The tea shop in Ben Thanh Market with the history of nearly 105 years


In the busy Ben Thanh Market area, curious foreign tourists often drop by an old and shabby house which has been known as the oldest and most famous tea store in the city in the early 20th century, with a history of nearly 105 years.

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Located at 13 Phan Chu Trinh Street at the West gate of Ben Thanh Market and next to crowded shops, the tea shop, previously called “O Tong Ky”, captures the attention of many sightseers, especially those from abroad. It has ancient features and interesting stories about the history and development of the market and HCMC as well, though the business was closed for more than ten years. 

Visiting a 105-year-old tea shop in Ben Thanh Market area via Bao Cong An thanh pho Ho Chi Minh

The tea shop at the age of 150 years old

Born into a Chinese family that migrated from Guangdong to Vietnam more than a century ago, Kha Quyen, an 87-year-old woman became the second generation of her family to take over the business.

Due to her old age, she decided to stop selling tea about more than 10 years ago but still maintains the shop’s original space and numerous antique items such as table sets, tea trays and Libra scale which is more than 50 years old. This is one of the best ways for her to cherish tons of unforgettable memories about the tea shop attached to her childhood.

Quyen told the Daily that the tea shop was opened in 1913 and saw its heyday in the 50s-70s of the 20th century when her family members were all involved in tea business.

“Scores of foreigners sometimes come to visit me to learn more about the history of the age-old tea shop and Vietnamese tea drinking culture. As time passes by, many things have dramatically changed, including Ben Thanh Market. But I am still striving to keep the store unchanged and intact despite no business anymore,” Quyen says.

Ngo Dieu Mai, a 35-year-old shop owner who has had more than 15 years selling fabrics at Ben Thanh Market, says although the house has deteriorated, it looks like a hidden gem in the heart of the bustling market and attracts many international visitors owing to its priceless historical and cultural values.

Visiting a 105-year-old tea shop in Ben Thanh Market area via CVD

Mrs. Quyen recalled the golden age of the tea shop in the 50s of last century. In the most prosperous times of O Tong Ky, the peak times such as New Year holidays, goods must be imported continuously, covering the entire area inside the house to meet the needs of buyers. After that, with the transformation of the times, the tea shop of O Tong Ky gradually deteriorated.

Now sitting and recalling the ups and downs of the tea shop, Kha Quyen feels a bit upset. According to Mrs. Quyên, the tea shop originally sold the tea from China and then sold Bao Loc tea.

According to Kha Quyen, her family’s O Tung Ky tea shop, in addition to the main trade of tea, it also imported wine from Europe to the upper classes of Saigon at that time such as Cantina, Champagne and Cognac. However, tea was still the main product of O Tong Ky.

Tea containers that lasted more than a century still remain in the tea shop. Behind the shelf of the tea shop is full of charm, contrary to the rugged, noisy pace of the town outside.

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