Tea Café — Beijing, China
One of the first casualties of Beijing’s relentless modernization drive has been the loss of the city’s ancient hutongs. Happily, canny entrepreneurs are now scrambling to snap up these graceful courtyard houses and repurpose them without losing too much of the architectural DNA. Backed by a crack team of restoration specialists from Hebei, Han Wenqiang of Arch Studio’s conversion of a compound of five crumbling hutong houses, some of which pre-date the Qing Dynasty, into a modern teahouse is masterly. The narrow alley entrance opens into an airy sequence of light-washed rooms alternately framed by glass dividing walls, slatted screens, and original timber and brickwork. The kitchen can be rented out by amateur home-chefs for private dinners, though we’re happy to just sit in the shade of the bamboo courtyard and sip white and rare teas served in delicate Nogime Temmoku tea bowls from the Song Dynasty.