Charm Villa—A Fishy Feel for the World’s Teacups


2015 / July

Kobe Chen /photos courtesy of Jimmy Lin /tr. by Geoff Hegarty and Sophia Chen

“Don’t raise a goldfish in a cup,” enjoin the lyrics of an old Taiwanese song. It’s a phrase often heard when friends get together for a few drinks, meaning that you need to drink up and leave your glass empty—really nothing at all to do with goldfish. However, since around 2013 there have in fact been increasing numbers of people in Taiwan and elsewhere with goldfish in their cups. So what’s going on?

Goldfish-shaped teabags were designed and introduced to the market by the creative crowd at Taiwanese firm Charm Villa. When these unusually fashioned teabags are steeped in hot water, they actually wiggle like a fish. And to add to their appeal, some contain exotic ingredients like red rose petals, making them a great choice as gifts. Integrating traditional and modern aspects of design, the goldfish teabags are attracting international attention, creating something of a craze and heading the bill for Taiwan’s cultural creations.

On the last day of 2014 with the order book filled to the brim, Charm Villa posted a message on their Facebook page notifying potential buyers that they could accept no new orders until January, 2016.

Sweeping the world

Design of the teabag began around April 2013. Once a patent was granted in late 2013, enquiries started rolling in, and Charm Villa began selling on the day of the 2013 Moon Festival even before the product had been formally launched. They sold out immediately and orders had them fully committed up to the end of 2013. Owner and creative director Su Jingmei was amazed at the success her venture had achieved.

“Goldfish and tea both gesture towards an Oriental flavor, so as long as the design works, it’s really pretty simple to attract international buyers,” says Su.

The goldfish teabags have lived up to all the company’s expectations. In 2014 the product first won a Red Dot Award from Design-Zentrum Nordrhein-Westfalen in Essen, Germany, before receiving a gold award from the renowned iF Design in March 2015, generally regarded as equivalent to an Oscar for design.

After winning such prestigious awards, the goldfish teabags attracted remarkable attention from Western media, creating somewhat of a global craze. Some overseas customers even set up webpages to order tea products from Taiwan and resell them in their own countries. But supply has been an issue: the company’s order book has been full since the launch in 2013, so many customers have had to wait six to 12 months to receive their charming little goldfish. The long waiting times are due simply to the fact that manufacture is a complicated process. It’s impossible to produce large volumes, so the number of orders Charm Villa can accept must remain limited.

Tiny, but complex

Although the teabags are quite small, the production process is quite complex, involving 16 separate procedures. Precision instruments are required for cutting the material to shape in the first seven steps, and then the final nine require sophisticated handicraft skills to fashion the end product. To make things even more difficult, any form of adhesive is spurned in order to maintain the natural aesthetic.

The design involves a great deal of knowledge and skill. As well as aesthetic considerations, the mechanics of the design includes attention to areas such as buoyancy and the pressure caused by the expansion of the tealeaves. After many experiments, the company found that asymmetrical fins are necessary to create a sense of natural movement in the tea. And the goldfish’s belly cannot be allowed to become too bulky, or the teabag will be unable to move around the cup. The quantity of tealeaves is also crucial. A fish containing between two and 2.5 grams of tea brewed in a 150-cc cup will achieve the best result.

So all this complexity and the high levels of handicraft skills are why it has been difficult for the company to move into mass production. To overcome this barrier, Charm Villa began working with St. John’s University in Tamsui around the end of 2014, selecting suitable students to gain working experience and internship opportunities on Charm Villa’s production line. The outcome has been excellent, with a six-fold increase in production achieved in the past six months.

Oriental style

Although the simple but exquisite charm of the teabag is its greatest attraction, the ingredients are also key factors in Charm Villa’s success.

Currently the company produces four varieties of teabags, including Taiwan Ruby Black Tea, Ali­shan Jin Xuan Oo­long, Nan­tou Rose Black Tea, and their latest product, Hsin­chu Emei Oriental Beauty.

Oriental Beauty is also known as honey black tea, which has an interesting origin. Farmers discovered that some of their tea had been infested by insects, but instead of discarding the leaves, they fermented them to make black tea. To their surprise, during the drying process the tealeaves exuded a most charming aroma, and the tea after brewing was found to have an unusually sweet flavor. This good result was created by green leafhoppers (Jacobiasca formosana) which had always been regarded as pests. After the insects ingest the fluid from the tender tea buds, the leaves turn yellow, a process known as zhuo yan. The greater the degree of zhuo yan, the stronger the aroma of the tea will become. Farmers in Hsin­chu County’s Emei Township avoid the use of chemical fertilizers and pesticides and simply allow the tea plants to coexist with weeds and the green leafhoppers, thus creating a unique Taiwanese tea aroma.

Charm Villa’s owner happened to know some farmers who grew Oriental Beauty, so around 2014 an agreement was reached and the variety became one of the company’s lines. With different levels of zhuo yan, the leaves develop up to five different colors, including red, yellow, white, green, and brown. The goldfish teabags look very pretty when filled with such colorful leaves. The Oriental Beauty variety was launched at the end of 2014, and has since become the most popular product in the entire range of goldfish teabags.

A better life

Charm Villa was founded in 1999, but it was only in 2013—14 years later—that the company established its own brand.

“Once when attending an international exhibition in Cologne, I became very sad when I noticed that people looking around the Taiwan Pavilion tended to judge us as a land of imitation,” says Su. She ruminated on the fact that Taiwan had many talented designers, so why was it that the nation couldn’t create its own brands of renown? Charm Villa emerged as a natural outcome of these thoughts, formed around the concept of “charming” home life as a starting point for design.

“We deeply love our tea culture, so naturally we want to promote that culture abroad—but in a simple way.” Su says that the original idea of goldfish teabags derived from the natural association of fish with water. Goldfish also represent the Oriental feeling of fortune, and their pretty shapes tend to attract the attention of people from abroad who appreciate oriental culture. Watching a cute little goldfish wiggle around in a cup while enjoying the aroma and the taste of the tea, customers can satisfy the three senses of sight, smell, and taste, all at the same time.

Charm Villa has maintained a delicate balance between design and life, and between creativity and marketing, through a process of continuous innovation, never neglecting nor forgetting their original concept. The company is a shining example of the possibility of integrating the beauty of Taiwan’s culture with its manufacturing and marketing expertise.

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繁體 日本語

子村莊園, 小金魚茶包游向世界

文‧陳建瑋 圖‧林格立


























事實上,子村股份有限公司成立於1999年,但直到 2013年才成立子村莊園品牌。品牌的動能醞釀了14年之久。

「有次到科隆參加展覽,外國人看到台灣館時,直說台灣是複製大王。」蘇靜媚說,這番話讓她心痛,也反思台灣有很好的設計人才,為何卻沒有響亮的品牌?於是才成立CHARM VILLA品牌,以打造迷人的家居生活為出發點,設計商品。






文・陳建瑋 写真・林格立






















実際、子村股份有限公司は1999年の設立なのに2013年になって子村荘園ブランドを立ち上げ、ブランド確立に14年もかかったのである。「ケルンの見本市に参加したとき、台湾館を見た外国人が台湾はコピー王だと言ったのです」と、蘇静媚は胸を突かれたという。台湾にはデザインの人材はいるのに、なぜブランドがないのか考え、子村荘園のCHARM VILLAブランドを立ち上げ、生活を主体に製品をデザインすることにした。





X 使用【台灣光華雜誌】APP!