws you into another space. As you pass through, there is a perceptible change in the ambiance: the lighting softens, the noise of Oxford street fades behind you, and a long wooden table beckons.
For this is no ordinary tea shop. It’s more like a tea museum, filled with rare and collectible items, where you