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Purple Cane Tea House at Jalan Sultan

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Purple Cane was established in 1987 with its core value evolving around tea, spanning across Penisular Malaysia on various scales, tangibly and intangibly culturally sounded.

On weekday noon, the KLAF team had a conversation with Mr. Lim Hock Nam, the founder of Purple Cane, and Mr. Tey Tat Sing from Tetawowe Atelier, the designer of Purple Cane Tea House at Jalan Sultan, revealing their stories and thoughts behind the tea house, amid the aromatic tea atmosphere.

When Lim returned from his study in Taiwan, he found there was an absence of cultural presence in Malaysia, which was strongly rooted in Taiwan, therefore the sense of nostalgia has urged him to initiate cultivating the cultural landscape in Malaysia around the 90s, with tea. Simultaneously he collaborated with two other mind-liked individuals to transform Jalan Panggong and Jalan Balai Polis into a Cultural Street. It was unprecedented during that period.

Culturally, tea plays an important role in Chinese society, it appears to be one of the seven daily necessities of Chinese scholars and common peoples. The common shows the importance of tea in both worlds, and Lim aspired to enlighten Malaysian society where the culture is lacking.

The name “Purple Cane” is the literal translation from its Chinese character “紫藤”, which is also part of his tribute to his nostalgia for Wistaria Tea House in Taiwan. He enlisted the business spirit derived from the first alphabetical character of its name P&C as follows:

- Persistent and Consistent

- Proactive and Creative

- Professional and Concentrate

- Patience and Care

- Passion and Confidence

- Profitable and Comfortable

- Pioneer and Contemporary

- Platform and Channel

He went further with integrating the tea into local cuisine in response to the growing appeal of a natural health diet after 10 years he established his first tea house in Jalan Sultan, he set up the first tea restaurant in Chinese Assembly Hall and it was well-received by the market. It has expanded throughout peninsular Malaysia and still firmly remains in the market, testified its unique and modern healthy tea cuisine.

Along his tea journey, he entrusted wholeheartedly whoever working with him, as he puts it, “everyone deserves a chance, even I aware of the necessity to bear the consequences, whether good or bad it is.” With the trust he has given, he was able to witness the fusion of tea in local Chinese cuisine, the well known characteristic Nanyang lady illustrations that appeared in the packaging, and the local architect that has worked closely with for 20 outlets, including the latest ongoing tea warehouse cum cultural hub, greatly representing Lim’s ambition of establishing the “Tea Amazon” in Malaysia.

Tay, knew Lim through the Nanyang lady illustrator, given the opportunity to design their outlet firstly in Malacca and they have been working closely since then. He is the mastermind behind the Jalan Sultan Tea House refurbishment, he was inspired by the hybrid usage of the shophouse and the strategic location of the corner lot. He further intensified the hybrid by incorporating three elements into the space design which are food, cook, and book. The elements were translated into architectural spaces that specifically serve their intended purpose. For instance, a hanging bookshelf was designed to display the book and at the same time act as the statement of the entrance lobby. Also, the space design was done in a flexible manner so that it could be resilient and encounter high rental.

The sense of hybrid has further developed with the participation of Think City when the emergence of the MRT station occurred. Parking lots adjacent to the shop were removed and replaced with the walkway widening to improve the walkability. The street furniture made of utilitarian material, according to Tay, was conceptualized as the “Outdoor Living Room”, anchored on the widened walkway aiming to remind urbanites to go out to the street.

Both individuals have expressed their cultural consciousness, it was well concluded in Lim’s quote during the end of the conversation, “The heart of cultural nostalgic void is destined to be a dry well.”

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