Filipino tea culture?

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Wed Mar 03, 2021 5:34 pm

While re-reading through the 1990 All the Tea in China by Kit Chow and Ione Kramer, I noticed this quote under Tie Luohan (a very tasty tea):
A related oolong also made in Fujian and exported is Ti Lohan (Tielohan, Iron Arhat, a monk who has put aside all the passions of the world). It comes from Hui'an, and is particularly famous in the Philippines.
I had never really thought about who the export market was for oolongs like Tie Luohan, so reading this was interesting to me. The Philippines seems to have many people with some Chinese ancestry, with Wikipedia suggesting up to a quarter of the population, but I realize I don't know anything about Filipino tea culture; does anyone have any info on it? Is Tie Luohan as popular in the 2020s as it was in the 1980s? :)

On the other hand, I have heard that due to the influence of the Spanish and Americans, coffee is the everyday drink, which I think makes me even more curious.
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Wed Mar 03, 2021 7:22 pm

I’ve only heard of coffee being very popular in the Philippines, plus coffee beans are a big export commodity there. Like you mention, mostly likely due to a few hundred years of coffee drinking Spaniards occupation of the archipelago.
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Wed Mar 03, 2021 10:13 pm

Nothing to add, but I like that this particular Filipino teahouse apparently changed owners but kept the same Chinese name (福臨門茶餐廳), which does not seem to have anything to do with either of the English names. :) Online translators have not helped much with what 福臨門 might be (Opportunity Knocks?), although 茶餐廳 is a type of teahouse.
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Thu Mar 04, 2021 8:12 am

Another teahouse, the Su Zhou Tea House (蘇州點心/Suzhou Dimsum) -- this one appears to be open 24-hours. Maybe it is the case that Filipinos stay home for coffee and go out for tea? If so, this would be the reverse of British tea-culture. :) The name is also interesting, as Suzhou is an area in Jiangsu which I did not think was known for dimsum.
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Ethan Kurland
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Thu Mar 04, 2021 9:48 am

I first went to the Philippines in 1989. I spent most of the next six years there. Working in Boracay in 1991 (I think) I was introduced to great tea by Taiwanese guest who brought tea from Taiwan with them. (I've told the whole story before here.) That led me to search for good tea in Manila (then in other countries) in upscale shopping areas & centers.

All visits to shops in major cities showed what will happen almost everywhere, whether they know about tea or don't, those shops will offer tea that is far from the best at high prices.

I did not find places like the ones in the photograph myself but was brought to places like that by Josephine Co (or Co-tek sometimes). They were restaurants that served free cheap tea which they called service tea. The main point was that it was free and it kept coming. Josephine washed our chopsticks & spoons with it before we would use them. People drank a lot of the tea because taking the lid off teapots to be filled by staff who roamed with more hot tea, made customers feel good more than the flavor of the tea. People enjoyed complaining if their empty teapot had not been spotted by the staff, even more.

A large restaurant in the Santa Clara part of Manila, had very good fish congee

If anyone can find Josephine Co, please do. She is a Filipino citizen of Chinese descent & 77 years old (if alive) who used to live in Santa Clara, Manila. She had worked as a school teacher & then owned a shop that repaired rattan furniture. She had two sons, the eldest dies by suicide while a teenager. I would love to speak with her.
Flavor Hedonist
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Location: Philippines

Thu Apr 29, 2021 2:29 am

Filipino here. And, the tea culture here is mostly reserved for the Filipino-Chinese community. The tea houses shown in this thread are not really "tea houses". They just give you service tea (most likely a cheap black, a cheap watery jasmine green or a cheap shou). Those "tea houses" forte are really food and dimsum.

When it comes to higher ends of tea, you'll get them from the Chinese people who ordered them abroad and from what I saw before, they had yancha, shou puerh, liubao and liu an.

However, premium tea here is slowly getting known. Well-off millennials are slowly falling down the rabbit hole of tea. We even had tea meet-ups (mostly attended by millennials) before the pandemic hit.
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Wed Aug 11, 2021 12:05 am

Kind of slow to be checking in on this. One of my earliest online tea contacts was a woman in the Philippines who was into better tea. It was too early; others just weren't on that page. Later I talked regularly with one of the main vendors promoting specialty tea there (the Teavolution founder, if I'm remembering it right).

It seems strange to make this distinction, when the rest of the post was about older Chinese community places selling or serving some basics, TGY or whatever it was, with shu pu'er and Liu Bao filling that role in different places, or inexpensive Wuyi Yancha. All that is still tea. That kind of divide comes up over and over, here in Bangkok, where I live, or a friend in Malaysia with close ties to older Chinese-Cantonese influence mentions it (Liu Bao is his thing).

Then in the US one might consider if the lower end really is tea culture: Lipton, Teavana, Tazo, etc. In a broad sense, sure, of course. Same for boba / bubble tea though, if you keep going with that. It's strange superimposing this specialty / common range divide on India, potentially concluding that 99.9% of everyone there drinks some pretty basic tea. Or it's .99 or more, depending on your definition.
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