HOME > Chowhound > General Topics >
What's your latest food project?
TELL US

Decent Cup of Tea in Even A High End Spot -- Rare As Bigfoot

b
BHAppeal Jan 11, 2007 12:13 AM

Responses in another thread brought up the question of quality -- or lack there of -- of tea in even high end dining spots in the U.S. I've stopped ordering it when out, since not only will it not match the most basic bags of Yorkshire Gold or even Barry's at home, it is likely to be just terrible. (I'm always shocked by that. Perfect meal, they make great coffee, but then the tea comes out and yuck.) I suspect it's the fact that few places have enough demand to keep decent loose leaf in stock, and don't want to boil water fresh for each customer. Asian places are the exception of course -- but basic, non-green tea, properly brewed is tough to find in some place in the U.S. other than the occasional tea shop. Anyone know why, or had great tea when dining out here?

  1. liu Jan 11, 2007 12:24 AM

    BHAppeal - You are quite right to continue my ranting about this very subject from another post and begin a-fresh! And I agree with everything you are saying.

    Tea is more of an option now than it ever has been, but quality tea is extremely rare, as you point out. If we fast forward five years...is it still not appreciated?

    1. c
      ceeceee Jan 11, 2007 01:19 AM

      didn't i hear something about someone wanting to start a tea craze a la starbucks. who knows...5 years from now maybe there will be one.
      i stick to my barry's at home and in local coffee shops (i live in an irish neighborhood). and usually jasmine when out at a nice asian place.

      3 Replies
      1. re: ceeceee
        krissywats Jan 11, 2007 01:40 AM

        I guess you mean aside from the tea shops like Tea and Sympathy and any of the myriad of high tea places in the city? I'm not being sarcastic, I'm honestly asking.

        I had Thai out the other day at a place in Forest Hills and they served us lipton in a gorgeous pot. I was horrified.

        1. re: krissywats
          c
          ceeceee Jan 11, 2007 01:50 AM

          no, it was more of a "fast food" kinda chain sort of thing. exactly like starbucks, but for tea.

          1. re: ceeceee
            liu Jan 11, 2007 03:55 AM

            I think some of the coffee shops like Peets and Coffee Bean & Tea Leaf actually do offer some very good teas. My only problem with this is that the coffee odor overpowers the tea and I am not able to enjoy the more delicate tea tastes and aromas. I do wish they would house the tea under a separate roof!

      2. omotosando Jan 11, 2007 04:14 AM

        I remember getting good tea at the Four Seasons in New York. I remember being pleasantly surprised. Sumile in New York also has decent tea.

        As I put in another thread, surprisingly, at least a few years ago, the tea at Asiate at the Mandarin Oriental in New York was mediocre.

        No high-end non-Japanese restaurant in L.A. is resonating in memory at the moment for good tea. You can get decent tea at the Tea Garden on Beverly in West Hollywood, but then you have to contend with horrible pre-packaged food brought in from M Cafe (I know some people on this Board love M Cafe, but I am not one of them).

        And you know where I have had the best quality black tea (outside of my home) anywhere in the world? Yes, ironically, in Japan. Just drop into any decent looking tea salon in the Aoyama neighborhood of Tokyo.

        4 Replies
        1. re: omotosando
          krissywats Jan 11, 2007 05:03 PM

          The Four Seasons BETTER have good tea - they do high tea on the weekends.

          1. re: krissywats
            Low Country Jon Jan 11, 2007 07:59 PM

            Krissywats hits upon one way to scope out restaurants that serve good tea--the ones that actually have tea rooms or separate tea service. In my area (Charleston, SC), that means Charleston Grill and Woodlands Resort. They both serve the same teas at dinner that they do at afternoon tea. Makes sense. Now, since they serve their teas "English-style," they leave the leaves in the pot, so "stewing" is a definite possiblity if you don't act quickly. Sad that even places that serve high quality tea often don't know (or care) enough to remove the leaves from the water. Sigh.

            I appreciate this topic and am gratified to see so many tea lovers chime in. With the exceptions mentioned above, I seldom bother to order tea at restaurants. The dreaded phrase "assorted teas" on a menu is the kiss of death (by tea bag). Any place serving decent tea will most likely name them or at least say "loose leaf teas."

            Why do restaurants serve lousy tea? I think they serve what the market will bear. Most customers don't know any better. It's no surprise really. Friends and family know my wife and I are tea lovers and collectors, and what do they often give us as gifts? Bag tea. We try to be grateful. ;)

            One could go on at length about coffee vs. tea in America. I'll simply point out that there are many coffee aficionados who've never made their own cappuccino (espresso, whatever), but just about every tea aficionado makes his/her own tea at home and makes it well. Tea culture in America is growing from the ground up, whereas coffee culture has grown from top down, thanks largely to chains like Starbucks. As a result, I believe tea culture will grow more slowly and probably never rival coffee in popularity; on the other hand, I think tea culture tends to run deeper because it is typically something we cultivate at home and then take out into the world rather than something we take from the outside world and bring home in a paper cup with a cardboard ring.

            1. re: krissywats
              omotosando Jan 11, 2007 09:24 PM

              I'm talking about the Four Seasons restaurant on E. 52nd not the Four Seasons hotel on E. 57th. I wasn't aware the restaurant did high tea.

              1. re: omotosando
                krissywats Jan 11, 2007 10:12 PM

                Ah, my bad - I honestly don't know if the restaurant does high tea - the hotel does, though.

          2. t
            tomato Jan 11, 2007 04:51 AM

            Several years ago, I had an amazing cup of tea at Turkish Kitchen on Third Avenue in New York. It's weird, because I remember that the food was ok but not great, and I actually don't remember a single thing I ate; the only thing I remember is being so surprised by the tea. It was bright and delicious, and I feel like it was already sweet. They did the thing where they pour it from a giant teapot in a long stream from high up. I don't know how it is now because since I wasn't that into it otherwise I haven't been back there; but I actually have thought about going back just for the tea . . .

            18 Replies
            1. re: tomato
              liu Jan 11, 2007 05:01 AM

              I have had a similar experience at Amandine, an Asian bakery in West Los Angeles. Originally, I went for the pastry, which is delicious, but once I had a sip of their green tea, I didn't care much about the pastry. Now, I can go and sit and just have tea -- no pastry!

              Finally, I asked them if they would sell me a pound; they had no idea how to do that. Eventually, they did figure it out, and now they are happy to supply me whenever I run out. However, I can't quite duplicate their formula and it is not as good at my home as it is in their "house"...it might be that the tea mixes with the fragrance of their croissants!

              1. re: liu
                t
                tomato Jan 11, 2007 05:19 AM

                You are so lucky it's a bakery and you can just go have tea! Although it's nice that the pastry is tasty if you're in the mood ;) What kind of green tea is it? I drink it all the time at home, but I usually just get the no frills Temple of Heaven gunpowder stuff. If I buy it from someplace pretty good, I like sencha and grassy-tasting ones; also pearl with mint. I know what you mean about the at-home thing though; I think you might be right about the smell factor!

                1. re: tomato
                  liu Jan 11, 2007 04:08 PM

                  Hello, tomato! You made me laugh...try their green Dragonwell tea, hot, and let me know if it is completely satisfying and cancels the pastry cravings...or, complement it with just a little something sweet!

                  And if you haven't yet been, I highly recommend trying Paris Baguette (125 N. Western Ave. #323.467-0404) for their delicious pastry (my current favorite!) AND Jin's Patisserie (1202 Abbot Kinney in Venice #310.399-8801) for their amazing selection of good quality teas.

                  You say you like "sencha and grassy-tasting" teas. I recently just discovered the world of oolongs. Have you ever explored any of these? Some are too smoky for me, but the gentler ones are really smooth.

                  1. re: liu
                    t
                    tomato Jan 11, 2007 06:35 PM

                    I want Dragonwell tea but I live in New York! No Amandine for me any time soon . . . One of these days I will make it to LA and I will use your recs for a tea junket.

                    I've liked oolong when it's comes my way, like smokey tea, but never sought out the oolongs so will have to investigate . . .

