Local studio Leaping Creative drew from the urban fabric of Xi’an to create a space with a design narrative both old and new.

Key features 

When conceiving a space for Chinese tea brand Heytea in Xi’an, Leaping Creative could hardly ignore the site’s neighbour, a 12-m-tall city wall – one of the oldest and best preserved in the country. So the architects decided to embrace it, firstly with a large glass facade to mirror its grandeur and flood the compact site with natural light. It serves a triple purpose by also blurring the divide between inside and out. 

Meanwhile, to counteract the project’s relatively narrow unit, the design team has incorporated rounded shapes where possible, including the circular order counter, which invites customers to explore the store in its entirety. This leitmotif is also expressed through the use of several archways, punctuating the bench-style seating at the front of the store and separating a second, more private seating area. 

Several other elements inside the flagship are also informed by the project’s historic setting, namely the yellow sandstone and gold surfaces, which serve as a metaphor for the ancient royal capital and its traditional Cantonese architecture. They juxtapose the sleek, metallic surfaces and resin details that accentuate the interiors to give the store a futuristic feel, reflective of the brand’s desire to create a contemporary tea-drinking experience. 

Frame’s take 

‘I am trying to make tea-drinking cool’, Heytea founder Neo Nie told South China Morning Post in an interview back in 2018. And it's fair to say he has. With over 650 outlets across Asia, the gourmet brand was valued at more than 60 billion yuan ($9.3 billion) after its latest funding round, Bloomberg News reported in July. This is in part down to the design offering of its stores, which take cues from retail to attract millennials with experience, storytelling and engagement. The Xi'an outpost is no exception with its rich interiors Leaping Creative call a ‘boundary between the old and new’. It's the perfect description for a contemporary brand built on an ancient ceremony.