Season 2 Episode 2: Mei Quong Tart - The entrepreneur who started Sydney's first cafes


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Mei Quong Tart
Image: State Library of NSW

Mei Quong Tart was one of the most recognised figures in Sydney during the late 1800s. He was an entrepreneur and philanthropist - and most importantly, he opened Sydney’s very first cafes. Yes, we owe our fantastic cafe culture to a Chinese immigrant who spoke with a Scottish accent.


Quong Tart & staff at the tea rooms at 137 King Street, 1890s
Image: State Library of NSW

We know a lot about the life and works of Mei Quong Tart because he was so prominent and well-respected. He had a string of successful businesses - and you can still see some of the facades of his cafes around Sydney today. He also had a social conscience at a time when that wasn’t in vogue - he treated his employees well and hosted suffragette meetings.

His life was tragically cut short in a botched robbery but his legacy lives on in cafes and tea rooms across the city.


Quong Tart's tea house interior 1890s - State Library of NSW
Quong Tart - State Library of NSW
Quong Tart tearooms menu
Quong Tart Tearooms menu - Image: Bronwyn Mackenzie Sydney Living Museums
Quong Tart tearooms menu printed - Image: Bronwyn Mackenzie, Sydney Living Museums
Quong Tart with wife Margaret - State Library of NSW
Quong Tart & family at Gallop House - State Library of NSW
Quong Tart at 777 George Street, 1891 - State Library of NSW
Quong Tart porcelain teapot - (c) Jamie North. Sydney Living Museums 2014
King Street 1889 with Quong Tart's tea house on right

Arthur Markham Quong Tart (son)


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