Latitia Kung, the co-founder of House of Serene, is a marketing veteran in the luxury goods industry, and a passionate career and business mentor. With acute business observations and understandings, she has successfully expanded brands to other regions as well as helped others to achieve their business goals. Having lived in many countries, Latitia enjoys the bandwidth the world has offered and applies her creativity into many fields.
Top left to right:
1) 2014 Visiting a contemporary tea house in Taipei, Taiwan
2) 2015 On the way to a family tea house in Yufu, Japan
3) 2016 Tea work with Yu Tea House, Hong Kong
Bottom left to right:
1) 2017 Tasting Oolong Tea in Tea House 35 Alishan, Taiwan
2) 2018 Enjoying Japanese green tea in Maison Assouline, London
3) 2019 Tea tasting experience in Shanghai, China
What does serene living mean to you?
I think serenity is a state of mind - an individual is conscious about what is happening around him/her but also has the ability to keep with the flow without being stuck with emotions. No matter good or bad things, just embrace them as part of life. Of course, this is easier said than done. Serenity is like inner peace no matter where you are or what you do.
Are you always a serene person?
Not at all, before the first lockdown, I was probably one of the least serene persons in the world. My family and friends describe me as efficient but also impatient. I love traveling, new side projects, or simply enjoy the status of being busy, which all give me a sense of achievement. But I rarely live in the moment or stay serene. Growing up in Hong Kong, people are chasing the status of being busy which is deemed a way to show they are valuable and needed, which I no longer agree.
What is the turning point?
Because of my job and my hobbies, I used to travel to at least ten different destinations a year. But after the pandemic started, I could only travel from my kitchen to my bedroom. Like most people, lockdown has limited my mobility, which also caused my anxiety as everything became uncertain. It was not easy, but I chose to live at present without letting all my concerns flood all around.
I stopped reading news headlines and started small things like watching a film with my husband without checking my phone messages. Sometimes, being busy makes people have a synthetic sense of fulfilment and leave out the real connections to yourselves or your loved ones. It can be brutal to face your real thoughts and understand your own emotions in this chaotic world. After I started to be more present rather than planning for the next, I realised that I just loved the feelings so much! It makes me cherish more about the health and love I have.
I know that you have been occupied with several projects in parallel even during lockdown. How do you manage so many things in this hectic time but still maintain a serene mindset?
Yes, I am still quite busy but I think now busy means something different. I am no longer chasing the status of being busy because I understand my own needs and what could be more impactful. I work full-time and I am running my mentoring and coaching project as well as I started House of Serene with my business partner. It seems I have many things but there is a balance especially these all in line with my purposes.
Please tell us more about your mentoring and coaching project.
As human beings, we want to feel connected to share knowledge and experience. That is the reason I started coaching as my pro bono project. I want to help women to find their purposes and to build their confidence in their careers.
Currently I am mentoring several recent graduates for internship and job opportunities. The past year has been extremely tough in the job market. Through coaching, I helped them connect to others in the relevant fields, tailor their business ideas, and marketing their products. Although we are unable to change the external factors such as the fact of an economic downturn, we could always change our self-belief and sometimes new opportunities blossom in adversities. I feel joyful when I am coaching others as I am fulfilling my values and serving others with my skills.
Could you please share some mindful activities that you are doing?
I always like practising yoga and meditation as it helps with both my physical and mental health. I am also a big fan of candles and scents which alway make me relax. One thing I enjoy a lot but have not had much time to do is tea appreciation. I am a tea drinker but I rarely had time to brew a pot of good tea on a daily basis before lockdown. Working from home has created an opportunity for me to do that every morning, and I love the aromas of tea in my kitchen, which is a perfect way to start my day.
It is not only about drinking a cup of good tea, it is about all the preparations which allows me to focus on the steps without thinking about the emails piled in my mailbox or bullet points on my to-do list. This is exactly how House of Serene started as tea appreciation is a great ritual to do at home. We do not need to seek serenity outwards and in fact it is always inward and within ourselves.
