Owner Vivian Zhang in HE+C Tea + Pot

Businesses Without Borders: Finding Health, Energy, and Connection at HE&C Tea + Pot

2 mins read

Businesses Without Borders is a column celebrating first-generation immigrants who own local businesses.

When owner Vivian Zhang first immigrated to Palo Alto from Harbin, China in 2014, she noticed something missing in Palo Alto’s food scene.

“I discovered that Palo Alto was a very nice city but there weren’t any tasty Chinese restaurants. I really like hot pot and the Chinese tea culture, and it gave me the idea to start a hot pot restaurant,” Zhang said. 

Back in China, Zhang’s only experience in the restaurant industry was through investments. So, at the height of the COVID-19 pandemic in 2020, Zhang began to plan the logistics of the hotpot restaurant. “When I first started my business, every step of the way was very difficult because when I was looking for the location, I faced the pandemic. At that time, all stores were closed,” Zhang said. 

In March 2023, HE&C Tea + Pot opened its doors to the Peninsula. “The interpretation of the name is H stands for health, E stands for energy, and C stands for connection. I hope it will not only be a place for healthy food, but also provide a place for local people to connect with each other,” Zhang said. 

Owner Vivian Zhang at HE&C Tea +Pot

The store’s hotpot is served in their signature porcelain pots with a variety of soup bases, which are made in-house and fresh every single day. Along with the soup bases, the store also receives different types of thinly sliced meats, vegetables, seafood, and tofu fresh every day. HE&C Tea + Pot is known for its A5 wagyu beef, which is flown in directly from Japan. Customers can also order traditional lamb and beef skewers, dishes originally made in the northern parts of China. Zhang said, “We don’t use any MSG in the restaurant. We just make fresh dishes every morning, and every dish we create is refined to its finest. One of our most special dishes is chicken soup for the hotpot, which is boiled for eight hours every day.” 

Aside from the hotpot, the restaurant has a tea section that offers all types of teas. One of the most popular drinks is the Mango Sago. “I studied pharmaceuticals in China and graduated from the Department of Chemistry. For the Mango Sago drink, I improved it with my knowledge. All of it contains healthy ingredients, and I don’t use any chemicals. The drink has a lot of collagen and everyone loves it,” Zhang said.


As a first-generation immigrant, Zhang has faced many challenges along the way, but she has overcome them. “When I arrived here as a first-generation newcomer, I didn’t have a lot of language skills since I didn’t go to college in the U.S. When I came to America, I wanted to open a restaurant and connect with everyone. This is my dream to bring delicious flavors to my good friends and spread Chinese cuisine in the US,” Zhang said. 

When asked what piece of advice she would give to other new immigrants, Zhang said, “I want to tell the new generation of immigrants around me who are coming here that perseverance is victory, because as long as we have this love in our hearts, success will definitely reach us.”

Find more information on HE&C Tea + Pot  here. The restaurant is located at 544 Emerson Street in Palo Alto.

Eileen is a junior in her second year of journalism. She enjoys covering local businesses in the community and environmental issues. In her free time, she enjoys photography and painting.

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