Collector Series: Steffanie Chua’s Elegant Teapot Collection

Close Up

May 3, 2017 | BY Jessica Liew

The lover of fine things not only dabbles in haute heritage fashion label Shiatzy Chen, but also in the art of tea and collecting teapots that occupy a special place in her heart.

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A big part of Teochew-born Steffanie was an exposure to art and culture of Chinese tea

Steffanie Chua is a woman of many passions. As the director of Taiwanese haute couture label Shiatzy Chen in Malaysia, Steffanie is known for her refined taste for the elegant and subtle – it was her eye for heritage pieces that play upon a woman’s poise and confidence, which resulted in an exclusive partnership of Shiatzy Chen’s Southeast Asian boutique, for over five years now.

 Besides managing the fashion brand, the charming and eloquent Steffanie owns a company, Identity Lab, which provides image and branding consultation for functions, building design and gourmet cuisine, three aspects that are close to her heart. Because they are her passions, Steffanie often finds herself merging her hobbies with her trade.

Read also: How Shiatzy Chen is taking over the fashion world, with poise and poetry 

As an avid teapot collector, her passion harmonises with Shiatzy Chen’s lifestyle line, Cha Cha Thé, which specialises in high mountain Oolong tea and beautifully crafted tea accessories.

 “A unique and beautifully crafted teapot always has a story, a meaning and a heritage to it. So too, does the beautiful and unique designs of Shiatzy Chen apparels,” she connected the dots for us. “Every piece is an art and tells a story of its inspiration for the collection.”

Rooted in tea

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“A person’s character can also be told from how and the type of teapots they gravitate towards”

Born and raised in a Teochew family, Steffanie was exposed to the many lessons and cultures of Chinese tea, specifically Kung Fu tea, which her parents instilled in her a passion and interest for all things tea.

 To date, Steffanie owns more than 50 teapots – some of which are displayed in the Cha Cha Thé salon above the Shiatzy Chen boutique in Starhill Gallery. Among her collection are Chinese, Japanese and Taiwanese teapots, with a few treasured antiques from the Qing Dynasty.

“Teapots that are rare and come with a rich heritage or story is my ultimate procurement - a beautiful tale, craftsmanship and special design can best represent the different tea characters.”

When it comes to choosing a teapot, Steffanie considers its functional features but has a keen eye for its unique design.

Beyond function, the symbolic role of teapots 

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One of Steffanie's prized teapots is this Si Fang Xv Bian square pot, from the Yi Sing province.

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 The pot is made from old purple clay that helps blend and neutralise tea leaves. 

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A medley of clay and porcelain teapots and tea cups, amassed from different parts of the world

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A unique teapot specimen that's decorative and functional, with a set of goblet-like teacups 

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Steffanie collects antique teapots and teacups too, some of which are heirlooms from previous generations

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A western-inspired tea cup and saucer with petal-like curves

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A precious  procurement: Steffanie has an eye for oriental-inspired pieces that diversifies her collection

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Whenever she's in town, Steffanie indulges close friends of Shiatzy Chen with one of her therapeutic tea rituals

Which brought us to the question of maintaining and caring for teapots. Steffanie assured us this is a simple aspect if one understands the characteristics of the vessel. “It is as important as knowing the type of tea leaves. Each pot proffers a different aroma and experience,” she explained. 

As an avid tea aficionado, Steffanie offered some tips on maintaining the aroma and purity of both tea and its leaves, a role that depends heavily on the teapot. For example, religiously using one teapot to brew a single tea type elevates its natural aroma and taste. “A person’s character can also be told from how and the type of teapots they gravitate towards,” she hinted. “It’s like how a person’s character is reflective of their dressing style.”

"By collecting teapots, I’ve started to learn and understand the intricate values and heritage of cultures related to specific teapots.”

Indeed, Steffanie’s love for teapot collecting translates to her fascination for travel and diverse cultures. “I immerse myself in the therapeutic and serene ritual of the tea ceremony," she revealed, of the benefits reaped from this hobby. 

The ritual of tea that sets the mood

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Some of Steffanie's 50-strong teapot collection occupies the Cha ChaThé salon at Starhill Gallery

The occasion too, is taken into account when Steffanie selects a teapot, but that doesn’t go without mention of her prized ones.

“I’m currently enamoured with a Zisha teapot, which I use and recommend using for oolong tea leaves.”

"It is made from purple clay, which itself is a unique mineral from Yizing, China, and a rare natural resource too,” she schooled us on the pot’s exceptional qualities.

When asked about her most unforgettable tea experience, Steffanie recalled a chic café on the fashionable street of Omotesando, Tokyo. Customers were served with selected tea blends, coupled with unique tea sets. “The first brew and ritual were performed by the staff. To top it off, delicate Japanese desserts were served to complement the teas,” she recounted.

 Should your curiosity for her tea collection get the better of you, visit the Cha ChaThé salon at Starhill Gallery. You never know, Steffanie herself will welcome you with an enlightening tea session, a moment of companionship she so loves.

Here's another Collector Series steeped in imagination: Aliya and Farouk Khan's Malaysian contemporary art collection.