                    1. re: tomato
                      omotosando Jan 11, 2007 10:10 PM

                      Actually as someone who lives in L.A., but who has spent a fair amount of time in NYC, I think you have much better tea options in NYC. For one thing, it's much more common to get good quality loose tea in high-end non-Asian restaurants in NYC than in L.A. (Only the Four Seasons restaurant is coming to mind at the moment, but I know there are others). And then you have Kai on Madison Avenue, my favorite place to while away the afternoon drinking tea . . . Ah, just the thought of it is making me want to jump on a plane! Also, while I love and mostly drink green tea, if memory serves, Kai also has black tea in the afternoons.

                      1. re: omotosando
                        Ruth Lafler Jan 11, 2007 10:22 PM

                        I think the Bay Area has a pretty good tea-drinking culture -- I think it's part of the hippie/organic/ingredient-centric aspects of the food culture. But tea service comparable in quality and sophistication to their coffee service is still far from the norm in "fine dining" restaurants.

                        1. re: omotosando
                          t
                          tomato Jan 12, 2007 02:50 AM

                          I'll have to take a trip to Kai, much closer than LA. I don't have any LA tea experience to compare, but next time I'm some place spectac in New York I'll see if they know how to make a cup of tea, because if I'm out for dinner at a really good restaurant, and perhaps this is *not* for the tea thread, I order cognac after dinner ;)

                          1. re: tomato
                            omotosando Jan 12, 2007 04:52 AM

                            I was also going to recommend Wild Lily Tea Room in West Chelsea, but I just checked on line and was very sad to read that they closed as of December 31, 2006. That used to be one of my favorite places to spend a snowy afternoon. Wonder why they closed?

                            Then there was Toroya, another great tea place on the Upper East Side that also closed. There also used to be a nice place, on W. 56th I believe - a six story or so mini-department store with a cafe on the top floor that served good tea, but they also closed (I see a trend here). Anyone remember that place?

                            Lady M Cake Boutique at 41 E. 78th St. has decent tea (and Japanese fantasies of Western cakes) - not top, top, but better than you will find most places, and served in fine china cups.

                            You used to be able to get matcha (at an exorbitant price) at Geisha near Barney's on the Upper East Side, but the service is erratic and it's a bit too much of an Upper East Side "hot spot" for my tastes.

                      2. re: liu
                        j
                        johnnypd Jan 18, 2007 08:32 AM

                        i didn't like jin so much. the tea i had was overboiled so stuck in my throat, yuck! no doubt its good tea but that means nothing if it is not prepared correctly. my gf's was the same. some of the cakes are very nice though.

                        Palais Des Thes in beverly hills carries a good, wide selection and friendly staff (gave us a free pack of blueberry rooibos).

                    2. re: liu
                      omotosando Jan 11, 2007 06:56 AM

                      Nice to know about Amandine. It is down the street from my office and I actually stopped in for the first time this weekend. It never occured to me that they might have good tea. But now that I think about it, the place does remind me of the Western-style pastry shops that you see in the Aoyama neighborhood of Tokyo where they always have excellent tea (except for the fact that you absolutely cannot get green tea in a Western-style pastry shop in Japan, only black tea).

                      1. re: omotosando
                        liu Jan 11, 2007 03:54 PM

                        Hi, omotosando! "...down the street from my office..." oooh, what a dangerous thing! I don't know if Amandine is the ultimate bakery...ok...it's not, but there is something really quite comfortable about it. (I love Paris Baguette on Western for their pastries!) And Amandine does have some very good croissants and others on the left side of the cash register.

                        The green tea that they serve is Xanadu Dragonwell; give it a try -- hot -- and let me know what you think. It is quite aromatic and delicate, and the color is heavenly. I also quite like the way they serve it.

                        1. re: liu
                          omotosando Jan 12, 2007 02:18 AM

                          Ah, deep deep disappointment. Had to go run an errand this afternoon and I thought, I'll stop at Amandine on the way back and get some tea. No time to sit there and drink and tea is never as good to go (you can't truly enjoy tea in a wax paper cup), but still, good tea in a wax paper cup is better than nothing.

                          Ordered some green tea to go. Man at counter put hot water from spigot into a paper cup and threw in a tea bag. My mouth dropped . . . "But, but," I stammered, "I thought you had loose tea." It turns out that they do not brew loose tea to go. I guess in retrospect I should have realized that it would have been asking way too much to have "real" tea to go.

                          So not a good day at Amandine. Plus I got a chicken sandwich to go, which I asked for without onions (to which I'm deathly allergic) and without mayonnaise (which I just don't like). Of course, the sandwich came with both onions and mayo (which I discovered when back at the office).

                          Screw-ups do happen, but together with the tea bag, I'm not a big Amandine fan today. Sorry for the rant!

                          1. re: omotosando
                            liu Jan 12, 2007 03:21 AM

                            Oooooooh, so sorry that the chow part of your day was not wonderful, as every morsel should be!

                            Do give the in-house green tea at Amandine another chance - a better day. While some of their bakery items aren't my favorites, I have heard that their almond croissants (would not be my pick) are quite delicious.

                            If you must run, ask for the tea in-house, and then when steeped to your perfection, transfer it yourself into something go-able; even a paper cup will work.

                            Have you had Jin's teas (Abbot Kinney in Venice)? I think she uses the teas from Palais des Thes in Beverly Hills. Her selection is really good, and she will help you choose something to your tastes. If you haven't been there, wait for a warm-ish day and sip outside.

                            I hope tomorrow is a better day for you, and just remember: you could live in Sweden!!!!!!!!! (I heard it from YOU!)

                    3. re: tomato
                      l
                      Loren3 Jan 11, 2007 04:52 PM

                      You can order Turkish, Irani, or other regional teas from either Uptons or Palais des Thes.

                      1. re: Loren3
                        liu Jan 11, 2007 05:06 PM

                        Palais des Thes in Beverly Hills is a wonderful place to spend an afternoon or three! This past summer they had a bar set-up, and we wandered in on a hot day and they served us iced tea that was fruity, but the taste was far surpassed by the color! I need mention, they did charge us for such service!

                        I have ordered from Upton's, the other place you mentioned. I also like Teance (in Berkeley, CA #510.524-1696) right now because I am trying some of their oolongs; my favorite is their Honey Dan Chong. There are quite a few other tea purveyors where you can purchase sample-size packets to try (1 or 2 ounces). I think this is a great way to expand one's tastes, and I usually find good suggestions when I call and talk with the particular tea company.

                        I do like your suggestions of Turkish and Irani teas...this reminds me that the options are almost endless!

                        1. re: Loren3
                          t
                          tomato Jan 11, 2007 06:27 PM

                          Cool, I just looked at their Web sites. Somebody once gave me Palais des Thes as a gift and I remember that it was v.good and wasn't just all about the a fancy box, the worst of the tea fallacies ;) I will have to revisit it!

                          1. re: tomato
                            liu Jan 11, 2007 06:35 PM

                            tomato, I can't tell from your profile what geography you are, but if you are ever in this part of town, the Palais des Thes store is worth the chase!

                            Meanwhile, there's an entire world of tea online. After I search, I usually call the store and talk at length to one of the sales people; I have found them to be extremely knowledgeable and they share my tea interest. Please do post when you find teas you love!

                            1. re: liu
                              t
                              tomato Jan 11, 2007 06:57 PM

                              I've been in a little bit of a tea rut, so hopefully that will be soon!

                      2. yayadave Jan 11, 2007 04:28 PM

                        I think there's a prejuduce against tea in America. It goes back to the tea in the Boston Harbor. That's why even restaurants that really care that every step of their food product is first rate and carefully thought about will give the back of their hand to tea service. No joke.

                        They tried to promote against it. Remember "Look at all those little old ladies.....?"

                        Drinkin' TEA?? Ain't MAN-ly, by gawg!!

                        10 Replies
                        1. re: yayadave
                          liu Jan 11, 2007 04:44 PM

                          yayadave -- I think you're right. There's just something askew and maybe even a little mysterious about ordering tea. I think it elicits a little fear in the person who has to prepare it, or maybe it's just not as easy as pouring a glass of juice or a cup of coffee. But making coffee is also an art and a skill, if done correctly, so I just don't quite understand the problem with serving good tea.

                          1. re: liu
                            yayadave Jan 11, 2007 05:08 PM

                            The problem is the attitude, the prejudice. No joke. If a restaurant can make good onion soup which is so difficult in its simplicity, then they certainly can make a decent cuppa, if they care to.

