Berlin Shared Space C*Space – POP-UP Tea House

Wenzhuo Liu

Katja Hellkötter and Jan Siefke, the Germans who have lived in Hong Kong and Shanghai for many years, are international cooperation expert and photographer respectively. Katja won the Shanghai City Silver Magnolia Award in 2012. In 2015, they opened a co-working creative project workspace C*Space in Berlin, Germany. Freelancers, artists, companies or associations can rent this space to organize corresponding activities. It is worth noting that C*Space have been always setting tea stations in the activities, encourage guests to drink more tea. From 2020, a POP-UP teahouse has been built in the space at a fixed time every Friday, mainly managed by Jan and Lavia Lin, a Shanghai girl. How can this space be inextricably bound up with China, establish more folk cultural exchanges between Germany and China, and promote Chinese tea and tea culture in activities?

Berlin has many characteristic and theme teahouses, which can be found in both modern and traditional ways. High-grade restaurants and hotels also actively provide tea theme activities. Careful observation shows that the tea culture here is very dynamic. C*Space has operated the POP-UP teahouse for three years, and gradually integrates into the Berlin tea circle. As a co-working creative project space, C*Space mainly provides a space for freelancers, artists, companies or associations who come to Berlin locally or from all over the world to assist in arranging space and organizing activities as required by the lessee. I think it is very distinctive that in these activities, a tea station is usually set up in the space to provide tea for guests. Tea is a very good medium to start a conversation, C*Space consciously introduces tea to more people, especially Chinese tea, and encourage people to drink healthier tea.

In addition to Lin Lavia, freelance artist, and arts & culture manager, who is from Shanghai, China, and studied art in Berlin, Katja and Jan also have a long relationship with China. Many years ago, Katja studied as a university exchange student in Chengdu, Sichuan. Later, due to work reasons, she lived and worked with her husband Jan in Hong Kong and Shanghai for 16 years. Jan said, sitting at the tea table of the OFOTO gallery in Shanghai with his friend Huang Yunhe was perhaps the beginning of Jan’s great love for tea. In Huang’s hometown province of Fujian, even on the busiest and demanding days of work in the factory working as photographers, the daily routine of an one-hour tea break after lunch was uninterrupted. Everyone got their Gong Fu Cha. It was an impressive tradition of pausing for a cup of tea, every day this hour is solely dedicated to tea and to talking to one another before one was released back to the urgent needs of the day. After moving back to Berlin, Germany, in 2015, Katja and Jan opened the shared space. Perhaps with this closeness to China, up to 50% of the activities held in the space are related to China, including Chinese modern art, calligraphy, tie-dyeing, architecture, music, clothing and books. Chinese artists, companies and associations are very willing to hold activities here, which will greatly promote the exchange of folk culture between Germany and China.

Every Friday at 4-7 p.m., FRIDAYS TEA TIME of POP-UP Tea House is open to the public. Some Berlin tea people participate irregularly, exchange brewing methods, share their new tea, and learn from each other. If anyone want to drink tea on Friday, many people have become accustomed to going to the space to sit down. Passers can also enter. Residents of surrounding communities also bring homemade tea food and cakes to share. Katja was also elected as the community leader. Lin Lavia and Jan have been organizing tea activities, and the guests paid voluntarily according to their ability as community donations. In each tea activity, Lin Lavia and Jan try to come up with different themes, and invite tea experts, and independent tea boutique labels from tea communities to host, explain and demonstrate specific tea topics, among which the hands-on tea workshop is quite popular. The changeable forms hope to integrate tea into more life elements and themes, such as tea and movie nights, tea and board games, tea and yoga, etc. Tea events can be organized in both the indoor and outdoor yard of C*Space. They have held several mobile teahouse activities, brought simple tea sets and simple tables and benches, and strolled around the neighborhood at will. Find a suitable place, take out small bench, sit down and start to brew tea. Like many night markets in China, many people on the street sit beside the road drinking tea, chatting, playing chess, etc.. Everyone sits on the Berlin Street to drink tea together, this is very rare in Germany, and it also publicizes the Chinese culture of street tea life. Lavia said “if you are in Berlin, you are welcome to come and drink tea at C*SPACE…”

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