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King Hua Sauce & Tea Charge at Dim Sum

This is hands down my favorite dim sum place. However, they have instituted a one dollar per person tea and sauce charge. They tried to charge us this amount even though no one at our table had tea. When we objected the manager said the charge was for the chili sauce, red vinegar and said other Chinese restaurants have this charge. We strenuously objected and so he waived the charge this time (not sure what will happen in future visits)

I have seen a tea charge at other places and I understand that but a condiment charge for chili sauce/mustard and red vinegar? This seems wrong.

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  1. Tea charge is mandatory whether or not you actually drink the tea. Cantonese call it "yum cha" (drink tea) for a reason. It applies for any dimsum restaurant anywhere, unless you're ordering to go.

    As for sauces, it depends on the restaurant. Some give you unlimited, some give you the first one free, some charge for it.

    1 Reply
    1. re: blimpbinge

      I have always had the tea charge only charged for those in the party who actually drank tea, including at Elite, and always at King Hua until this visit. I had never heard of a sauce charge until now.

    2. This is typical. Get used to it.

      Might as well get the tea, even if you don't drink it. Tea is a good way to clean the chopsticks between dishes.

      1. A sauce charge??? This is a complete ripoff. It's not a lot, but the principle for charging for condiments.

          1. "This seems wrong."
            No, you understand wrongly.

            RTFM before visiting dimsum joints. Tea charge is "sitting fee". You're suppose to drink tea. If you don't, you're doing it wrong. Yum cha joints have been charging this fee, even across the pond, for as long as... forever.

            The only thing you achieved was making the manager's life difficult that morning and slow down the turn of the tables, while possibly raising the cost of dimsum for the rest of the people who understand the "system". *golf clap*

            6 Replies
            1. re: TonyC

              Noshie's reply to blimpbinge above seems to indicate that he(?) has experience with the tea charge. I have had similar experience at dim sum places where the tea charge is not assessed on diners who haven't had tea. I think it's the lack of consistency with past visits to King Hua, and the management's quick switch to referring to the charge as applying to the sauces when pointing out the inconsistency, that caused the consternation...

              1. re: PeterCC

                I think tonys explanation is pretty good. I'll add more detail:

                In cantonese, we call it 茶芥, (cha gai), or "tea mustard", because there's a charge for the tea, sauces (like the mustard sauce) and other condiments. Or another way to say it is 茶位 (cha wai), literally "tea seat". It is like a service charge even if you do not drink the tea or use the condiments.

                Just like when you go to some restaurants and tea houses and there's a minimum order, it still applies if you don't want to drink/eat because you're taking up a space and using their stuff. The fee is usually only waived for babies and small children, or if the restaurant is running a promo for waived tea fee.

                Hope it helps. Maybe a native hk'er or gz'er can chime in as well.

                1. re: blimpbinge

                  I understand the concept. I think noshie understands the concept, but something changed from what he's experienced of its application: "I have ALWAYS had the tea charge only charged for those in the party who actually drank tea, including at Elite, and ALWAYS at King Hua until this visit." (Emphasis mine.)

                  I had a plumber recently start charging a service fee (on top of the hourly rate) for visits out of the blue. I know it's common practice in the industry, but this plumber never charged it before. I have no problem paying the fee, but I definitely questioned it the first time since no explanation is given. And by "explanation" I mean of the change in charging, not of the concept of the industry-standard service fee.

                  I think it would have been better had the manager at King Hua just reinforced that they charge the tea fee to everyone and that perhaps it was not enforced as strictly in the past (per noshie's experience of never having been charged it for members of his party that did not drink tea previously) but that they are enforcing it now.

                  1. re: blimpbinge

                    FWIW, the fee is also waived for good/regular customers. If we frequent a restaurant for dinner, a manager will often come by and sign for the tea.

                  2. re: PeterCC

                    The consternation is caused by the customer who's so cheap and obstinate that s/he won't pay for a sitting fee, or respect the culture behind the dining tradition/culture/etiquette/call-it-whatever.

                    It's always been yum cha, drink tea, not yum sieu. Unless you have some type of caffeine induced medical condition (JL, feel free chime in), there's no reason NOT to drink tea at dimsum. It's like going to Guisado's and ordering the guisado sin tortilla. Believe me, the thought has crossed my mind many a times, but, just don't.

                    And really, fighting the system gets you nowhere. What's next? A post about Capital Seafood charging you for a cup of Monterey Park's finest tap if they refuse to waive the tea fee?


                    FWIW, I don't see anyone complaining about the obligatory Natura water fee found at Cube/Bestia/Animal/SoaG/Plan Check/ad nausea.

                  3. re: TonyC

                    Newport Tang Cang Seafood charges for its XO Sauce. I think it's $5. Lots of places charge for extras like sauteed mushrooms. In France, you get charged more at an outside table at a cafe. You also get charged a bread fee frequently. There are different ways to reach the bottom line, but that's what it's all about.

