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Saturday July 28, 2007

Green tea princess


Clad in her signature black Issey Miyake dress, Zhang Jin Jie or better known as JinR, cuts a mysterious, almost mystical figure. The air has a palatable sense of the dramatic; the setting of our interview probably plays a big part in crafting this impression. We sat at a table at Green T. House Living, JinR’s latest project, a mammoth building that could very well have been the setting for a wuxia sword-fighting epic.  

Located at the Wen Yu area of Beijing, a 30-minute drive from the city, the ancient-meets-cyber–style of the building is a showpiece bar none. And it’s only logical that a former classical musician (JinR’s instrument of choice is the yang qing) turned chef and international tastemaker has conjured up a 15,000sq/m space that is a restaurant, teahouse, and gallery space, presenting the New China at its most compelling: fresh, subtle and intelligent.  

Different: The dining tables at Green T. House are definitely something else.
When asked about how a yang qing expert became a world-renowned chef, JinR replies with an ever-so-slight arch of an eyebrow that frames an evidently pretty face, “Everything has to do with human creativity. Creativity is common sense that is shown in different ways. Cuisine is only one aspect. Out of the six senses, taste is just one (of the senses).” 

A graduate of Beijing Central Conservatory of Music, JinR came up with the idea for Green T. House in her travels as an internationally acclaimed musician in the 1990s. The reason she honed in on tea as a theme in her restaurant is a simple one.  

Visionary: Zhang Jin Jie or better known as JinR.
“Taxi drivers carry a flask of tea in the car. Elderly women drink tea. Chess players drink tea in the middle of a game. The Chinese drink tea at the start and the end of a meal. It’s part of our culture,” she says with an almost simplistic logic.  

The immense success of Green T. House has led to a larger, more ambitious endeavour, Green T. House Living (as well as a branch of Green T. House at Hong Kong’s Cyberport), a palatial white building fronted by an imposing white-pebbled courtyard.  

“Real beauty, to me, can be compared to a white house in a white garden. There is purity, clarity and creativity. I appreciate history and culture,” she says. The design of the main building has Zhanguo-period references combined with a Zen-like spaciousness, a place that would appeal to international trendsetters and individuals on the lookout for something different. In fact, several new areas are being developed at Green T. House Living: Bath, a spa focusing on ancient Chinese healing therapies and Retreat, a boutique concept living space.  

“We are defying the conventional definitions of places to meet friends and business associates, dine, sleep, work and relax – and creating new ones,” says JinR. “The inspirational effect of the Green T. House Living experience is the sum of myriad details of sensation, design and service.” 

In between sips of tea from one of China’s most remote regions, we talk about the New China and how her projects are a statement-making counterpoint to what the world thinks China should be: brash and loud.  

“Green T. House Living is the New China, the new Chinese lifestyle. It really depends on what we choose to see. Whether it’s the ugly or the beautiful part; gardens or garbage. This is my understanding of the New China,” she replies with the kind of conviction one wouldn’t dare to doubt.  

GREEN T. HOUSE LIVING 

318 Cuigezhuang xiang Hegezhuang Cun,
Chaoyang Beijing PR China 100015
Tel: 86-13601137132 / 86-13601137232
Email: info@green-t-house.com

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