                            1. re: yayadave
                              liu Jan 11, 2007 05:12 PM

                              "The problem is the attitude, the prejudice." I think this is the result of fear. I think the solution is in the training. Back on topic: "Decent Cup of Tea in Even a High-End Spot" -- If the servers are PROPERLY trained to serve tea, the fears of inadequacy would disappear, and the mystery and 'tude would be gone! Perhaps????

                            2. re: liu
                              k
                              Kagey Jan 12, 2007 10:49 AM

                              I must say that I was gripped by fear when I first moved to England and started working in an office. The custom is that when you go to make yourself a cup, you have to offer to make everyone around you a cup as well. I thought they'd all be scrutinizing the Yank trying to make tea. Turns out that English people aren't all that picky. But it's amazing how many different requests you can get for tea with milk (with sugar, half a sugar, two sugars, without sugar, dark, medium, light, leave the bag in for 10 minutes, just dip the bag in the water...).

                              But I love this piece by George Orwell on making the perfect cup of tea: http://www.netcharles.com/orwell/essa...

                              1. re: Kagey
                                liu Jan 12, 2007 03:23 PM

                                Kagey - The George Orwell piece is wonderful: full of wisdom that still applies and very entertaining! I think it should be law that this piece gets taped on the wall of every establishment that serves tea, and that every employee should have to memorize it!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!! Thanks, Kagey, for sharing this. How did you come about finding it?

                                1. re: Kagey
                                  a
                                  allegro805 Jan 12, 2007 06:43 PM

                                  From my limited experience with a few British roommates, I'd agree that they're not as picky as you'd think -- most just used PG Tips bags or Ty-Phoo, both of which I find almost as bland as American Lipton. Not every Brit is brewing sublime pots of tea á la Buckingham Palace....

                              2. re: yayadave
                                n
                                nutrition Jan 11, 2007 09:32 PM

                                Tea consumption should improve with more educational strings like this one as people become aware of the damaging health effects of drinking the fancy coffees, that they are addicted to, now.
                                I was weaned to coffee and addicted for two thirds of my life. Tea always tasted bad, since it was strong black tea, usually of the Lipton variety! Most people think of that as the standard for what tea tastes like and reject it. Plus the coffee addiction seals the distaste for the bad tea, whereas Green teas will help the body detox the coffee oils in the tissues and improve the immune system and overall health.

                                1. re: nutrition
                                  a
                                  allegro805 Jan 11, 2007 09:35 PM

                                  "Nutrition" -- I'm not trying to incite animosity, but I'm bothered by your junk-science opinions such as "damaging health effects" of coffee. I enjoy both coffee and tea, I don't think chlorinated water is exactly killing people, and I guess I resent Chowhound being used to promote spurious health claims.

                                  1. re: allegro805
                                    n
                                    nutrition Jan 12, 2007 04:06 AM

                                    Trust me, they are not spurious claims nor junk science, and I am not taking advantage of Chow hounds. Liking the taste of something does not assure that it is healthy. Just a spurious review of the biochemistry of foods will make it very clear!

                                    1. re: allegro805
                                      welle Jan 12, 2007 01:34 PM

                                      second the notion!

                                2. h
                                  hilltowner Jan 11, 2007 05:14 PM

                                  Here's the thing about tea in restaurants. An excellent cup of tea requires a couple of things. First, you need to start with fresh water. Then you need to boil it. Then you need to preheat your preferably ceramic pot. Then you need to put the tea in the pot and cover it with the just boiled water and put a lid on it. The main problem in a restaurant is boiling the fresh water. That requires access to a tap as well as a burner. The tap is not usually the issue, but the burner is. Even if you use one of those electric pots, it takes up space for something that isn't ordered nearly as much as coffee. Also, the time required to put together a decent cup is also an issue. Also, ignorance.

                                  33 Replies
                                  1. re: hilltowner
                                    liu Jan 11, 2007 05:28 PM

                                    But haven't most restaurants "evolved" into dedicating a huge amount of precious space and expensive equipment for serving a cup of coffee? There is also a lot of training for one who can make a good latte, espresso, etc. I don't think tea is nearly as complex and artistic (there are no foam swirls on a cup of tea!), so long as one is trained and they have some simple water-heating equipment (there exist pots with temperature brains that will heat the water to an exact, specified temperature...not too difficult!) AND some good tea.

                                    1. re: liu
                                      yayadave Jan 11, 2007 05:42 PM

                                      They don't care about making good tea. They don't want to make good tea. They think there is something wrong with people who drink tea. Do you suppose that a restaurant that can make good escargots can not manage to make good tea, if they wanted to?

                                      1. re: yayadave
                                        liu Jan 11, 2007 05:49 PM

                                        yayadave -- I'm laughing! I love your spirit...we tea lovers, oh, we are so serious about our tea!!! And I think you have just said it all! They just don't wanna!

                                        1. re: liu
                                          yayadave Jan 11, 2007 05:57 PM

                                          Now ya' got it! And it is a shame, because there is so much variety of tea and tea service-ware that you would think a fine restaurant would love to show-off some of the elegant possibilities available. Did you not comment on the purple clay tea sets on another thread?

                                          1. re: yayadave
                                            liu Jan 11, 2007 06:07 PM

                                            I, too, read about the purple clay tea sets, but it wasn't I who posted.

                                            Regarding your point about fine restaurants wanting to show off their fine wares, it's similar to a sushi bar wanting to show off its toro ("Look at the best that we can buy!") or a fine restaurant displaying their wines. Oh, would I LOVE to see a restaurant displaying their teas and tea-ware -- as you have suggested!

                                            1. re: liu
                                              yayadave Jan 11, 2007 06:17 PM

                                              I had not known of these before. I found this site full of these fine pots.
                                              http://www.yixing.com/catalog/35/1/

                                              1. re: yayadave
                                                n
                                                nutrition Jan 11, 2007 09:12 PM

                                                I have used the #85 type Yixing teapot for several years.The short spout is less prone to break or lose heat It makes ONE mug at a time, and handy for several infustions without the leaves 'stewing in their own juices'! It has a 500 year or so history made by artisan potters from the special clay in the area! Believe it absorbs the oils, which give it a patina and adds some minerals to the brewing tea for a delightful taste. It has a built in strainer, ALSO! They really are a work of art and worth the price! It has NEVER been washed or touched by soap or detergents! Just rinsed in water. The used tea leaved are given to the garden, which it enjoys. Wiped with a towel TO polish the absorbed oils. The prices in the above website are very good!
                                                The one I have is 13 oz from www.specialteas.com , who has one of the best inventories of fresh teas, and are better then the tea leaves, I bought at a renowned Tea leave shop in Hong Kong at a higher rice. You will find all the Oolongs, Green, Rooibos, etc. teas. They are shipped in 1/4# resealable airtight bags, even if you order a pound.
                                                Incidently, we have a full house water filter system, which removes the CHLORINE and everything but the minerals. Tomorrow we will replace it with a NEWER updated filter system for the whole house, which will improve the quality of the water even more! it is better then Evian! :) More on this latter.

                                                Chlorine city water supplies is a toxin to the body, so it is not good for you to drink, shower or bath in, since we absorb it via the lungs and skin! NO Water Softeners or Reverse Osmosis permitted in this house! Let me know, if you want more details on this system to improve your HEALTH and Nutrition.

                                                1. re: nutrition
                                                  yayadave Jan 11, 2007 09:48 PM

                                                  If your #85 is anything like the #85 in the yixing.com website, it is exactly the clean, classic design that would fit in any restaurant for tea service. I don't see the price of these as prohibitive. You buy one once and keep it for years.

                                              2. re: liu
                                                yayadave Jan 11, 2007 06:21 PM

                                                Ah Ha! It was limster.

                                          2. re: yayadave
                                            Ruth Lafler Jan 11, 2007 06:47 PM

                                            So true, yayadave. It's not even that they don't serve good tea, it's the rather insulting way they do it.

                                            I hold a perpetual grudge against a top-tier SF restaurant -- the kind that boasts about serving the finest of everything and having impeccable service -- that served my tea by bringing a pot of hot water and then proffering -- with a flourish -- the ridiculous wooden presentation box of Stash tea bags. To a tea drinker, that's the equivalent of serving instant coffee, which no restaurant would dream of doing. To add further insult, when I asked the waiter to take my chosen tea back to the kitchen, put it in a pot and pour hot water over it (I hate dunking tea bags!), he flatly refused.