                  4. They're charging you a sauce fee because you're trying to wiggle out of a tea fee. You know you're having dim sum so you know there's a tea fee.

                    2 Replies
                    1. re: Galen

                      Some people cannot drink tea. King Hua is not a tea and snack house. I have never seen a "sauce fee" at any of the many dim sum places in SGV and environs, has anyone else?

                      It is written as sauce and tea fee on their new menu (which by the way they have eliminated their steamed daikon pudding) so its not only me. I understand for the tea if you actually drink it as it is a separate beverage, but not for the condiments. I have always asked not to pay the tea charge for those not drinking tea and have eaten frequently aside from King Hua at Elite, 888, Capital,Triumphal Palace when it was around, etc. and I don't recall it being a problem.
                      I would not tip less as its not the servers who are setting the policy.
                      Its still my favorite dim sum place.

                      1. re: noshie

                        Most people can drink one of the "teas" offered, considering there are caffeine-free alternatives like Chrysanthemum tea (or hot water), and really, if you're not drinking tea, you're doing it wrong. Anyway, it's not optional, even if you've managed to not pay it in the past.

                        See also this thread:

                    2. Let me put the tea fee into proper historical context.

                      HK cafes, dai pai dongs, and eateries in Hong Kong, have for quite a few decades, implemented a minimum charge policy. If we are talking about the days of economic hardship (prior to the 1970s or 80s stock market boom), it was not uncommon for such places to state a policy of 淨飲雙計, which means if you waltzed in and ordered only a drink (non alcoholic beverage), you would be charged double. Drinks are the lowest priced items at a cheap eatery in Hong Kong. Consider this the equivalent of the "2 drink minimum" rule at certain bars or clubs in the states. There are places that still enforce the 2 drink minimum rule, e.g. Lan Fong Yuen, the tourist trap that invented HK milk tea in Hong Kong. One milk tea is cheap, but they can't just have customers come in, hog a table and consume one drink only.

                      On a side note, wealthy people in Guangdong used to invite guests (of honor) over to their places of residence, and their servants would greet them with tea. The guests in return, would give them a small tip as a sign of gratitude, and that was known as "tea money" 茶錢 (or tea fee). This also translated into tea houses (yum cha places that served dim sum) implementing the same practice. You can think of it as an additional service charge (the money goes towards the cost of tea selection, rinsing the tea, boiling the water, brewing the tea, refilling, serving the tea/bringing it to the table basically all the work involved in getting that pot and cups to you, and if the restaurant wants to justify the fee, they could argue the use of teacups, teapot, and washing them) . The tea fee is separate from tips.
                      This practice is sometimes still done in Hong Kong at the downscale restaurants that serve crappy tea but exquisite seafood in a non spectacular environment (where tea fee could be seen as tips in these cases).

                      There are some regional Chinese restaurants in Hong Kong (e.g. Spring Deer in Tsim Sa Tsui that TonyC has been to that is famous for Peking Duck, and Wing Lai Yuen famous for Sichuanese recalibrated for HK tastebuds) that add an additional fee for the mini plates of pickles and peanuts, everyone gets them whether you want it or not. For Spring Deer, those appetizer/pre-meal snacks are prepared by the staff (who are also owners of the restaurant) to get some extra tips.

                      So unless there was a set minimum charge amount specified by the restaurant, the tea fee is a slightly alternate subtle way of defining that. Unless someone else has a better explanation....

                      1 Reply
                      1. re: K K

                        KK, can you critique my explanation above please.

                      2. Not to sound too critical but it's $1 per person. If you feel that strongly about it, tip them $1pp less.

                        5 Replies
                        1. re: Porthos

                          I was just going to ask what the fee usually ran. I haven't had dim sum in "forever" but I didn't remember it being very much at Elite (the last dim sum place I've been that would charge a tea fee). So despite my bits of devil's advocatory above, I probably would not have "objected" to the fee as noshie did, but it definitely would have caused me to pause had I had the same never-before-been-charged-for-non-tea-drinker experience.

                          1. re: Porthos

                            Oh, shit, don't do *that*. C'mon ...

                            1. re: ipsedixit

                              Hopefull that means tipping 15% instead of 20%.

                              I'm always careful not to punish waiters for management decisions. I waited tables in my college years so I understand. In the case of dim sum, I'm pretty sure tips go to management (to be pooled and hopefully divided amongst waitstaff after management "cut") and not the waiters directly.

                              1. re: Porthos

                                As a former waiter myself, it saddens me whenever waiters have to take the brunt of management's decisions.

                                1. re: ipsedixit

                                  Often the management's decisions are very reasonable. After all, they can only appease the customer if the requests/demands are within reason.

                          2. next up on the complaint list:charging for rice per person...

                            honestly...they serve kuk poh..so i am happy.

                            1. Before the mods squash this thread and tell us "folks" to get back to discussing LA restaurants instead of the price of tea in China, I cannot resist adding that this, surely, is a tempest in a Teapot!