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Jul 7, 2013 05:17 PM

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.