                                            It's bad enough that the tea service is awful, but the contempt for the customer displayed by having laughably bad tea service when everything else is top of the line is unforgivable.

                                            1. re: Ruth Lafler
                                              liu Jan 11, 2007 06:49 PM

                                              Ruth -- There is so much truth in what you say, and your story repeats itself many times, in many fine restaurants, with Stash or Liptons or Celestial Seasonings!

                                              1. re: Ruth Lafler
                                                yayadave Jan 11, 2007 07:48 PM

                                                Can you picture a little metal pot with warm water in it and a tag hanging out that says "Bigelow?"

                                                1. re: yayadave
                                                  liu Jan 11, 2007 07:53 PM

                                                  Sounds good...what kind? Are you faithful to Bigelow?

                                                  1. re: liu
                                                    yayadave Jan 11, 2007 07:59 PM

                                                    Ahhhh, liu, that was a wee bit of sarcasm there.

                                                    1. re: yayadave
                                                      liu Jan 11, 2007 08:04 PM

                                                      Oh, no -- NOT AT ALL...but thanks for calling me on it! Tea is like cheese or wine or ...there is no perfect one-size-fits-all! I am just really curious as to what teas others love and where they find them. I am always looking to increase my own tea vocabulary! Sorry, sorry if that sounded at all sarcastic...

                                                      1. re: liu
                                                        yayadave Jan 11, 2007 08:10 PM

                                                        No no, liu, not your comment, MINE. This will get confusing here, soon.

                                                  2. re: yayadave
                                                    Ruth Lafler Jan 11, 2007 08:39 PM

                                                    At least that wouldn't be pretentious! I really have trouble not bursting out laughing at those fancy wooden boxes of tea bags. Myabe next time I will laugh, and then call the manager over to explain why.

                                              2. re: liu
                                                welle Jan 11, 2007 05:57 PM

                                                I had read somewhere that tea is actually more labor-intensive for a restaurant than coffee. Take for example a basic diner: even as little as pouring hot water and opening and dumping a tea bag requires much more time than just pouring a ready pot of coffee. This is exactly why tea house chains will not take off as coffee shops - the profit margin would be too small. You cannot charge $4+ for a cup of tea - people's psyche is not there yet. I also think that a decent cup of tea is very affordable and easy to make at home (even you buy the highest grade tea leaves, and get the most expensive bone china teapot - just because you don't need an expensive equipment to heat the water to desired temp.), whereas a decent cup of say espresso, is hard to comeby without a commercial-grade espresso maker, or even regular drip coffee - my understanding is temperatures of the water passing trough coffee at coffee houses are beyond boiling. High marginability is probably the reason that coffee is a hotly traded commodity and tea is not.

                                                I only order tea after my meals at Persian or Turkish restaurants.

                                                1. re: welle
                                                  liu Jan 11, 2007 06:15 PM

                                                  "...just pouring a ready pot of coffee." This would not be acceptable in a fine restaurant, unless some amount of time and prep went into it; I am contrasting this with a Denny's-type pot of coffee. So, GOOD coffee does require a lot of prep., or very expensive equipment that will do it all for you. And tea is not about the tea bag (although I do admit that some companies are beginning to make whole-leaf tea bags). Steeping good quality loose-leaf tea in a proper vessel is not all that difficult. In fact, I am sure someone could design a piece of equipment that would do it all...but why do we only see coffee-preparing machines?

                                                  1. re: liu
                                                    welle Jan 11, 2007 06:23 PM

                                                    I just had Denny-type as an example. Even at fine establishments, a pot of coffee is easier to make than a pot of tea, and by a higher demand once-made pot will serve more people. Hence less labor.

                                                    1. re: liu
                                                      Ruth Lafler Jan 11, 2007 06:51 PM

                                                      I don't think it's that labor intensive -- there are restaurants that have good tea service: they use the various individual steeping pots that are widely available. I'm not talking about the kind of tea service you would get in a tea specialty shop, just good quality looseleaf tea, properly (not expertly) brewed. You boil water, put tea in pot, bring to table -- not that labor intensive. And since the demand for tea is not high, they can afford to invest in a few special pots. Per serving, good tea is much less expensive than coffee, so they're saving money there.

                                                      1. re: Ruth Lafler
                                                        liu Jan 11, 2007 07:39 PM

                                                        "...they can afford to invest in a few special pots" AND loose-leaf teas (widely available from many tea purveyors!).

                                                        And I wholly agree with you that this is not a difficult process!

                                                        Ruth, what kind of tea are you currently enjoying? Where do you buy it?

                                                        1. re: liu
                                                          Ruth Lafler Jan 11, 2007 08:32 PM

                                                          I'm actually kinda schizo on the whole tea thing. I really prefer black teas, but I'm also very caffiene sensitive, so I can't drink them in the evening or even, really, daily.

                                                          I'm afraid I got totally spoiled by a tin of Mariage Freres French Breakfast tea a friend gave me -- no other black tea has really satisfied me since. I haven't bought any for myself yet, but I see that day coming.

                                                          For drinking tea at the office I use a polymesh brew basket from the Republic of Tea and one of those oversized cups (a latte cup?). http://www.republicoftea.com/template...
                                                          I'm just not a fan of the tea bag in any form, or even of mesh balls -- they don't let the water circulate well enough. If I'm going to go to the trouble to brew loose tea, I'm going to let it be loose!

                                                          1. re: Ruth Lafler
                                                            yayadave Jan 11, 2007 08:35 PM

                                                            There is a tea press affair similar to a French press coffee maker. FWIW

                                                            1. re: yayadave
                                                              w
                                                              wonderwoman Jan 12, 2007 12:32 PM

                                                              at home i use an insulated french press from starbucks (oh, the irony:) it alows plenty of circulation, allows you to control the brewing time -- and it keeps the tea hot. perfect solution. and, they make a smaller, travel mug version.

                                                        2. re: Ruth Lafler
                                                          h
                                                          hilltowner Jan 12, 2007 03:24 AM

                                                          Um, it really IS labor intensive. What you see as simply "boil water, put tea in pot, bring to table" as easy, we servers see as "put water into boiling vessel, turn vessel on, prepare tea cup, prepare pot, measure out and deposit tea leaves, wait until water is done boiling, don't do anything else or water might overboil or vessel might turn off resulting in tepid water, pout boiling water into pot, deliver cup and pot to table.

                                                          For coffee - pour coffee into cup, deliver to table.

                                                          I'm not talking super high-end here; just good restaurant.

                                                          We have a joke where I work that tea should cost $5.00 due to the labor involved. We normally charge $2.00. And we do not even go through all of the steps I just described. We use tea bags and pour from a spigot. It still trumps any other beverage we sell, maybe except for cappucino.

                                                          I feel for you tea drinkers; I know how a good cup of tea can be, but in anything but a high-end restaurant, it just isn't practical.

                                                          1. re: hilltowner
                                                            Ruth Lafler Jan 12, 2007 03:44 AM

                                                            Your comparison doesn't make sense -- the coffee doesn't magically appear in the pot, does it? Someone makes it. Maybe not waitstaff, but someone is being paid to make it. So it's not really a cost of labor issue, it's an allocation of labor issue.

                                                            1. re: Ruth Lafler
                                                              h
                                                              hilltowner Jan 12, 2007 06:36 PM

                                                              The coffee is brewed by the large pot, not individual servings. That means every 15 cups or so, you have to press a button to make the beans grind and brew the pot. Also, while coffee is brewing, you are free to attend to other tasks.

                                                              Also, I never said it was a cost of labor issue. I said it was labor intensive, meaning that it takes up a large chunk of a servers time.

                                                              1. re: hilltowner
                                                                welle Jan 12, 2007 07:07 PM

                                                                Exactly, that was the point I was trying to make. And tea is not much less expensive than coffee. Coffee is a high profit margin product, and tea is not. Most restaurants probably get their coffee at wholesale prices, I just can't see any place ordering canisters and canisters of loose tea!

