Quong Tart’s Tea House Sign originates from the most famous Chinese tea house in Sydney, Australia. Quong Tart’s operated in the 1880-1890s. Mei Quong Tart imported tea grown from plantations in China. Mei Quong Tart (1850 – 1903) was a prominent Sydney merchant from China. He was one of Sydney’s famous personalities and made a significant contribution to the social and political scene at a time of anti-Chinese sentiment in Australia.
In 1889, Quong Tart opened his grandest Tearoom, with marble fountains and ponds with golden carp at 137 King Street, Sydney. The tea and grill rooms occupied the ground floor, while on the first floor was a reading room. It soon became one of Sydney’s most important meeting places. With the construction of the Queen Victoria Market building, Quong Tart expand his business and set up Quong Tart’s in the Queen Victoria Market Building which was formally opened in 1898. The tea rooms had a capacity of nearly 500 people and included a stage. Quong Tart’s tea rooms were also located at 777 George St, in Moore Park Zoo, and in the Haymarket theatre district.
The Quong Tart tea rooms played a part in the feminist movement as it provided one of the few respectable gathering places for ladies with public toilets and powder rooms. Women flocked to the new establishments and suffragettes would regularly meet at the Tea Rooms in King Street. They were the site of Sydney’s first suffragette meetings and other civil and social functions.
Chinese tea was first discovered and used as a medicine, before evolving into a beverage. By the 6th century, it was popular throughout China and was advocated by Buddhists and Taoists monks. Tea was introduced to Europe by the Dutch in the early 1600’s. The Chinese who came to Australia with the Gold Rush brought their our tea supplies.
- Title: Quong Tart’s Tea House Sign
- Date: 1880’s
- Material: Wood
- Museum: Chinese Museum, Melbourne
“It is easy to find a thousand soldiers, but hard to find a good general.” Chinese Proverb
Photo Credit: By Joyofmuseums (Own work) [CC BY-SA 4.0 (https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/4.0)], via Wikimedia Commons