an interview and tea store tour with may king tea

While putting this interview together I was thinking back to how May King Tsang and I became friends. It was over Twitter that we became connected, May King was on her way to Australia, and I was on my way out of Australia, both of us about to begin (again!) the adventure of living overseas.

May King was looking for tea room suggestions in Sydney, where I’d been living, and I suggested the beautiful Tea Rooms at the Queen Victoria Building, partly for the tea, and mostly for the atmosphere, and the architecture.  Since then we’ve had lots of talks about tea, living somewhere new, and Australian tea stores.  Now I’m really happy to be able to share this interview with you.  [May King currently lives in Queensland, Australia – a state that has been devastated by floods over the last couple of weeks, if you’d like to join me in donating to the recovery effort you can do so here]

Tell me about your website and tea writing, how did you get to the point you’re at now and what are you thinking of doing next.

There’s a wealth of information out there about tea which can be overwhelming and as a former IT trainer, I like to KISS (Keep It Simple Stupid). I like to talk in Layman’s terms when it comes to tea. There’s nothing mysterious about tea and there isn’t anything pretentious about it either. Good quality and delicious tea can be attainable by everyone and I hope that by educating people via my blog that this message gets across.

may king tsang

Tell me where in the world you are, how did you get there (what’s the story behind the journey) and what is next for you.

I recently moved from the UK to Australia care of my wonderful husband and so my tea journey has taken an exciting turn where I hope to continue educating folk about tea through my blog and through my tea-tasting events both in Australia and the UK when I pop back. Where am I thinking of going next? As Tina Charles once said, “I’ll go where your music takes me” (substituting “music” for “tea” of course!)

What does traveling mean to you.

Travelling is a way of experiencing something out of your comfort zone. It’s exciting, fun and new. I often feel like a child in a sweet shop when I discover things for the first time: the smells, the architecture, the culture, the people and, the tea naturally!

What does tea mean to you.

Tea is an affordable luxury. It’s an excuse when you’re on your own, to spend a bit of quality me-time. There is nothing more pleasurable than holding a cup to my nose, smelling the aroma and drinking this beautiful elixir. Equally, when you’re with others, it’s a great way to share thoughts, feelings, trials, tribulations and a lot of laughs.

beautiful teaware at the taka tea garden

What’s your philosophy when it comes to writing while on the road.

When an idea pops into my head, then I’ll write it in my notebook and it really stems from there.  When I get a few minutes, I’ll take the ideas from my notebook, transfer it into my laptop and start tapping away. I think it’s important to take a pen and notebook, laptop, iPad, or even a paper napkin everywhere you go and when the thought pops into your head then have some means to jot that thought down. I’m often inspired when I’m on a plane alone with my thoughts, or on a train or bus, watching the scenery go by whilst sipping tea and scribble away once I have that eureka moment.

What’s your favorite tea related memory or location and why is it special to you.

This would have to be when I went to Hangzhou with my parents, brother and husband. It was a Chinese tour and it was the funniest experience as the tour guide spoke in mandarin, my mum translated it to me in Cantonese and I translated what  was said into English to my Scottish husband 🙂 The aroma of the Dragonwell green tea leaves as they were being dried in what is basically a huge wok at the backdrop of the tea plantation was truly breath-taking.

What do you steep at home.

I don’t really have a ritual as it were. I open the cupboard and a tea tends to jump out at me. I often go through phases with tea where I would drink a particular type for weeks if not months, although that can often have a detrimental effect as I drank Lapsang Souchong to death one day I just stopped. 20 years later I tried again (earlier in the year) and it was wonderful.

I’m drinking a High Mountain Oolong from Nantou, Taiwan at the moment using my Yixing clay Teapot and bamboo cup.

arched windows at the qvb tearooms, sydney australia

If there is one tea you could introduce to everyone in the world, what would it be.

I’d like to introduce everyone to a delicious cup of green tea be it from China or Japan or any tea producing nation. A lot of people (due to misinformation and quality found on the supermarkets) have tried green tea and associate it with a bitter taste. I would like to inform everyone in the world that green tea is a category rather than a tea type, and would like to challenge people’s perceptions of bitter green tea by introducing a good one, such as the chestnutty taste of a Lung Ching, the herbaceous and quench thirsting notes of a good sencha, or the sweet lingering aftertaste and orchid fragrance of a Tai Ping Hou Kui.