                                                            2. re: hilltowner
                                                              liu Jan 12, 2007 03:48 AM

                                                              Thanks, hilltowner, for your point of view as a server; this certainly gives us customers some pause.

                                                              "...but in anything but a high-end restaurant, it just isn't practical" -- I think one of the main complaints here on this post is that EVEN the high-end restaurants don't get it, and they don't do it!

                                                              1. re: hilltowner
                                                                omotosando Jan 12, 2007 04:23 AM

                                                                It used to drive some of my friends crazy in Japan where you went to a high-end restaurant and had to cook your own food (we're paying all this money and we have to cook it ourselves?), but perhaps that is the solution to the tea crisis.

                                                                Just have a special tea table or two with built-in device to boil water. Just bring us the darn pot, some water and tea leaves, and we'll do it ourselves.

                                                      2. re: hilltowner
                                                        a
                                                        allegro805 Jan 11, 2007 07:47 PM

                                                        In reading your reply, I realized that I don't think all of that is really necessary (especially not scalding a pot, etc.). I consider myself somewhat of a tea connoisseur (but not a snob), and I think I would be PERFECTLY HAPPY with just being offered a small variety of black tea blends, even if it was just prepared in a mug or a small pot with an individual mesh infuser (the "stick" kind rather than on a chain).

                                                        If Coffee Bean & Tea Leaf & Peets can manage to serve a decent cup of loose-leaf tea, it seems like a restaurant could manage it. Like you said, people have come to expect "decent" coffee and espresso at fine dining establishments. It wouldn't take much more space and effort to provide some good tea options. Maybe there hasn't been the outcry, or tea hasn't become "hot" yet. Do we see the "next big trend" on the horizon?

                                                        1. re: allegro805
                                                          liu Jan 11, 2007 07:58 PM

                                                          I am also quite happy to steep-it-myself. I could carry a strainer and some really good loose-leaf with me, and just ask for hot water, huh??! Why, I could even do that on a jet! How's that for a solution.

                                                          But there is something gracious and even eloquent about a restaurant providing the ceramics and the fine tea (maybe something that I don't have at home...novel idea, huh!).

                                                          "...on the horizon?" One can only dream...

                                                      3. liu Jan 11, 2007 05:53 PM

                                                        So, I pose the question to all of you tea lovers who have responded here: what do YOU do for a good cup of tea? Do you keep trying in the restaurants that you frequent? Do you order online? Do you visit the coffee/tea shops with high hopes? What do you do?

                                                        11 Replies
                                                        1. re: liu
                                                          f
                                                          fauchon Jan 11, 2007 06:18 PM

                                                          I've mostly given up on restaurants but order tea from several online purveyors...

                                                          www.uptontea.com

                                                          www.specialteas.com

                                                          www.harney.com

                                                          I also purchase tea in person at Takashimaya and Ito En in New York City...An electric kettle & a tea pot (or a tea filter if I'm making just one cup) is all it takes for wonderful tea...

                                                          1. re: fauchon
                                                            welle Jan 11, 2007 06:28 PM

                                                            "An electric kettle & a tea pot (or a tea filter if I'm making just one cup) is all it takes for wonderful tea..." That's exactly my point, when as to make a good cup of coffee you need to invest in pricey equipment. You can achieve a great cup of tea with higher grade leaves and some basic readily available home cookware, but you cannot say the same for coffee. So if I want a really good tea, I'd rather buy a bag of expensive tea and make it at home, rather than pay $5 for a so-so tea at a restaurant.

                                                            1. re: welle
                                                              liu Jan 11, 2007 06:36 PM

                                                              I so agree!

                                                              What higher grade leaves are you currently enjoying? Where do you buy them?

                                                              1. re: liu
                                                                a
                                                                allegro805 Jan 11, 2007 07:59 PM

                                                                I have a good tea and coffee purveyor in my town, so I'm lucky not to have to order online. I prefer their Yunnan, Keemun, and Assam. My basic "everyday" tea (which is sooo good) is "Lipton Green Label" -- a Darjeeling style, product of Canada, sold at a local Asian/imported food shop.

                                                                1. re: allegro805
                                                                  liu Jan 11, 2007 08:05 PM

                                                                  allegro805 -- thanks for this tip. I have seen the Lipton Green Label, and now I know that I should try it.

                                                                2. re: liu
                                                                  welle Jan 11, 2007 08:11 PM

                                                                  (blushing) I drink at leat 5-7 cups of tea per day so I just use regular teabags from chinese grocery stores (oolong or green), but when at home and not feeling lazy to get the tea pot out I have this really nice young oolong tea that I got in a specialty tea store in Beijing. It's nice and sweet, was expensive but so worth it! I also like white tea. For plain loose green tea, I like Gunpowder tea in green boxes - cheap but so good!

                                                              2. re: fauchon
                                                                liu Jan 11, 2007 07:46 PM

                                                                fauchon - You responded to a post that I made long ago (maybe with a different Chow handle before this new set-up -- in the days when we were paying for our subscriptions to ChowHound!) about finding good tea, and with some of your info, I have been enjoying tea from all three of these companies -- which gives me the opportunity here to say "thanks!"

                                                                As I mentioned above, if you haven't tried Teance, you might like their teas, especially their oolongs.

                                                                1. re: liu
                                                                  f
                                                                  fauchon Jan 11, 2007 08:26 PM

                                                                  I'm soooo pleased these worked out well for you. I will definitely try teance...which oolongs do you particularly like?

                                                                  BTW, I find tea filters indispensable. They make an excellent cup (or pot) of tea & are superior to tea balls which don't allow for enough water circulation. So easy to fill with your favorite tea & take to the office, a restaurant or wherever. Easy to clean up, too....simply discard when finished. An advantage over the permanent tea filters is that there's no risk of flavor carry-over when you switch from an oolong to an assam to a gyokuro...(I don't bother with the holder...I put a lid on my mug while the tea brews & the mug holds the filter in place)

                                                                  here's the upton link for the mug size filter...they also have a larger size for teapots ...

                                                                  http://www.uptontea.com/shopcart/item...

                                                                  1. re: fauchon
                                                                    liu Jan 12, 2007 12:20 AM

                                                                    fauchon - I just checked the filter bags on the link you provided, and now I remember that the first time I had seen these was when you told me about them way back some time ago. Since, I have an Upton catalog (what fun that is!) and I have seen them there as well. I also thank you for pointing out the advantage of "no flavor carry-over" of these paper filters over a strainer. Thanks...and you do assure me that the larger leaves have plenty of room to swim in these paper filters and they are not restricting?

                                                                    You asked me about my oolong favorites from Teance. Currently, my two favorites are Honey Dan Chong Oolong (sweet, honey tones - but no honey, of course - and dark color), and Cold Summit Tung Ting Oolong (very mild). I have ordered several more to try, and I am anxiously waiting for their arrival. I was advised to wait until Spring for some of their Japanese green teas.

                                                                    I used to exclusively drink high-end Japanese green teas: Gyokuro was a favorite, but I have now moved over to explore the oolongs and some of the Chinese green teas. By comparison to the Japanese green teas, the oolongs seem much more complex in flavor..just my two or three cents!

                                                                    If you are loyal, I don't want to change you, but I have found it very expanding to try the sample-size packets from many different companies; also, this way I don't get bored with the same tea. I drink it straight, so I guess it's not an awful habit!

                                                              3. re: liu
                                                                a
                                                                allegro805 Jan 11, 2007 07:55 PM

                                                                I enjoy coffee just as well, so I almost always will have coffee or an espresso drink in a restaurant (even at breakfast) just so I don't have to deal with the intolerable bland-as-can-be bag of American-blend Lipton (I find even generic brand bags way more flavorful than Lipton). Tea savoring is an at-home thing or done at "cafes" that serve a selection of looseleaf teas.