What is your favourite tea?
My favourite has changed overtime. I used to like Pu’er tea very much because of the richness of its taste. After I went to a teahouse in the Ali Mountain Taiwan, I fell in love with cold-brew oolong tea. It is not a conventional way and I first thought it may be just putting ice in tea, but in fact it is a method to properly brew tea in a cold environment, which tasted very smooth. However it is not easy to find nice cold-brew tea elsewhere unfortunately.
During lockdown, I started drinking more white tea. Now my favourite is silver needle white tea, which has amazingly beautiful leaves and also very delicious.
Have you been to any tea houses? What do they look like?
Every tea house is different in terms of style and ambience. Many tea houses I visited in Guangdong province in China serve Gongfu tea which is the most popular drink in the region. Most of these tea houses are decorated with wooden furniture and have relatively dark lighting. The tea masters demonstrated Gongfu tea skills to us, which are extremely complicated and takes years to train. I also have been to several tea houses in Hong Kong and Shanghai, which are much more modern. They have different kinds of tea for tasting and some blends are very creative.
However my favourite tea house is the Ali Mountain one in Taiwan which I have always wanted to go back to. The tea house is called “Three Five Tea House”, “Three five” is short for “three five friends” which is a phrase meaning “several friends altogether” in Chinese. The owner who is the tea master told me that a tea house is a place for gathering and connecting with people. I remember my last day in Ali Mountain when I went to the tea house to say farewell to the tea master after I spent a week there. The tea master did not show me any new skills in making tea, instead he sat down and chatted with me the whole afternoon. Later his friends who coincidentally passed by joined us too. It was very cozy and I felt that I have known them for a long time even though we only met a week ago.
I know some tea houses have strict rules which are great for learning knowledge, but personally I prefer casual ones. Tea is the medium to bring people together to relax and appreciate this drink which could be traced back for thousands of years. We could only find serenity when we are relaxed, right?
Totally agreed. Do you use different cups for different tea you drink?
Yes, I have many tea bowls and I use different ones depending on which tea I drink on that day. Now my husband also started drinking tea with me, so we could brew tea properly in our stoneware teapot. I love the Flambé Glaze tea bowls very much because of the colours and textures. As the tea bowl is hand made, its surface is not 100 percent smooth which makes me feel very special to hold.
When I drink tea for myself, I often use the Serene Me Time piece. I enjoy seeing the tea leaves floating and admire the flower decoration on the piece. It is super easy to clean as well. I believe a beautiful teaware could light up one's mood.
How do you find serenity in a workday?
Routine is very important to me. One of my best friends, who is a coach, shared an important concept of “non-compromising self-care time”, which means you block a time for self-care and nothing could take up that time for yourself. I try to adapt this in my daily routine and make sure I leave enough time to take care myself. It is not easy, especially working from home has blurred the boundary between work and life. However it slowly becomes a habit and it really helps my mental health. I wrote a blog about my ideal work day schedule which you could find here. I am still working on it but I think imperfect actions are better than being a perfectionist without doing anything.
How do you cope with stress?
First is to acknowledge our emotions, but also recognise they are temporary. One of the quotes I truly love is “keeping flowing, allow ourselves to be messy and beautiful”. Many people don’t want others to see them messy, but I believe in the power of vulnerability. When I open up to people and talk about my emotions, it is a great way for me to understand the trigger point rather than being buried in emotions. I learnt this from my husband who is always positive as he knows that things will pass and negative emotions won’t last.
I also find it extremely effective to reframe the adversities or stress when I encounter in a more positive way. Many things are two-edged swords, if we allow ourselves to understand and embrace them, our mind could really shift from the negativities .
Please share three serene life advice.
Firstly, give yourself time and space to think.
Secondly, allow yourself to open up to others and talk about your feelings.
Lastly, try to reframe things in a positive way. In our life, we cannot control everything, but the only thing we can do is to choose our perspectives to look at them.