Georgetown’s Unique and Tranquil Chinese Tea House Closes
By January 30, 2023 0 1704•
The minute you closed the door at Ching Ching Cha, the Chinese tea house and shop, near the C&O Canal at 1063 Wisconsin Ave. NW, leaving behind the noisy cars and delivery trucks, you felt it. The tranquility! The quiet, peace and just calm contentment.
There were some ten rosewood tables — some with short legs were placed on a large wood platform, with large sitting pillows and a space for shoes underneath. The others were spaced generously apart in the ample main room, lined with shelves holding tastefully arranged books and tea products that reached to the vaulted ceiling with mahogany trim and skylights with wood framed windows.
None of the people sitting at the tables was using a laptop (actually requested not to) — and no phones, either. They were conversing! Quietly with the others at their table or, if alone, were reading a book, writing in a notebook or just staring into space without any anxiety, meditating, sipping their tea from different-sized tea cups and various tea pots depending on the tea upon differently shaped trays.
A candle burner with a sturdy ceramic teapot sat on each table and was constantly refilled with boiling hot water by ladies with quiet voices and friendly smiles who helped the tea drinkers choose a tea described in a multi-page booklet menu. They suggested light Chinese fare like dumplings or lemon custard tarts. They bowed slightly as they left and came back promptly to serve the teas and hot snacks. As there were lines of people waiting in the foyer who had placed their names in a non-timed waiting list, a very small note on each table asked that customers consider limiting their tea time to 75 minutes.
All of this was the vision of Hollie Wong 25 years ago, when as a 19-year-old she decided to immigrate to Washington, D.C., from Hong Kong and open an authentic Chinese tea room. She had been traveling for over a year since high school and stayed a year in France. She’d thought about maybe opening a coffee shop somewhere, but after discovering a beautiful Taiwan tearoom in Paris, the idea of creating a tranquil Chinese tea room came to her as the perfect and uniquely niched business for the nation’s capital.
For 25 years, Wong — whose obligatory Hong Kong English name is Hollie, her Chinese name Ching Ching and “Cha” is the Chinese word for tea — lived and developed her dream.
“It never felt like a business to me,” she said. “I loved coming here every day, and I never got tired of it.”
She never really advertised either. Her steady stream of regular customers and new ones, tourists and wedding and anniversary parties heard about it by word of mouth.
“I’ve always been kind of a black sheep in my family; not doing things the usual way,” Wong told The Georgetowner. “I didn’t like school, didn’t want to go to college but to travel. But when I decided on this idea, my parents and family helped contribute towards it. It’s been a good steady business. I thought my landlords were proud to have it here.”
So, it was a bit of a shock to Wong when last year her landlords informed her that they were suddenly raising the rent 48 percent for 2023. “48 percent!” Wong said quietly but with an exasperated look.
Sunday, Jan. 29, was the last day of tea room service. Through Jan. 31, everything is being packed out with the help of her extended family. There’s word that a nearby pizza establishment wants to extend into the space.
After much consideration over the past few months, Wong decided she wants to continue her dream. She bought a former gallery in the Dupont Circle area and plans eventually to build a tea retail business and hopefully a tea room there. But first she will take a break — to travel, to see friends and family and to ski in her long-time favorite area in the Austrian Alps.