Recommendations for a Chinese tea shop?
I drink an insane amount of green tea, and having just come back from China I've had my palate educated on what green tea tastes like (hint: it doesn't involve a teabag from Lipton).
I'd love to find some silver needle or lung ching (dragon ball) jasmine green tea in LA, but the only places I've looked are Gelson's ($20 for about 3 oz. of tea) and Teavana in Sherman Oaks Fashion Square ($16 for 2 oz. of lung ching). I'm sure that there are plenty of places in Monterey Park, Chinatown, et al., I just don't want to waste time and money on places that are inferior.
So, where does one go to get great loose Chinese tea? I can, if absolutely necessary, deal in Cantonese, but they'll laugh at my horrendous accent; the same goes with Mandarin, which is even worse.
Speaking of which, I'm assuming not too much haggling happens in the U.S., or am I wrong? (Jerome?)
Ten Ren has some good teas.
Also try Wing Hop Fung and Tak Shing Hong (locations in MP and Chinatown).
There's another one my mother frequents for herbs on Garvey between Atlantic and Garfield, north side of the street. Sorry I can't remember the name.
tenren.com will have a list of local branches; there are several.
That's pretty much the only place I buy tea in LA, when I can't get my high mountain oolong tea from Taiwan (HIGHLY recommend picking up one of their more expensive varieties if you like oolong style green tea). Most of their teas are from Taiwan. There are fantastic teas IN China, but I find most of the stuff that reaches the US is inferior to what you could find if you went to the mainland. The Taiwanese teas you can find here are better regulated.
And not to get nit picky, but lung ching is dragon well, not ball.
The Chinese import department store on the Broadway side of what was called Food Court has quite a good selection of Chinese tea on the second floor, including a very expensive Longjing from Hangzhou (several hundred dollars a pound).
As with Ten Ren (which in Chinatown is on the Hill side of Food Court - and for your reference, Mandarin Deli is in the middle of Food Court), you should plan to spend some time sampling your options.
re: judge dee
judge dee - I believe that the Chinese import department store that you refer to is Wing Hop Fung. I think their teas are quite good. They also have a branch of their store at Atlantic and Garvey, in the 99 Ranch outdoor shopping center, just down the walkway from Capital Seafood. The teas at this branch are as extensive as in their downtown branch from what I can tell, and since this store is not quite as bustling as downtown, they are extremely willing to help you find what you are looking for.
As I mentioned, their teas are good, but perhaps not to the quality of ordering online from some of the higher-end tea purveyors, such as Teance (which I have recently discovered and like a lot for some of their oolongs).
re: judge dee
I do agree that it is better, if possible, to shop the shop! However, I have enjoyed the online process for two reasons. I always order by calling the online store (such as Teance); their sales persons are quite knowledgeable and helpful. I tell them what I like, and then they suggest some samples based on my tastes.
The second great advantage to me is that I always leave a little room when I order for something different -- something to stretch my experience a bit. So, for example, if I tell them that I only like Japanese green teas, they will ask if I would be willing to try a Chinese green in my order. In this way I have found some amazing teas that I might not have tried if I had been in the store to select for myself. I am trusting someone quite knowledgeable to expand my repertoire, and this has been quite an education. This is how I came to love the oolongs that I now am exploring.
Teavana in Mission Viejo in the MV Shopping Center has a wide range of what seem to be authentic Chinese teas. One of the owners, I understand, of this chain is Chinese, the wife, and supposedly they know their teas (have both Chinese and Japanese green teas, different levels of quality) so, if you're in this area, you might try them. They have a website at http://www.teavana.com/ and you might look there to see if they offer what you're looking for. Oh, sorry, I see you've already looked them up in the Valley so you know about them already. I'd be interested in your opinion of them.
Le Palais des Thes has a a very good silver needle selection. The quality of their teas - excellent, however not cheap.
401 North Cañon Drive
Another excellent source for chinese teas is to order online on this website.
It's the real deal.