China’s tea industry is undergoing an identity shift – boosting domestic business has required new branding strategies, and consequently, those changes are affecting the way those in the Chinese hospitality sector approach tea-centric spaces.

Heytea’s 250-sq-m presence at Zhengzhou Grand Emporium is one of those spaces. It’s a modish spot, yet it’s built with an acute attention to localised tropes and material. The company worked with the Shenzhen-based Moc Design Office to create a café that would be able to connect the younger generation with traditional Chinese tea culture.

Though, during the design process, Heytea and Moc Design Office were looking at an even bigger cultural picture – in the space, they also sought to re-instil pride in China’s calligraphic history. Both basic elements of the art are represented: black bamboo art installations are a metaphor for the stroke of a brush, and the white walls emulate customary Xuan paper. The delicate – yet sometimes bold – contrast writes the spatial narrative on its own.

Heytea's space refers to the substance of China’s culture as to give foundation to trend

The exterior façade embodies the Apple-like aesthetic that younger generations are now accustomed to expecting from desirable spaces in urban hubs. Inside, floor-to-ceiling windows wash the space in pale white sunlight that plays with the white lacquered aluminium sheet and mirrored stainless steel inside, while the shapes of the furniture – both sharply linear and curved – are accentuated by each other in their juxtaposition.

Many millennial-friendly spaces seek to attract young people by relying on visual newness and ephemeral fads, but the Heytea space derives its attractiveness in more tenable way: by referring to the substance of China’s culture as to give foundation to trend.