Chong Tea Company Founder Matt Chong says his passion for tea bloomed when his aunt introduced him to an ancient Chinese tea known as Tie Guan Yin or Iron Buddha.
Fascinated by the tea’s rich history and flavour profile, Matt explored Vancouver’s Chinatown to learn more. A Vancouverite of Chinese decent, he shares that browsing the city’s tea shops gave him not only a deeper look into the history of tea, but also a meaningful way to reconnect with his culture. Through hours of practice, he grew to understand the flavour complexities and calming effect of the ancient Chinese tea ceremony.
A fresh look at traditional teas
The idea for Chong Tea Company formed when Matt was working in Toronto developing experiential marketing strategy for lifestyle and wine brands. Why not apply the hands-on style of tasting events to the tea industry?
“No one has ever thought about the flavours of tea the way they think about other products such as wine,” Matt states. “I thought to myself, I can do this with tea… Tea is an incredibly dynamic and complex beverage that’s just as interesting as scotch and wine. In fact, the language and descriptions that tea professionals use partially come from the French wine-tasting world.”
The BCIT Marketing Management alumnus, who is also the VP of Strategic Client Management for the content marketing agency Fifth Story, blends his tea expertise and marketing experience to create tea-tasting events that educate and inspire beginner tea drinkers and experts alike.
Despite the challenges of the pandemic, Matt has been able to pivot his in-person events to a virtual setting by offering tea-tasting kits that help bring the essential sensory experience of tea drinking into the home.
He looks forward to hosting the BCIT Alumni Tea Tasting experience on February 23. Matt says that he hopes to leave attendees with not only a newfound curiosity for tea by introducing rare teas like the Long Jing (Dragonwell) Green Tea, but also an appreciation for tea rituals.
“With so many demands on us, even more so now, tea creates a moment of peace in your day,” he explains.
Watch the full event recording to follow Matt Chong as he demonstrates how to conduct a traditional tea ceremony, decipher flavours and aromas, and select the proper teaware.
Success steeped in higher education
“BCIT taught me not to be afraid of failure, but to just start something,” Matt says, adding that his entrepreneurial spirit was cultivated at the institute. He says BCIT gave him an edge, allowing him to continually evolve or shift his business as needed.
Matt also shares that learning how to balance a demanding BCIT course load has now enabled him to balance both his busy marketing career and flourishing tea business.
Passionate about growing Chong Tea Company, Matt has been busy gathering insight and developing partnerships to launch an e-commerce store that will uniquely specialize in the traditional Pu-erh teas from China, which are used to celebrate major milestones and can age up to 60 years.
From attending the annual World Tea Expo to developing tea menus with more than 200 teas, Matt is an expert at the top of his tea game. But he says there’s always more to know. “You can never learn all there is to learn about tea,” he says. “It’s a moving journey that’s kept alive by the curiosity to discover something new.”
Words to live by…and drink tea to. Bottoms up!