                                                                1. re: liu
                                                                  n
                                                                  nutrition Jan 11, 2007 09:51 PM

                                                                  Used to look at the teas in the various coffee bean shops, but just thought they were too expensive.
                                                                  Since, I learned of www.specialteas.com , there is no need to look elsewhere for home brewing. It is easier then making coffee. A couple of teaspoons in the pot will make several mugs throughout the day for pennies. Right now, I am enjoying a fine brew of TI KUAN YIN at $30.00 a 1/4 pound. ANd it is still cheaper then 4-5 mugs of coffee, which some people are drinking for energy, that is fleeting with a subsequent letdown, again.
                                                                  I have put large tea leaves like Jasmine into a cup and added hot water, as needed for a better cup, then most bags.
                                                                  Although I do carry Chinese Restauant, Oolong, or Green tea bags with me to nonasian restaurants to avoid their limited selections of black tea.
                                                                  For example, I asked to see the bag of green tea in a Pacific Rim type eatery. It was at least a 10 pound brown paper bag with the top rolled up. I asked how long they had it, but they didn't know. Nor was there a date on it. The aromatic oils were long gone. So I rather drink tea from my inexpensive Yamamoto teabags and am stocked for any travels on the planes, trains or the automobile. The car has a small tea bag cellar, also! :) I have also gotten paper cups of hot water at a burger shop, when I am driving a distance. It beats standing in line at a Charbuck's!

                                                                2. viperlush Jan 11, 2007 08:03 PM

                                                                  My SIL in the opposite. She never orders tea out because she will only drink Liptons and has yet to find a restaurant that serves it. My mother and I have given up on trying to get her to drink other tea and for Xmas got her a tin to carry around her tea bags in.

                                                                  People travel around with their favorite hot sauce in their purse, so why not their favorite tea?

                                                                  1 Reply
                                                                  1. re: viperlush
                                                                    liu Jan 11, 2007 08:11 PM

                                                                    "...in their purse..." I just recently read a post about people carrying their own pepper mills into a restaurant because they just don't get enough pepper when the server offers his token two grinds!

                                                                  2. a
                                                                    allegro805 Jan 11, 2007 08:49 PM

                                                                    This may sound déclassé to the rest of you aficionados, but I have to admit that the most common way I brew tea is bringing water to a boil in a saucepan, putting in the appropriate amount of loose tea, and simmering for about 5 minutes. I do not have time for all that business with a ceramic teapot, except maybe for Sunday breakfast.

                                                                    I know there's a conventional British-style wisdom that says "the water must be below boiling point", but isn't there a long tradition of Russian and Middle-Eastern "brewing" of tea over heat? I like my tea pretty strong, so I've never been one for the pale tea delicately steeped for 3 minutes or less.

                                                                    1 Reply
                                                                    1. re: allegro805
                                                                      Ruth Lafler Jan 11, 2007 08:54 PM

                                                                      If it works for you, then more power to you. I would never actually "simmer" the tea, though -- why not just turn the heat off and put the lid on? I think the purpose of the ceramic teapot is that the steam is captured and condenses, and so you retain some of the more delicate aromatics, but it's certainly not required!

                                                                    2. krissywats Jan 11, 2007 09:23 PM

                                                                      I know someone is going to balk at this but PF Changs serves Revolution Tea which is one of the best bagged options I've found. I discovered them at a specialty shop in Georgia and now order their Ginger Peach online. I had lunch one day at PF Changs and when I ordered the tea with my lunch my server couldn't believe when I said "Is this revolution tea?" at the time I couldn't find it to buy and he gave me a cup full of their pyramid bags to take home with me.

                                                                      I was impressed that a chain would serve great tea rather than going with Twinings or Lipton.

                                                                      1. s
                                                                        suse Jan 12, 2007 12:43 AM

                                                                        Funny that I happened to run into this post today. I ordered some tea at lunch today for the first time in a long time. Mistake. I'm not a tea snob, but the water has to be hot. That's the biggest problem - no one boils the water. And then the mug was huge and thick and certainly had not been pre-warmed, so the little bit of heat that was in the water to start with was absorbed by the mug immediately. Even with a good tea bag you can't get much flavor. I went home and made a nice cup of tea right after lunch. It's just so easy.

                                                                        1 Reply
                                                                        1. re: suse
                                                                          liu Jan 12, 2007 01:01 AM

                                                                          suse - You remind me of yet another water temperature problem. The restaurant serves you a thin-tin pitcher with hot water that will serve at least two cups of tea. You pour the first cup, and while you are drinking the first cup, the water in the tin pitcher is cooling and useless for the second cup. If they are going to serve you hot water, perhaps they should serve it on a heater or in a ceramic teapot that is made to hold the heat. And yet, some restaurants are very sensitive to the temperature of one's coffee: "Your cup is cold; do let me get you a fresh, hot refill!"

                                                                        2. whs Jan 12, 2007 12:52 AM

                                                                          Most of the high-end places we go to these days haul out a wooden chest with a huge selection of tea bags, from Earl Grey to the latest organic offering from a lonely tea bush on Maui. The problem is that they are all served with a not-very-hot pot of water and the results are never great. BTW, we brought back some tea from India--the first flush from a high-altitude plantation in Ootacamund in the Nilgiris. This stuff is BLACK--almost like drinking coffee. Great for breakfast.

                                                                          4 Replies
                                                                          1. re: whs
                                                                            liu Jan 12, 2007 01:03 AM

                                                                            Have you been able to find this very black Indian tea in the States or perhaps in an Indian market, or even online?

                                                                            1. re: liu
                                                                              whs Jan 12, 2007 06:18 PM

                                                                              Some online tea purveyors offer a selection of Indian teas--usually Darjeeling, Assam and occasionally Nilgiri. I'm guessing the Nilgiri teas come from around Ooty. I have to make a trip to my local Indian supermarket and check out the selection there, as we're getting to the bottom of the bag.

                                                                              1. re: liu
                                                                                a
                                                                                allegro805 Jan 12, 2007 06:41 PM

                                                                                My favorite black teas I tend to buy at an Asian/Imported foods market, all either come from Canada or Britain or are packaged for the Indian/South Asian audience. I would go that route. Certainly not as good as whs's fresh-from-the-plantation blend (jealous!), but definitely better than most anything you'll find. I've experimented a lot though -- even the blends packaged for the Asian market vary widely, and it's a matter of your personal taste.

                                                                                1. re: allegro805
                                                                                  whs Jan 15, 2007 01:37 PM

                                                                                  Uptons is a good online supplier. They feature an Oolong tea from Thailand. Here is their blurb: "Thai Oolongs rival the best oolongs from China and Taiwan in both taste and style. However, they are hardly known by tea connoisseurs. Tea production in the high mountains of Thailand was established in the 1980s by Chinese immigrants. What began as small economic activity has grown to a strong community of independent tea gardens. Select lots have been sold through some of the finest shops in Europe, and now this style of tea is being introduced in the U.S. tea market." There's one catch: $24 for 125 grams! http://www.uptontea.com/shopcart/home...

                                                                            2. omotosando Jan 12, 2007 02:52 AM

                                                                              I think we can all agree, as demonstrated in this thread, that the state of public tea culture in the U.S. is overall pathetic.

                                                                              I still marvel at how mediocre the tea was at Asiate at the Mandarin Oriental in New York (caveat - haven't been in a couple of years - perhaps it has improved). Here you have one of the most beautiful public places in the U.S. (and possibly in the world) and supposedly one of the best hotels in the U.S. And the tea is mediocre (albeit loose).

                                                                              If it's any consolation to all of us, I have heard the situation is even worse in Sweden (no personal knowledge).

                                                                              1. w
                                                                                wonderwoman Jan 12, 2007 04:02 AM

                                                                                so spoiled here in somerville (mass). within a mile-and-a-half of where i work and live, there are at least a half-dozen cafes that brewed high quality (mem) loose leaf teas.

                                                                                1. jbyoga Jan 12, 2007 04:13 AM

                                                                                  I've been enjoying a great tea I recently discovered...The Original Ceylon Tea Company - I've enjoyed everything I've tried by them - both loose and bagged...

                                                                                  4 Replies
                                                                                  1. re: jbyoga
                                                                                    liu Jan 12, 2007 04:33 AM

                                                                                    jbyoga - I just went to their website and I recognized the box immediately. Ceylon Tea is widely available in many of the supermarkets and specialty markets in my area of Southern California. However, most of the markets only carry a few selections, while the website shows many different varieties. Which have you tried that you would recommend? Have you also tried their iced tea? What other teas do you like -- which will help me determine if our tastes are similar. Thanks for the advice about this readily available product!

