Washington, D.C.’s Ching Ching CHA
The Lonely Planet guidebook describes Ching Ching CHA as an “airy, Zen-like teahouse.” Fodor’s calls it “a teahouse where tranquility reigns supreme.” And the Zagat Survey reports that visitors find it “cheaper than a massage but almost as effective.”
With glowing notices like that, owner Ching Ching Wong, known as Hollie, doesn’t need to advertise her Chinese teahouse in the bustling Georgetown neighborhood of Washington, D.C.
“We have not advertised once since we opened, which will be 19 years ago in May. We just do what we do. It’s word of mouth,” she says. “We mostly have regulars during the weekdays and a lot of tourists on the weekend.”
Many of those tourists come from Asia, and French and British visitors are well represented too. Wong estimates the teahouse gets about 50 customers on weekdays and “hundreds on the weekend!”
What they find is a serene sky-lit space with rosewood tables and chairs. There’s also platform seating with cushions and a Buddha to oversee the traditional tea ritual.
CHA is the Chinese word for tea, and Wong emphasizes that the teahouse serves mainly Chinese tea. Among the more than 70 kinds of tea are a 20-year-old pu-erh, Green Monkey King, and a Mother Wisdom herbal blend. Eight Treasures is full of dates, wolfberries, raisins and rosebuds to be spooned out and eaten.
The food at Ching Ching CHA is meant to be “simple, healthy food that you can eat every day, a balanced meal,” says Wong. “We want you to really taste the tea, so we don’t want to stimulate the palate too much.”
The $14 tea meal includes chicken, salmon, or tofu with rice, vegetables, and soup. An afternoon special Tuesdays though Thursdays offers the tea of the week with a dumpling or sweet for $8.
Customers looking for tea to take home or give as gifts have a wide range of prices to choose from: $6 for chamomile, $16 for Yunnan Gold Needle, $20 for Dragon Well, $26 for Alishan Oolong, $30 for Ti Kwan Yin (for 2 ounces).
In addition to tea, there’s a wide range of products from across Asia, including a selection of tea wares and accessories, fine paper products, handicrafts, and small home furnishings
The shop also sells books. Wong says “customers have a deep interest in Asian culture. People in Washington love information.”
Wong estimates that 60% of the teahouse’s revenue comes from serving tea and food, 30% from selling teas, and 10% from tea accessories and tea wares.
The teahouse hosts private events such as weddings and bridal showers. “We’ve had monks in to chant for weddings,” she says. On Oct. 1, the National Day of the People’s Republic of China, “we move the teahouse to the Chinese Embassy” in Washington for the celebrations.
Wong opened Ching Ching CHA because, she says, she just loves teahouses and she’s visited so many. But the Hong Kong native couldn’t find one when she moved to Washington, D.C. She had never owned a teahouse before but, she says, “I just created this little shop in Georgetown where people have time to sit down and unwind and be quiet.”
Wong professes not to care for the more hectic aspects of running a business.
“I just want to run a quiet, serene teahouse. A teahouse is supposed to be quiet. You cannot expect it to be like a restaurant—I don’t like to see people waiting in line, disturbing my people. It’s a hard balance to keep the business going and not interrupt the teahouse environment.”
Ching Ching CHA
1063 Wisconsin Ave N.W.