Song Fang Maison de Thé: Shanghai tea with a twist
If there's one thing this city doesn't have a shortage of, it's Shanghai tea houses.
Some are filled with elderly men telling tales, others with teenagers sipping bubble tea while typing away on their laptops. For those looking for a calmer tea sipping experience, Song Fang Maison de Thé is the place to go.
Florence Samson, a Parisian with a love for Chinese culture, opened Song Fang in 2007. The three floors of its 1930s French Concession house are an ode to old Shanghai, with Chinese antiques lining the walls, Edith Piaf crooning from the speakers, and not a drop of Lipton in sight.
Not quite your classic Shanghai tea house, Samson intentionally melded Chinese history with French elegance to create an atmosphere where anyone can relax, fitting perfectly into the French Concession atmosphere.
Song Fang’s first floor houses its retail shop. From there, a winding wooden staircase leads to two floors furnished with a melange of wicker chairs and sofas covered with the flowery red prints of the Chinese countryside.
My goal in creating Song Fang is to share my passion for premium teas and the Chinese culture. — Florence Samson, owner of Song Fang Shanghia tea house
In a country that has been avidly drinking tea for five millenia, tea lovers will appreciate the attention to cultural details.
“Song Fang makes me feel nostalgic for old Shanghai as well as tea houses from when I was growing up,” says Nora Gao, the director of a local philanthropic organization. “The decorations bring me back to when I was a little kid here.”
Shanghai tea for every taste bud
Although your average Shanghai tea house is shunned by coffee lovers, even the confirmed Java addicts are likely to find a favorite among Song Fang’s 70 varieties, both of European and Chinese origins.
“I choose the teas in my shop based on my taste as well as the advice of a number of local tea masters,” says Samson. Many of the varieties deliver the same kick as your average cup of coffee, in an atmosphere more relaxing than a Starbucks.
The Chinese tea varieties at Song Fang come from a number of China’s famous tea-growing provinces including Fujian and Yunnan, explains Samson. In contrast to the traditional Chinese teas served, Song Fang’s French-origin teas -- which are grown in China, India, and Sri Lanka -- are blended with natural aromas such as almond, vanilla and lavender.
The challenge comes with deciding on a brew: smoky Lapsang Souchang or chocolatey Comores; fragrant Pomme D’Amour or classic Chinese Oolong? Best to just forgo the choice and camp out with a book for an afternoon (try the third floor), sampling teas from the cornflower blue teapots.
Although Song Fang offers all of the classic Chinese brews, it hasn’t forgotten its European roots, offering a selection of French sweets as tasty as they are simple. The house biscuit’s aroma fills every floor of the teahouse, making it nearly impossible to resist a bite.
Although Song Fang feels like the height of luxury, it is of the affordable and unpretentious type. Rare in Shanghai to say the least. “My goal in creating Song Fang,” says Samson, “is to share my passion for premium teas and the Chinese culture.”
Song Fang’s logo, a Chinese farming couple, is a reminder that the finest brews have humble backgrounds steeped, of course, in Shanghai tea.
Song Fang Maison de Thé
227 Yongjia Lu, near Shanxi Nan Lu
tel +86 21 6433 8283