Ku Cha House of Tea brews community, moments of zen – Boulder Daily Camera

Tea may be part of our morning routine, but for Rong Pan, co-owner of Ku Cha House of Tea, it’s more than a refreshing drink to start the day.

Rong Pan pours fermented puerth tea into a pitcher after steeping it during a gongfu tea serving demonstration at Ku Cha House of Tea, 1211 Pearl St., Boulder, on Monday May 16, 2022. (Matthew Jonas/Staff photographer)

Pan and her husband Qin Liu opened The Leaf in 2005 and a few years later rebranded Ku Cha House of Tea with a flagship store in Boulder. Through multiple location changes, new stores throughout Colorado, and an extensive online business, the local company remains the Front Range’s primary source for loose leaf blends that deliver shades and medicinal properties well into the world. beyond Lipton’s offerings.

According to legend, in 2737 BC. BC, the Chinese emperor Shen Nung sat under a tree while his servant boiled drinking water. A fire is said to have dried out some of the tree’s leaves and a strong wind blew them into the boiling water, creating a golden, deliciously flavored tea.

Tea ceremonies are common in China. Whether alone, with a friend, a partner or a group, they bring a bit of ritual and relaxation to everyday life.

BOULDER, CO - MAY 16: Rong Pan pours Rock Oolong tea into aromatic cups during a Gongfu tea serving demonstration at the Ku Cha Teahouse in Boulder on Monday, May 16, 2022. (Matthew Jonas/Photographer)
Rong Pan pours oolong rock tea into aromatic cups during a gongfu tea service demonstration at Ku Cha Teahouse in Boulder on Monday. (Matthew Jonas/staff photographer)

Although Pan hasn’t held tea ceremonies for the public at her four Colorado stores since the pandemic began, she has enjoyed them at home and does so almost daily.

“It’s part of my life,” Pan said. “I usually do it in the evening because the tea doesn’t contain a lot of caffeine. Me and my husband, since we own the business together, we will discuss a lot of things over gongfu tea or talk about things for the kids. We have two boys together. We can talk about all these things when we drink gongfu.

Gongfu in this context translates to “taking time and care to do something well”, and a gongfu tea ceremony is a practice that lends itself to enjoying the present and making an effort to create a pot.

“It’s not something you do between texting or watching a TV show,” Pan said.

Pan hopes consumers are willing to learn more about the practice and perhaps implement it at home.

Ku Cha has established relationships with tea growers around the world, sourcing products from China, India, Japan, South Africa and beyond.

Shop visitors are never short of an ever-changing selection and plenty of shelves of tea and accessories.

“I think the gongfu tea ceremony is really the best way to enjoy the flavor and scent of tea with all of your senses,” Pan said. “You can enjoy the color, the taste, the scent and you are always in the moment. You are always with the tea.

Rather than simply soaking the leaves in boiling water, each dance move has a purpose.

BOULDER, CO - MAY 16: Rong Pan pours hot water into a pitcher to make jasmine tea with a silver needle during a Gongfu tea service demonstration at the Ku Cha House of Tea in Boulder on Monday, May 16, 2022. (Matthew Jonas/Staff Photographer)
Rong Pan pours hot water into a pitcher to make Jasmine Silver Needle tea during a gongfu tea service demonstration at Ku Cha House of Tea in Boulder on May 16, 2022. (Matthew Jonas/Staff Photographer)

There’s even a small ceramic “tea pet” that Pan bathes in the mixture she has prepared. The animal can come in a variety of options such as a pig, deer, and rabbit. There are also zodiac animals.

“Every time the water flows, it brings you good luck,” Pan said.

From “waking up” the leaves with a little boiling water, to using empty containers to capture the fragrant aroma of tea and deep inhaling before taking the first sip, all steps are built to create an experience memorable that is undeniably peaceful.

With water poured over cups to warm them first and over the teapot to seal it, the ceremony has almost a baptismal or cleansing quality to it. A gongfu tray is specially designed to collect excess water.

Some ceramic teapots are decorated with floral designs. Pan hails from Jiangsu Yixing Province, an area known for its exquisite pottery.

