Do you associate tearooms with oriental music and a strong scent of shisha? Then you’ll be pleasantly surprised by the clean and modern concept of the teashop Tea Mountain, designed by A1architects. The interior cleverly interconnects a shop, where you can replenish your stock, with a space, where you can sit in peace and privacy and enjoy your cup of tea. Even though it is altogether just one room, the two parts each have a different vibe – the light shop changes into a dark vault where you can be comfortably seated for a degustation.
The overall atmosphere is completed thanks to the helpful and professional staff, with the owner Martin Špimr in charge. He has been devoted to tea for many years now and stays away from the mainstream. He managed to bring a breath of fresh air into the field and attract the broader public to it. He’s done it with a selection of new exclusive tea that he travels to Asia for, as well as with his innovative way of presentation.
The Tea Mountain shop has turned Karlín into the new Prague mecca for tea culture. If you like tea but classic tearooms are not your cup of tea, you’ll surely love this place. Martin will gladly explain to you with enthusiasm the differences between cultivars and will prepare a degustation tailored to your taste, so that you could also fall for the magic of high-quality tea.
How long before you opened your shop in Karlín had you been devoted to tea?
I was drinking high-quality loose tea in the 1990s. Beside Czech tea I was slowly discovering tea from abroad, which I started to import commercially in 2004, the year that I also founded Tea Mountain. The shop in Karlín was opened in 2013.
You’ve got a selection of exclusive tea from Nepal, Japan, and India on offer. How do you find your suppliers?
For tea I travel to the place of its origin, so I know the majority of our suppliers personally. In many cases I’ve also seen their gardens.
Recently, the coffee culture in the Czech Republic has been growing. What about tea culture?
Tea culture experienced a big boom in the 1990s. I have a feeling that the image of tea rooms as we knew them in the 1990s has been slightly in decline, and there’s a more modern style taking over. I believe that the magic of tea will be in a couple of years appreciated as much as coffee is today. Despite tea culture having its fans all over the world, tea in gastronomy has been neglected and still waits to be discovered.
Tea Mountain differs from ordinary tearooms with its new concept of a shop that offers a degustation. What is such a degustation like? What do the customers try and what can they learn?
The degustation we do is available to all our customers. We will prepare tea for them according to the standards of degustation - in the same way that degustation works all over the world – in gardens, at tea competitions, at stock markets… And what will they learn? I’m convinced that we are capable of answering all the customers’ questions about the tea they taste, and showing them very gently the differences between particular kinds of tea such as green tea, wulong, and black tea. Of course, we prepare and recommend the degustation in accordance with the customers’ knowledge. The best option is, though, to drop by to experience it first-hand, or rather with your own senses.
Do you manage to attract customers who would never go to a classic tearoom?
I think we are lucky to be appreciated by customers who are both advanced and have been drinking a selection of tea for years, and people who are not attracted to the environment of classic tearooms and who find out in our shop that tea comes first – without the unnecessary esoteric or ethno extras. We try not to impose our opinions on customers and we mainly focus on tea itself.
The A1architects studio designed the interior of Tea Mountain. Did you know which architects you wanted to co-operate with from the beginning?
I’d been familiar with the work of A1architects for many years, long before I decided to open my shop, and liked their clean, cultivated but natural style a lot. When I was forced due to circumstances and finally developed the idea, A1 architects were the first and only ones I approached. When I met them in person, we discussed the concept and they liked it. It became clear that they would realise our project. Today, our relationship is friendly and I hope that we will realise other projects in the future.
(Martin Špimr, owner of Tea Mountain)