I’m a big fan of starting weekends with a big breakfast… and at least once every two weeks I’ll go to Shortbread Teas to enjoy the breakfast there. They have several options, and I alternate between a bacon sandwich with an extra fried egg, the essential breakfast (the full works basically) or maybe just some scrambled egg and toast. It’s a good start to the day, especially as the place is a hidden gem – it’s air conditioned, tucked away, just a few streets from the busy escalator. A good place to rest before continuing with the shopping, photo shooting or just the tasks of the day. I’ve written about the Shortbread Teas before (see here), so no surprise that Karen was more than happy to give me an interview!
Why did you start Shortbread Teas?
We are passionate and enthusiastic about tea and would like to share this enthusiasm with people in HK who are equally as keen on tea. Since the arrival of teabag teas, quality loose-leaf teas have taken a back seat; presumably, to make way for the changing society where convenience is more important. Tea-bagged teas, as we all know by now lacks flavour as the bags are filled with tea dregs (low quality tea). Unfortunately, in establishments where tea is served, teabags still appear in cups on restaurant tables and cafes around many parts of Hong Kong (and surprisingly in top rate hotels). We aim to give tea its due credit by re-introducing it in the form of loose-leaf and promoting the use of the good old-fashioned teapot for proper tea brews. Loose-leaf tea is currently enjoying a revival in the West (particularly in UK and USA) as the public have embraced this re-introduction of tea – all because it tastes 100 times better than they do in tea-bags.
We found that since arriving in HK four years ago, good loose leaf blended teas (Breakfast teas) are very difficult to find (equally, good teabag teas are limited in choice) Fortunate then that we have friends who come to HK often and bring back good quality teas from the UK. Fed up with missing out on a perfect brew, we then decided create our own tea blends, exclusively for Shortbread Teas – our collection of bespoke teas including many flower and fruit infusions, to bring the flavours of tea to a new dimension; and also Rooibos teas, recognised for their health benefits.
Since Shortbread Teas launched a year ago, our teas have been the talking point amongst tea connoisseurs in HK and we are now proud to say that 85% of our customers are dedicated tea drinkers with very diverse tastes. Wholesale tea is also available for sale to cafes and restaurant in HK on request; We aim to provide establishments who are equally passionate about tea so that tea will always be crowned as the most popular drink in the world.
Last but not least, “Shortbread” is the epitome of our Scottish roots, and home baking ensures that we serve up the best quality food for our customers (only the best when made by hand). Popular surveys showed that those good old fashioned scones, victoria sponge cake and good quality chocolate cakes are the most popular cakes of all times because of the simplicity of their ingredients. Why serve anything else? To complete the picture, proper tea is now served in HK with a nice piece of cake or warmed fruit scones (homemade of course).
Where do you teapots and teas come from?
Our teapots with stainless steel strainers are sourced from Japan and UK. The Japanese teapots are colourful, elegant and functional for its purpose of brewing loose-leaf teas. The London Pottery teapots are authentic designs from England; they are fun, unique and very British. Our teas on the other hand are sourced from around the world and mostly from India regions such as Assam. They are then blended in UK to our specific requirements – Shortbread Teas have exclusive rights to all our tea blends which means that although you may come across similar blends by other companies, the flavours will not be the same as ours. On the plus side, our teas are dispatched from UK accompanied by a Certificate of Origin which means that they are quality controlled and conform to European standards. Customers can rest assure that they buy quality certified loose-leaf tea from us.
Which teas are popular in HK?
The most popular ones are Highland Toffee (with hints of vanilla); Woodland Interlude (with real berries); English Rose (soothing camomile); and the Rooibos blends (South African herbal tea); and last but not least, our British Breakfast Blend (best with scones and cakes) which is most popular with the Brits.
Rooibos tea and fruit blends of tea should be appreciated as they have real pieces of fruit rather than essence oils and artificial flavours found in many different tea brands. In this respect – as our teas are infused with real fruits, it has the added benefit of keeping in the flavours for a longer period of time, thus you can savour the taste of fruit and flowers with every sip of tea.
What snacks do you offer and do you also cater to special requests?
Yes! Our team is capable of whipping up the most gorgeous cakes and scones, we also take bakery orders such as birthday cakes and treats for special celebration favours with themes for weddings, engagements and corporate events, just recently, we baked meringue kisses for a wedding function and gingerbread biscuits for a school project.
All baking is made in our café to ensure freshness and quality control. For specific requirements such as profiteroles, marshmallows and seasonal favours such as Christmas cakes – are readily available to order in advance. Corporate or party outside catering can also be arranged and will be available on request.
How often do you change your menu? Is there a different lunch every week?
Apart from our regular menu, we have specials on a weekly basis. At weekends we bring out the Apple Pie or Pear & Almond tart. During lunch hour there is the usual popular quiche, frittata, freshly baked baguette and baked potato, there is also the Full English Breakfast, which is served until 4pm everyday.
To find out what we have for the coming weekend, check us out on Facebook and be the first to try out new cakes and treats. Last week we gave away homemade Almond flavoured marshmallows with every pot of tea or coffee.
What is your favourite baking recipe?
Our favourite recipe is of course our homemade scones. Our team can whip up these fabulous scones in 15 minutes. At weekends they are very popular with ladies who comes in for high teas and groups of friends who just want to chill out. Please join our Facebook page as we will be announcing baking classes soon – and yes! I am happy to share many of my recipes with the world.
What is your website? Do you deliver to Hong Kong?
Our website is currently under construction and we apologise for the delay. Once it is completed, customers will be able to buy our teas and teapots on line. We also do wholesale in Hong Kong and eventually hope to sell Internationally. Currently, it is advisable to contact us by email or phone and we’ll be able to dispatch goods as soon as possible.
Thanks Karen, it was nice talking with you. I’m wishing you lots of luck for getting your website up and running soon, so people can order your tea blends and also find out more about your baking classes.
If you want to find out more about Shortbread Teas head over to their Facebook page – where Karen will announce news and updates. Or just come and visit her at 55 Wellington Street in Hong Kong Central, Tel. 9072 7147.
[All pictures in this post belong to Karen at Shortbread Teas]
PS: Missed a previous interview with a Hong Kong blogger or expert? Check out my series here.