From the incredibly fragrant Silver Needle Jasmine White Tea to Rock Oolong, the sheer amount of pure varieties that Ku Cha carries each have characteristics that are sure to appeal to different palates.

BOULDER, CO - MAY 16: Rong Pan places fermented Puerth tea into a teapot during a Gongfu tea service demonstration at Ku Cha House of Tea in Boulder on Monday, May 16, 2022. (Matthew Jonas/Staff Photographer)
Rong Pan places fermented puerh tea in a teapot during a gongfu tea service demonstration at the Ku Cha House of Tea in Boulder on May 16, 2022. (Matthew Jonas/Staff Photographer)

A fermented tea – Sui Yue Liu Xiang Ripe Puerh – is said to aid digestion and help lower cholesterol. But its notes, reminiscent of saturated hay or suede, may be an acquired taste for those accustomed to something more basic.

“It’s like the mountains of Colorado after the rain,” Pan said.

Pan remembers the first cup of tea she really enjoyed and left a lasting impression.

“When I grew up in China, it was quite poor,” Pan said. “Usually we reserve the teas to serve the guests. Children would not have the chance to drink good tea. My first good cup of tea has stuck in my head to this day. When I was in high school, my second brother graduated from college, got a job, and bought Dragon Well. It’s pretty much the most famous green tea. In China, we have around 6,000 different green vegetables. It was the first time I had good quality.

Pan makes a multitude of blends in his shop and educates staff on the properties of single-origin teas.

“The vast majority of knowledge comes from doing business,” Pan said. “We’ve been in the tea business for 16 or almost 17 years, so there’s also a lot of self-education.”

During the pandemic, Pan created a line of iced teas and kombuchas while stores were closed for six weeks. While some of these products are sold at nearby establishments like Japango and Avanti, it’s his goal to eventually bring them to grocery stores.

BOULDER, CO - MAY 16: Rong Pan pours tea into a pitcher during a Gongfu tea service demonstration at the Ku Cha House of Tea in Boulder on Monday, May 16, 2022. (Matthew Jonas/Staff Photographer)
Rong Pan pours tea into a pitcher during a gongfu tea service demonstration at the Ku Cha House of Tea in Boulder on May 16, 2022. (Matthew Jonas/Staff Photographer)

No sugar is added to iced teas, and surprisingly, none is necessary. Fruity flavors like cherry and peach delight the taste buds.

“If you have good ingredients, you really don’t need to cover it with billions of things,” Pan said.

The ingenuity doesn’t stop at drinks. Pan also expressed a desire to capture the aromatic wonder of specific teas in a line of fragrances for men and women.

For now, she will continue to brew rewarding and unique cups to enjoy.

“We made Boulder home,” Pan said. “It’s really nice to connect with the Boulder community. We have many dedicated customers helping us throughout these years, especially in times of COVID.

Customers are encouraged to enjoy tea from takeaway cups in the welcoming back room tea house which was closed for two years during the pandemic.

The warm space almost has a greenhouse feel with the natural light coming in from the high ceilings. Red walls draped in vines, lush plants, lanterns, and a fountain to set down a room or two elevate the space to something beyond a typical cafe.

BOULDER, CO - MAY 16: Rong Pan pours hot water into a pitcher to make jasmine tea with a silver needle during a Gongfu tea service demonstration at the Ku Cha House of Tea in Boulder on Monday, May 16, 2022. (Matthew Jonas/Staff Photographer)
Rong Pan pours hot water into a pitcher to make Jasmine Silver Needle tea during a gongfu tea service demonstration at Ku Cha House of Tea in Boulder on May 16, 2022. (Matthew Jonas/Staff Photographer)

It is a place that lends itself to moments of well-deserved zen.

Beyond Boulder, Ku Cha has locations in Fort Collins, Cherry Creek North and Denver Pavilions. The owners plan to open a fifth location at Park Meadows Mall in Lone Tree.

“The business makes me feel very rooted in the Boulder community,” Pan said. “My husband and I are first generation immigrants. Came here for college. We didn’t know anyone. Now we have kids here, we have businesses here, and the people of Boulder are nice. I feel really lucky to be here serving our community.


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Raymond I. Langston