The first time I visited Libertea, located at Prahran Market, Melbourne, I was intrigued by the myriad of loose leaf teas, teapots, teacups and tea accessories on display. I felt like a kid in a candy store – what tea treasures lurk within the tea caddies, ready to pounce and capture me with its beautiful sensory secrets?

Libertea is the tea realm of Kaishan Wu, the warm, gregarious and knowledgeable Chief Tea Officer. Libertea is a labour of love for her, having been brought up under the influence of her certified tea master father in China to know what is real tea. She is on a mission to bring a quality tea experience to us all here in Melbourne and Australia. And let me say, how lucky are we!

 

Buddha_statue_Libertea

 

Getting to Know You

I am so excited to have you here today – the kettle is on and it is about to sing! What would you like to brew for us and why did you choose it?

We are drinking Tieguanyin (Iron Buddha) today because it’s the perfect tea for spring. If you follow Chinese medicine, in spring we can easily accumulate too much heat in our bodies (上火). A lightly baked oolong will help ease the dryness at the back of your throat, and it’s refreshing as the weather is warmer.

 

Iron_goddess_oolong_Libertea

 

I know you are all about true tea – loose leaf and no flavour enhancers. How has such real tea played a role in your life from day one?

Before I was the “tea lady”, my father played a big role in introducing true-to-origin loose leaf tea to me. I have grown up with nice tea without even knowing what teabags were until I came to Australia to study.

 

What would be your ultimate personal tea experience?

There are so many, I can’t really name one! After devoting myself to true teas, my life is full of happy encounters with tea-serious people popping out left and right and center! I have a deeper understanding of the Japanese saying “ichi-go ichi-e” (一期一会). I cherish all encounters with my tea community, customers, suppliers, even the supposedly competitors! Each meeting is unique and magical, and is not repeated. 🙂

 

Matcha_Libertea

 

If someone were to come into your shop today as a novice loose leaf tea drinker, what would you recommend to get him or her started on the tea journey?

My approach is to find out what they like. Taste is very personal. Your upbringing may stir you into the way of green tea, or your travelling may get you into liking a Chai. And that is why we let a customer to smell, to taste, and to provide them brewing tips so they will be comfortable with what they are buying.

 

You have such a treasure trove in your shop. I love visiting and just looking at everything – the teas, the teapots, the cups. What’s coming next in your tea business?

We are looking to stock higher grade Chinese teas off the shelf to offer a chance for more seasoned tea drinkers to sample premium tea in small quantity. 🙂

 

If there is one person, living or passed, whom you can have tea with right now, who would that be and why?

I would love to have tea with my grandpa, and listen to his life story… I learnt after he passed that he had many struggles, and that explained why he was very reserved about his feelings. He was the greatest, most loving man I knew. I would have loved to know him more.

 

Floral_tea_Libertea

 

Quick Sips

Green, yellow, white, oolong, red or black?

My preference changes according to the season.

Single or blended?

Single.

Hot or cold?

Mostly hot.

Teapot, gaiwan or infuser?

Gaiwan.

Sweet or savoury pairing?

Savoury, at the moment I love pairing with cheese!

Coffee – yes or no?

Maybe….?!

Chocolate – yes or no?

Darkest chocolate you can find, please!