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Winnie Yu (1970 – 2017), champion of fine tea

Photo via Teance Fine Teas / Facebook

Founder of San Francisco Bay Area’s Teance

Winnie Yu had a passion for tea and a head for business. In combining the two, she discovered her calling as the founder of Teance, a unique tea room in Berkeley, Calif., that for more than a decade has been dedicated to bringing the best teas of Asia to the cups of American connoisseurs.

Yu died Monday, Sept. 11, 2017, after a long illness, at the age of 47. A post commemorating her life on Teance’s Facebook page described her surrounded by loved ones chanting the name of the Buddha.

“The full scope of her contributions to individuals and to the international tea community continues to open like a blossoming lotus,” read Teance’s Facebook post.

Yu brought authenticity and modern style to Teance. The San Francisco Chronicle’s fascinating obituary considers her impact not only on the local tea scene, friends, and family, but on fellow tea enthusiasts everywhere. 

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Born in Hainan, China in 1970, and raised in Hong Kong and New York City, Yu was raised by artist parents with an appreciation for traditional tea culture. It became her passion, and one that she shared with anyone willing to sit down over a cup.

Friends described Yu as a tenacious warrior who overcame obstacles: It wasn’t easy to convince people to pay top dollar for the loose-leaf teas she selected from farms in the remote mountains of Taiwan, China, Japan, and India; her first tea room was not profitable. However, she persevered, and found success with her second attempt. 

The Chronicle quotes the author of “The Tea Lovers’ Treasury,” James Norwood Pratt, as saying that Yu’s quest to bring the finest teas to America increased the nation’s top standards: “Once you’ve had a Taiwaneese baozhong (oolong) from Teance, you might have others elsewhere, but you could usually say, well, it’s good but it’s not up to Winnie’s.”

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