                                                                                    1. re: liu
                                                                                      jbyoga Jan 12, 2007 04:45 AM

                                                                                      I've only tried a few of the varieties....1001 nights (slightly raspberry flavored - didn't notice when I bought it and it grew on me actually)

                                                                                      Their green and the regular ceylon are all very yummy..they seal the inner bag in a very airtight foil and it is quality stuff for sure. Good luck and let us know what you find too!

                                                                                      1. re: jbyoga
                                                                                        liu Jan 12, 2007 05:01 AM

                                                                                        Thanks! I will try some of the less flavored ones.

                                                                                        1. re: liu
                                                                                          omotosando Jan 12, 2007 05:05 AM

                                                                                          Yeah, one of my pet peeves - flavored tea. If you have mediocre raw fish, you top it with a spicy sauce to hide the lack of quality. And if you have lackluster tea leaves, well, you add some flavoring and who will know.

                                                                                  2. f
                                                                                    Fleur Jan 12, 2007 07:52 AM

                                                                                    I can see from the length of this thread that I am not the only Tea lover in Chow Town.

                                                                                    I have stopped looking for really fine tea in restaurants. For me, tea is an afternoon or breakfast drink.

                                                                                    Now, I will have a cup, and drift off and dream of the ultimate tea-lover's heaven, MARIAGE FRERES in Paris. Their Black Tea perfumed with Bulgarian Rose is magnificent. I ran out quite a while ago.

                                                                                    7 Replies
                                                                                    1. re: Fleur
                                                                                      liu Jan 12, 2007 03:32 PM

                                                                                      Hello, Fleur! I have seen Mariage Freres tea mentioned on these boards many, many times. OK, I get the message: it's REALLY delicious tea! But where do we find it, short of a long flight to Paris? Is it order-able or find-able in the States? I am on the West Coast in Southern California, and I have never seen it on any specialty market shelves. Do you have any ideas?

                                                                                      1. re: liu
                                                                                        f
                                                                                        fauchon Jan 12, 2007 05:31 PM

                                                                                        I've seen Mariage Freres tea at Williams Sonoma but don't know if they still have it or if all stores carry it. Cultured Cup in Texas has a good selection...

                                                                                        http://www28.iwebcenters.com/cultured...

                                                                                        1. re: fauchon
                                                                                          liu Jan 12, 2007 08:16 PM

                                                                                          A huge thanks to you, fauchon! This is the most Mariage Freres tea I have seen in one place.

                                                                                          Now, I need YOUR input. I know you like good tea and I know from your posts that you are pretty serious about it. Do you think I will like Mariage Freres teas, and which one? My tastes are pretty much the Japanese and Chinese green teas, and now I am immensely enjoying the oolongs from Teance.

                                                                                          If I were to order just one bag of Mariage Freres to try it (only because there seems to be a cult for this tea! and I want to know what I am missing!), which one should I select?

                                                                                          1. re: liu
                                                                                            omotosando Jan 13, 2007 09:03 AM

                                                                                            Any opinions on marriage freres versus palais des thes? Where shall I invest my tea dollars? And should i bother getting green or oolong from either?

                                                                                            1. re: omotosando
                                                                                              l
                                                                                              LBeff Jan 13, 2007 07:38 PM

                                                                                              Why not both?! I could never limit myself to just one purveyor; too many interesting choices out there! I haven't had green or oolong from either place, but you could try getting similar tea from both places and comparing.

                                                                                              Palais des Thes has a great ordering system online; you can narrow down your choices by a number of different criteria, including country of origin, type of tea, type of leaves, price range, amount of caffeine, etc.You should be able to tell pretty accurately what you're getting.

                                                                                              The bags also tell you the same information, plus how long you should steep it and at what temperature.

                                                                                            2. re: liu
                                                                                              f
                                                                                              fauchon Jan 13, 2007 03:01 PM

                                                                                              There used to be a shop (now long gone) that sold Mariage & over the years I've drunk many of them here & in Paris. My favorite green was their gyokuro but I don't see that at Cultured Cup. I've enjoyed Eros & Marco Polo for black teas...Hard to say, tho, which ones you would like. Why not read the descriptions & just pick one that sounds good???? Just have fun with it!

                                                                                          2. re: liu
                                                                                            f
                                                                                            Fleur Jan 16, 2007 12:19 AM

                                                                                            There are many sources online for the tea. Their site is interesting, if you read French. The English version is under construction. http://www.mariagefreres.com/

                                                                                            If you Google "mariage freres" and there are lots of results.

                                                                                        2. s
                                                                                          suse Jan 12, 2007 12:19 PM

                                                                                          Anybody else on this post get Ahmad English Breakfast tea bags? Delicious.

                                                                                          2 Replies
                                                                                          1. re: suse
                                                                                            liu Jan 12, 2007 03:27 PM

                                                                                            I see the Ahmad brand at many small markets, especially the Middle Eastern markets. Is this the particular one you like, or are they all pretty good?

                                                                                            1. re: liu
                                                                                              s
                                                                                              suse Jan 15, 2007 01:15 PM

                                                                                              I like their English Breakfast. It's a step up from Twinings, I think, for a nice, basic cup of tea.

                                                                                          2. twiggles Jan 12, 2007 04:10 PM

                                                                                            some of the high end places i've been to have the problem of putting the tea straight into the pot, and not in a strainer. so as you continue to drink, it gets very bitter. I've eaten in many high end places in NYC, and the best tea selection was at Le Bernardin in NYC. they had very nice blends to choose from. I remember the tea service at Per Se was fine (good selection), but nothing incredible.

                                                                                            My favorite tea story is from restsaurant Daniel...i'm a big darjeeling tea drinker, and have made my own at home, sometimes using first flush, sometimes second flush. i know that the second flush is much darker than the first, and has a fuller flavor. so my husband and i order our tea, and it comes out in a nice pot, and the leaves have been removed which is good. but it is very, very dark. which is fine, but when we taste it- ooh!! so bitter, so acidic. i tell the waiter that we're sorry, but the tea is very bitter and seems to be oversteeped. he responds with 'excuse me madam, but this darjeeling is a second flush. perahps you are not familiar with it's deep flavor.' i couldn't believe that he gave me an answer. i just replied 'yes, i am very familiar with first and second flushes, and this tea is definitely oversteeped'. so they took it away (with some attitude) and didn't replace it. not the kind of service i expected there.

                                                                                            4 Replies
                                                                                            1. re: twiggles
                                                                                              Low Country Jon Jan 12, 2007 05:20 PM

                                                                                              I think your waiter moved to Charleston and tried to pass off a ruby port for a 20 year tawny at 39 Rue de Jean. When I called him on it, he argued that my wife and I must not be familiar with what a 20 year tawny tastes like. He offered to show us the bottle, but of course he returned empty handed. He removed the wine but only removed the charge off our bill when I insisted.

                                                                                              Anyway, twiggles, if you haven't already, definitely treat yourself and try a Darjeeling oolong sometime. Upton carries a couple on their site. It's possibly my favorite tea, possessing those famous muscatel notes of a good Darjeeling without any trace of bitterness, and it's ususally good for 3 or more infusions. It tends to be lighter than most black Darjeelings of course, but I have sampled certain harvests that could actually stand up to a splash of milk in the first infusion. Wonderful stuff.

                                                                                              1. re: Low Country Jon
                                                                                                twiggles Jan 12, 2007 05:39 PM

                                                                                                the Darjeeling oolong sounds wonderful, i will order some from upton very shortly! Thanks for the tip!

                                                                                                1. re: Low Country Jon
                                                                                                  liu Jan 12, 2007 08:18 PM

                                                                                                  I do agree that the Darjeerling oolong is a really smooth tea!

                                                                                                2. re: twiggles
                                                                                                  omotosando Jan 14, 2007 05:50 AM

                                                                                                  Sorry about your experience at Daniel. Very annoying to spend a lot of money for dinner and get that kind of rude treatment. Still, I must say I'm impressed that there is a restaurant that even attempts to serve a second flush darjeeling. Here, in L.A., I'd be shocked to find a waiter who even knew what a second flush darjeeling was. As the poster from San Francisco pointed out, here on the West Coast we mostly get that ridiculous wooden box that they bring out with great flourish and you get the dubious privilege of picking out your own tea bag to dunk in lukewarm water.

