China Alley attracted all kinds of people from all corners of the world. One person in particular was a famous east coast poet, in town for a short visit. His trip to the alley became legendary and one L.T. Sue would never forget. Armed with a small soap box apparently pilfered from a shop owner’s garbage bin, he stood tall above the crowd and began reciting his poetry for all to hear. Some were amazed and enamored by his passionate speeches. Some heckled him. L.T. Sue admired him. Although he had a hard time understanding the stranger’s rapid speech, L.T. could feel the passion of his words. After an hour or so, the crowds subsided and the strange poet left, but the shape of his words lingered on in Sue’s mind. In memory of this once soap box poet, we dedicate our Precious Passionfruit black tea blend to him.
Ho Tai Chai
From his setting on the northeast corner of the Alley and Green Street, Ho Tai maintained a vigil eye on China Alley. Known as the happy and laughing Buddha, Ho Tai kept the spirits bright around China Alley and was seated at the perfect vantage point to charm the populace. Early one morning, before he left on an adventure in the direction of South Asia, Lok Ting Sue stopped by to sit and visit with Ho Tai. They shared a pot of tea as Lok Ting described some of his past journeys. Ho Tai smiled and giggled and wished Lok Ting a happy and fruitful trek. Lok Ting thanked Ho Tai for safeguarding China Alley in his absence.
Wasting no time, Ho Tai decided to work on a special homecoming tea blend to commemorate Lok Ting’s return. Ho Tai grabbed an exquisite black tea, added some vanilla and chuckled. Next he threw in a little ginger, a pinch of cardamom and laughed some more. He mixed in bits of dried orange peel, modest amounts of cinnamon. He couldn’t contain himself, he laughed and laughed. He laughed so hard that he could hardly catch his breath. Eventually Ho Tai settled down enough to heat a kettle of water. He grinned in anticipation of trying his happy fusion. The aroma of his concoction drew a smiling crowd.
Upon Lok Ting’s return, Ho Tai offered his gift of tea and spices. Lok Ting was very impressed and said it tasted similar to a tea he found on his journey called “Chai.” Ho Tai said, with a smile, “Then I present to you Ho Tai’s Chai.” Everyone giggled and laughed.
Thanks For Your Support
Early in 2011 we were notified by the National Trust for Historic Preservation that China Alley would be designated as one of “America’s 11 Most Endangered Historic Places.” We were caught off guard and we were overwhelmed. We have always accepted and cherished China Alley as historic and irreplaceable and now it would also be recognized as such by our Nation.
It felt strange to accept this designation as an honor because who in their right mind would want to be considered endangered? We reassured each other and acknowledged that being endangered was much better than extinct. We realized it was up to us to be on the forefront to help ensure China Alley’s survival. Over a relaxing cup of tea, we discussed what we could do for China Alley. Returning to the Alley after one of our brainstorming tea excursions, we felt positive downtown Hanford needed a tea room and it should be located right here. We looked at Number 1 China Alley, on the corner of Seventh and Green Streets, and immediately knew it was the appropriate spot.
Because of the tremendous support we received over the last 12 months, we’ve recently celebrated our first anniversary. Time really does seem to fly when you are having fun, it is difficult to believe that a year has passed since we officially opened our doors and served our first pot of tea.
Our first customer arrived before we opened, knocking on the window to grab our attention. It was Dave Jones, from the Hanford Visitor Agency, a familiar sight in Hanford especially in China Alley. We invited him in and he immediately proclaimed that he wanted our first four dollars to come from Hanford’s tourist industry. We wondered why he said four dollars. We see businesses who cherish the first dollar earned, often framing them, but four dollars? Dave explained that he brought two two-dollar bills. He wanted to pay for his purchase with a pair of them so the two newest proprietors in China Alley wouldn’t wrangle over their first dollar.
It turned out that Dave was the first of many customers who stopped by on our opening day. They bought tea, had a bite to eat and purchased teapots. Many dropped in just to say hello and let us know they were glad we were here. By the day’s end we felt reassured that our decision to open up shop in China Alley would be well received.
We look forward to our next anniversary and many years to come. Thanks for your support.