Tuesday, 1 May 2012

TWG Tea, Hong Kong

Ladies and gentlemen! 

I've quit coffee! YAY! *invites everyone to a party with streamers thrown over their head upon entrance*


Yes, quitting coffee is a big deal for me. I began drinking coffee to socialise and then I became dependent on it to function. And I'm not someone who likes relying on things to live.

At the start of the year, I had a coffee cup permanently attached to my hand. There were countless moments where my friends would have a good laugh when I said things like, 'Hook me up to some caffeine first', 'I wonder if they sell coffee lollies' and 'Sorry, I can't logically participate in this conversation. I haven't had my coffee yet.'

It was absolutely ridiculous how reliant I was on coffee!

So I went cold turkey.

At first it was a complete nightmare! I craved it and came up with just about every excuse in the book to have one. I think the best one I came up with was, 'I'll have a coffee before I hit the gym. It'll make me work harder and put off the hunger pangs'.


And then I went to Hong Kong and quitting became so much easier. I mean, 'Hong Kong' and 'good coffee' can't be put together into the one sentence - they're mutually exclusive. Finding good coffee in Hong Kong is just about as rare as winning the lottery.

So if I wasn't busy hunting down a good cup of coffee in Hong Kong, what did I do?

I hunted for tea.

My family loves tea. In our kitchen cupboard, we have four shelves. The bottom shelf is for cereal, biscuits, nuts, lollies, dried seafood and other food. The other three shelves are littered with tins of tea. From cheap to expensive leaves. From the green to black teas. From Chinese to African teas.  From new tea leaves to aged compressed tea leave cakes. We practically have it all. 

So imagine my excitement when I found out that TWG Tea Company recently opened in IFC Mall, Central, Hong Kong. Originating from Singapore, TWG Tea is a luxurious chain of elegantly decorated tea rooms. Its tea boutiques house over 800 teas and blends, and serve an array of tea patisseries and other tea infused delicacies.

TWG at IFC is the definition of Old World luxury and antiquity. With its French inspired velvet chairs, floor to ceiling glass windows, hard wood mahogany tea counters and crystal lamps, you find yourself walking into a colonial style room that speaks of elegance and tradition.

I went with my mum after a round of shopping and waited for about 15 minutes for a table. Upon seating, we were presented with a tea menu, food menu and a tea glossary book. The glossary book was huge! It detailed every type of tea available and explained its taste and origins. It was actually a really interesting read!

We ordered a Fortune Tea Set and a slice of cake.

We asked the waiter to recommend teas that would match our meal. We ended up ordering the London Breakfast Tea and 5 o'clock Tea. I can't say that the waiter was particularly helpful in our choice. He didn't seem to know much and when pressed to explain his recommendation, his only reply was 'Most people come here and order these teas'.
Are you kidding me?!

A note about the service here. There is a serious disjuncture between the decor and services offered at TWG. The tea salon attempts luxury but the level of service provided does not match it. Where I expected tranquility and calmness, the waiters and waitresses were constantly rushing around and bumping into tables. When called to assist, they don't even stand at your table. They stand two or three bodies away from your table while fidgeting with other things. Oh and, my personal favourite, was their half turned bodies when speaking to you.

Considering the price I'm paying, I kind of wanted their undivided attention. I wanted their body language to communicate their desire to make the customer feel important. I wanted them to calm the heck down and not bump into my table. I wanted them to know their menu - both tea and food.

I think I've been served better at Pizza Hut in Hong Kong?

First to come out was the Croque Imperial, a warm toasted sandwich with Gruyere cheese and smoked salmon. It was served with a vinaigrette green salad.
It tasted delicious! Admittedly, I might be biased because I love bread, cheese and smoked salmon. Smack the three together and I'm in heaven.

Next up, a three-tier serving stand was placed on the table. On the top level were the macarons. I chose the Camelot Tea & Praline, Bain de Roses Tea and Napolean Tea & Caramel macarons.

I've never really liked macarons and so I can't really judge. The rose one tasted nice though.
We didn't get to finish these so we took them home to eat!

On the second tier was the muffin and scone. Cream and a tea jelly was served separately. The muffin was nothing exciting but the scones are lovely! Light, fluffy and just plain good!

The tea jelly is basically a sugary jelly infused with tea. I was really excited to try it when I first heard about it because it seemed so innovative. But it was too sweet to eat on its own and I had to eat it with my scone.

I can't, for the life of me, remember the name of this cake but I absolutely loved it. We wanted to get cheesecake but they didn't have any on the day and so the waiter recommended this one. I remember thinking that the gave us a really large slice of cake!

I don't know whether I'll go back there again. Aside from the service, the furniture arrangements makes you feel cramped. The tables are placed so close to each other that we sat there listening to the conversation going on next to us and I'm sure they were eavesdropping on us too. The noise level is unbelievably high and it felt like I was at Sunday yum cha. 

The food was good but considering the service, I was disappointed. I thought it'd be a nice place to unwind and relax but I constantly felt on edge with the waiters bumping into us and the loud conversations going on around the room.

I really wanted to like you, TWG. You combine two of my favourite things - tea and pretty surroundings. But your delivery was poor. For the price I'm paying, I might as well head into a hotel for high tea.

If you manage to train your staff better and get rid of some tables to free up the room, I'll be back. 


  1. It's so disappointing to hear about the service at the hk branch but i assure you the service is impeccable at Singapore! so maybe give them another try after they've trained their staff ...properly.

    ps. im so secretly happy that im not the only one who isnt crazy about macarons. I just find them really sweet and chewy. :S

  2. I have cut down my coffee intake to 1 cup as opposed to 3 cups a day. It was hard at first but now I substitute with fresh juice.

    Those macarons look so good! I love them =)

    I feel bad that you had waiters bump into you - sounds too squeezy!

  3. What a detailed post! The tea place seems like heaven at first but I'm disappointed in the service you got :( I don't like coffee at all because of the smell and I've never taste it. Well I tasted a latte before because I got my boyfriend's starbucks mixed with my hot chocolate - it was awful!

    I've never tried macaroons before but they're getting so popular. I've always wondered how they taste. Looks crunchy but soft in the middle?

  4. Congrats on forgetting about coffee! :) I was addicted to coffee candy for awhile...until we finally ran out and I was too cheap to buy more. Hahaha!
    The service sounds horrible...I have the same problem with a lot of restaurants though. A place may seem really nice and upscale, but the service always is unpleasantly surprising.
    Wish we had tea places where I live though!

  5. I am a HUGE tea fan!! I can go without coffee for sure hehe. Give me a cuppa any day. Anyway congrats on quitting!!

  6. I really enjoyed this post! Yay for no more coffee! Truth be told I sometimes crave coffee over tea too but they both make me pee like crazy LOL As for the twg cafe, you're so luck there is one in HK! I know tea rooms in my city serve twg tea but there's no official cafe =( It's a shame that the customer service didn't live up to your expectations. I really enjoy having tea at all the nice hotels in HK, I wanna try more next time!

  7. I enjoyed this post and wow you gave up coffee...........cold turkey? That is not easy and I am really impressed! The food looks amazing, I've never heard of TWG but hope to visit HK someday! I hate bad customer service!!!

  8. OMG Macarons!! I loveeee macarons :D
    nice post btw, I love your blog! following you now ;D


  9. Im going to hong kong at the end of the year again so hopefully if i have the time ill visit this place :D


  10. This was such a fun read! I have never been to HongKong..am sure my brief transit at the airport doesn't count for anything...so this was a nice glimpse :) Too bad the service didn't match up to the concept, but otherwise it looks like you had a nice time :D