                                                                                                3. l
                                                                                                  LBeff Jan 12, 2007 05:43 PM

                                                                                                  I agree with the sad state of tea in fine (and not-so-fine) restaurants. My question is this: have any of us actually TOLD these restaurants that we would like proper tea service? It occurs to me that they might not realize there's a demand if we don't say something! Especially for after-dinner tea like some of you have mentioned. Just a thought that maybe we should take this bull by the horns.

                                                                                                  I am lucky to have a spouse who works in the specialty foods business, and we are never at a loss for loose tea samples from vendors and shows. Right now we've got teas in the house from Palais des Thes, Red Blossom (San Francisco), Harney & Sons, Rishi, Tao of Tea, Teance, and so many more I can't even begin to mention them all. Another one that we don't have right now that I'll mention is Silk Road Teas; their products are excellent.

                                                                                                  We've also got a stash of teas from the tea auction that was held at last year's World Tea Expo. I think they're mostly from Sri Lanka.

                                                                                                  I can't tolerate caffeine, to be honest, so I either decaffeinate teas myself (which is pretty easy if you don't mind the extra couple of minutes to dump out the first water and resteep the leaves), or stick to decaf bags like Barry's or Typhoo, which aren't bad.

                                                                                                  Anyone going to the World Tea Expo in Atlanta this summer? I'll be a speaker there (on public speaking for entrepreneurs).

                                                                                                  9 Replies
                                                                                                  1. re: LBeff
                                                                                                    krissywats Jan 12, 2007 06:06 PM

                                                                                                    It hadn't occurred to me - I typically say something when the teas is good but not when it's bad....Good proactive idea!

                                                                                                    1. re: LBeff
                                                                                                      welle Jan 12, 2007 07:11 PM

                                                                                                      To me the whole decaf tea is the same as decaf coffee - what's the point? Also, the antioxidant property of the tea drops significantly when you decaff it.

                                                                                                      1. re: welle
                                                                                                        l
                                                                                                        LBeff Jan 13, 2007 07:44 PM

                                                                                                        Well, I don't have a choice; I can't tolerate caffeine, so I do the best I can. I'm not drinking tea for antioxidant properties; I'm drinking it because I like it!

                                                                                                        Some teas don't decaffeinate well, it's true, but any tea that can stand up to multiple infusions is perfect for decaffeinating, because basically your second cup (and every one thereafter) is caffeine-free - but still tastes good. I'm on my fifth infusion of a Teance white tea, and it's just fine. My experience is that some greens, most oolongs, and some whites are good for multiple infusions, but black teas can only pull off two.

                                                                                                      2. re: LBeff
                                                                                                        liu Jan 12, 2007 08:21 PM

                                                                                                        I love the tea companies you mentioned: Red Blossom is a particular favorite, and right now I am enjoying some fresh oolongs from Teance. If I had to choose only one tea to have in my cabinet, it would be the Angel Peach green tea large artisan balls from Rishi!

                                                                                                        A special thanks to you for the mention of Silk Road teas...I will try them, and I will visit their website soon!

                                                                                                        1. re: liu
                                                                                                          l
                                                                                                          LBeff Jan 13, 2007 07:45 PM

                                                                                                          We had some Silk Road teas at the Expo last year that were really rare and spectacular. I don't know why I have yet to order from them!

                                                                                                          1. re: liu
                                                                                                            omotosando Jan 14, 2007 06:23 AM

                                                                                                            Thanks to liu for reminding me of Rishi Tea - it's been quite awhile since I ordered from them. I just put some Angel Peach tea balls into my shopping cart. The shopping "trip" was a little more expensive than I anticipated because Rishi has started carrying really nice teaware (I don't remember this in the past) and I couldn't resist a few pots, including a clay pot just for brewing oolong. Perhaps we should start a teaware thread.

                                                                                                            1. re: omotosando
                                                                                                              liu Jan 15, 2007 03:18 AM

                                                                                                              It's my greatest pleasure, omotosando, to recommend something that is my favorite! Have you had the Angel Peach balls before? I have a rather tall mug, so I place TWO balls in the cup and let it freely steep while I am sipping. When I finish it, I re-steep the same two balls for another 14-15 oz. cup.

                                                                                                              It is not a super-rich cup of tea, but it is just good. For something really different, I do suggest the Honey Dan Chong oolong tea from Teance; they just received a new shipment. I asked them if they could just pull the dump truck up my driveway and just dump the entire load! Yes, it is really good.

                                                                                                              1. re: liu
                                                                                                                omotosando Jan 15, 2007 03:54 AM

                                                                                                                No, I have never tried Angel Peach before and am looking forward to a new experience. Like another poster mentioned, I've gotten into a bit of tea rut, always drinking the same thing. It will be nice to try something new. The Honey Dan Chong oolong tea from Teance will be next - that's exactly why I ordered the pot from Rishi that it advertises is specifically for brewing oolong.

                                                                                                                And back to the initial thrust of this thread, I have decided I will be eating out less in 2007 specifically because it is almost impossible to get a decent cup of tea in public. Saturday I had a fleeting desire to go out for breakfast, but then I realized that there was no restaurant where I could both get breakfast and a cup of tea that would even be half as good as I could make in my own kitchen. On the bright side, if I slash my eating out budget, I'll have more money to buy that expensive oolong.

                                                                                                                1. re: omotosando
                                                                                                                  liu Jan 15, 2007 04:13 AM

                                                                                                                  I love your passion! I thought I was a little unreasonable because the tea is more important than the food, especially at breakfast or an early-day meal. I, too, would rather stay home where the tea is better!

                                                                                                                  But, uh-oh...now I'm worried that you might not like the Angel Peach because it is quite mild. I am pretty sure, however, that you will like the Honey Dan oolong. I can't wait until you try it; please do post after you give it a try! Be well!

                                                                                                        2. limster Jan 13, 2007 04:19 AM

                                                                                                          It's not unusual to get a reasonable tea list at some of the high-end Chinese places. I was reasonably satisfied by those at a number of places in the SF Bay Area, especially for dim sum.

                                                                                                          It's also worth looking for a serious eight treasure tea, typically served at Sichuan places -- the dried fruits and chrysanthemum add a good pinch of sweetness that pairs well against the spicy dishes of the cuisine. some places will have a special tea person that pours hot water from kettle with a long sprout, streaming several feet before hitting your tea bowl. Quite entertaining.

                                                                                                          2 Replies
                                                                                                          1. re: limster
                                                                                                            liu Jan 16, 2007 12:29 AM

                                                                                                            limster -- Tell me what I might be looking for while enjoying dim sum. Of course, we usually order the jasmine tea, but what else might be a little different?

                                                                                                            1. re: liu
                                                                                                              limster Jan 18, 2007 04:41 AM

                                                                                                              It's a matter of personal preference, but I generally go for pu-erh or Iron goddess of mercy/tie guan yin to cut the richness from the fried items.

                                                                                                          2. twodales Jan 14, 2007 06:34 AM

                                                                                                            When I do a roadtrip in the States I bring along my own tea bags. I DETEST Liptons and so many places offer it to you so I bring a little zip lock of something better. As a bog-standard tea I use Tetley's British Blend. They are round bags and rather strong. Makes a good basic cuppa. Usually, I mix black tea with Twinings Earl Grey.

                                                                                                            1 Reply
                                                                                                            1. re: twodales
                                                                                                              f
                                                                                                              Fleur Jan 16, 2007 12:21 AM

                                                                                                              Try Red Rose if you can find it. It is pretty good for a supermarket tea.

                                                                                                            2. a
                                                                                                              allegro805 Jan 16, 2007 05:23 PM

                                                                                                              Over the weekend the question occurred to me: What does one get if one orders a cuppa after dinner at a mid-priced restaurant in Britain? Teabags as well?

                                                                                                              1 Reply
                                                                                                              1. re: allegro805
                                                                                                                n
                                                                                                                nutrition Jan 18, 2007 09:05 AM

                                                                                                                The Brigatine has changed their menu in a good way. In fact, I had two of the better dinners there during Restaurant week. They have remodeled to go with the menu change with a longer more extensive bar menu, which is nice at reduced prices.

                                                                                                                I was offered a Green LEAVE triangle teabag by NOVUS at #2.99. Never saw this one before. I call that progress!

                                                                                                              Show Hidden Posts