Can you tell me three of your favorite tea or travel blogs.

Tea is such a wonderful community and there are many blogs where there are many contributors such as I think is another wonderful tea blog too, but I didn’t really need to say that did I?!

A wonderful community-based travel blog is Journey Jottings. Linda Fairbairn, the founder, often asks her Facebook fans to share their travel anecdotes. I shared one of my stories where her fans were asked to recount tales about crazy, stupid or scary things.

Can you tell me your favorite tea shop, and what made it totally wonderful.

Depends on which country!

The hallmarks of a great tea shop, in my opinion are the variety of teas, the quality of the tea, and the knowledge of the staff. For someone new to loose leaf tea, the experience can often be daunting: coming into a shop, sitting down and having the list of teas stare right back at them with no connection between the list and its reader.

Staff should be approachable and be willing to help the customer in choosing their tea if they need assistance. Unfortunately I’ve been in tea establishments where I have been ignored for at least ten minutes upon waiting to be served and equally I’ve been in tea shops where the staff has given misinformation about the tea.

Here’s a small list of tea shops I’ve been to which I’ve adored and wouldn’t hesitate to go back to should the opportunity present itself.


  • London, UK: Timothy d’Offay is extremely passionate about his teas and when I visited his tea-room in central London with a fellow STI member, we shared some Hawaiian tea that my friend brought with her. He was happy to oblige all the while, I was thinking “you wouldn’t be able to do that in a Corporate Chain now would you?”
  • London, UK: I love the tea bar here and the quality of the tea, knowledge of the staff is outstanding.
  • London, UK: Not strictly a tea-room but I love to visit Alex’s market stall. His selection of teas is just exquisite and his knowledge is phenomenal. Alex is another chap who’s been in the industry for many years and I also had the privilege of meeting one of his regular customers who’s based in the US.


  • Boulder, Colorado: Qin and her husband host regular tea-tastings and I had the pleasure of sitting in one of their sessions. Boulder is a beautiful part of Colorado and there are plenty of tea places to visit in this town, however for a huge variety of good quality teas, this is definitely the place to visit.
  • Denver, Colorado: I had the pleasure of bumping into Greg both at his tea-room and at the World Tea Expo. The tea-tasting classes are again based on the Chinese tea ceremony but the quality of the tea is also an absolute delight.
  • Dallas, Texas: A wonderful tea store that is also an expert in coffee and chocolates. Kyle is an absolutely wonderful host and his staff are an absolute joy to speak to.


  • Sydney, Australia: It was a pleasure meeting Taka who picked out a special tea for me when I mentioned that I was in an oolong mood. Great tea: wonderful tea-room.
  • Brisbane, Australia: When I first moved to Brisbane, I was recommended this place (by their branch in Sydney) and it was here I tasted Australian Sencha, which is a great introduction to Japanese teas.

australian sencha next to japanese sencha

7 Responses to “an interview and tea store tour with may king tea”
  1. Frances Jones says:

    Ooh lovely, I’ll keep a note of this post and when I visit London or the US, I’ll pop into their tea rooms! That’s my idea of enjoyable travel.
    Lovely to read your words, I actually had the pleasure of meeting May King at Taka Tea House:

    Frances, a fellow tea lover.

  2. Mary Cali says:

    I really enjoyed the interview with my Coach/Mentor May King Tsang. She has a way of putting things in perspective and I only wish I can acquire her knowledge of teas and travels one day.

    • travel&tea says:

      Thanks for the comment Mary! I bet you’re having a ball working with the lovely May King Tsang, I think her tea knowledge is amazing (as is her skill and passion for networking and connecting people – it’s an inspiration). I hope the tea house planning is going well!

  3. Charity Chalmers says:

    Great article. I always love reading about what May King has to say!

Check out what others are saying...
  1. […] This post was mentioned on Twitter by Linda Fairbairn Aus. Linda Fairbairn Aus said: RT @TravelAndTea: NEW: Interview & [UK/US/Aus] Tea Store Tour with the truly wonderful @MayKingTea #tea #teafriends […]

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  3. […] visited many tearooms, these are my top 10 tips on what a customer should look […]

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