Hong Kong boasts one of the most dynamic dining scenes on the planet, filled with culinarians and tastemakers galore. In our Cheat Day column, we spotlight some of the top players in the kitchen and behind the bar, delving into their personal favourites during their days off.
Meet Kezia Chan of St. Regis
Tea culture has been imbued into the Chinese psyche since pretty much the start of time. We’re anointed through weekly Sunday yum cha with our family, and best believe every family has “their” tea that has to be ordered. For mine, it was 普洱茶 (Pu’er). Kezia Chan and her folks were no exception to this cardinal rule, and I was delighted to hear that the tea master herself was partial to Pu’er, too.
“Pu’er has a reputation for being a breakfast tea,” Chan elaborates. “We have a saying in Cantonese that roughly translates to: Pu’er is flavourless, but after drinking, you’ll feel the smooth aftertaste and the comfort in your digestion. It’s really my favourite tea. Most people also don’t know this, but similar to wine, Pu’er is a region-specific tea that is traditionally produced in Yunnan, China. If grown anywhere else, they cannot call it Pu’er.”
Meet the tea master
Chan, the charming tea master and restaurant manager of Rùn at The St. Regis, exudes such a youthful exuberance that one would be almost comically shocked to learn that she’s spent almost 26 years in the hospitality scene.
“I started my career in the Regent Hotel (InterContinental) where I was given a chance to rotate through departments in their 9-month trainee programme. They had a Tea Pavillion there and the course really ignited my nostalgia and love for the beverage. Now, I am a certified professional tea master by the International Tea Masters Association (ITMA), and I’m very fortunate to be able to work in a hotel that really supports my growth in this field.”
One-Michelin-starred Cantonese restaurant Rùn is a haven in the middle of bustling Wan Chai. Chan meticulously selects only the very best harvests from the very best estates, and is around most days to assist guests with their tea pairing needs.
Tell me a little more about what you do on a day-to-day basis.
There’s preparation and sourcing for the leaves, creation of our House Special blend, taking care of our premium leaves, infusing certain ones and then, of course, I get requests for tea pairing advice too both in the restaurant’s main dining area and in the private rooms. The team is excellent here, so I am very well supported.
What is your favourite tea pairing with the signature dishes here at Rùn?
If there’s one thing you’ll notice when you dine here, it’s that every table will have a dish of roast meat ordered. Always. They’re our signature dishes, sure, but I have to say, our char siu made with Ibérico pork is second to none.
When it comes to pairing, I like to play around and create my own blends. I have this one that I’ve nicknamed 五花茶 (five flower tea) but it’s nothing like the traditional Chinese herbal tea you’re imagining! I wrap my chosen flowers in a ball of tea leaves — always with a blend, like Chrysanthemum with silver needle tea and thousand-year flowering buds, for example. It pairs really well, of course, but it also looks very beautiful when the leaves unfurl. Presentation can make such a difference.
Cheat Day time! Which are five indulgent sips or bites you delight in during your days off?
This will come as no surprise but I really, really enjoy Chinese cuisine. Some of my favourites include Fung Shing Restaurant (鳳城)’s Fried Fun Gor with Soup (上湯粉粿), Heritage Tea House (文博軒)’s Sesame Roll Puff with Fermented Red Beancurd Sauce, Lao Shang Hai Restaurant (老上海)’s Minced Pork in Sesame Puff and Lung Wah Hotel’s Sha Tin Pigeon (沙田乳鴿).
Rùn, 1 Harbour Drive, Wan Chai, +852 2138 6808