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Jin Patisserie - Very Disappointing - The Search For A Decent Cup Of Tea In Los Angeles Continues

I have been reading effusive articles about Jin on Abbott Kinney ever since they opened (boy, they must have a good p.r. firm). I've wanted to try it forever, but I just never get to Venice.

Today, I needed car work and my mechanic is in Venice, so I thought Jin would be a perfect place to spend a few hours while I waited for my car.

Ordered the quiche set, which included salad, slice of quiche, pot of tea and dessert. $16. Quiche okay, but not great (more like a frittata than a true quiche - if you want a great quiche, go to Cafe Midi on La Brea - French-owned and the best quiche I've had in L.A.) Salad fine.

The real disappointment was the jasmine tea. They bring you a pot with no leaves, so I was wondering if they actually just stick the hot water in the pot, dunk in a tea bag, take out the tea bag and bring you the pot of tea. I'm really not sure since they sell loose tea from Palais des Thes, but perhaps they actually serve bagged tea, not the stuff they sell. All I know is that this was not good jasmine tea - either the tea quality was inferior or they don't know how to brew tea. Very, very disappointing.

I didn't particularly care for the dessert either, but don't want to judge that since it was gooey-creamy and I prefer a different style of dessert (They only have gooey-creamy cakes, not the drier style I prefer).

Still had over a hour to kill while the mechanic worked on the car, so I thought I would order a second pot of tea in the hope that the first mediocre pot was an aberration. This time I ordered mint tea, which the menu implied actually had real mint leaves (a pot of good quality tea, with real mint leaves floating in it - usually only found at Middle Eastern or North African restaurants - is a thing of joy). This mint tea had no mint leaves and was as mediocre as the jasmine.

I had read so much about Jin's chocolates that I wanted to try them and ordered two small pieces (at $2 a pop) to go with the second pot of tea. One was cinnamon infused, which I just didn't like - the flavors didn't work. The other had green tea in it - it was okay, but nothing I would dream about.

Total bill for lunch for one was $26.95 before tip. I would not return.

Apart from a really good Japanese restaurant or the Tea Garden in West Hollywood or my own kitchen, I find that it is virtually impossible to get a good cup of tea in this town.

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  1. Oh! I am so sorry to hear about your disappointing experience at Jin's, especially since it was I who encouraged you to try it.

    We had afternoon tea there a few months back and found it to be superior. When we ordered, they spent some time asking us what we like in teas, and really made an effort to find something to fit each of our tastes; yes, we each had a different kind, and there were three of us. I just can't believe that your experience was anything inferior...too bad, and my apologies to encouraging you in that direction.

    Meanwhile, still on the subject of brewing tea, I ordered the Gongfu pot from Gongfu Tea, and although I am reluctant to recommend anything to you (!!!!), it is a really fun way to brew tea. Check out the post on the Cookware Board about the brewing basket...if you trust me! http://www.chowhound.com/topics/360379

    1. If you like fresh mint tea I recommend the fresh mint tisane at BLD on Beverly Blvd. Their tea and coffee service are both good. The press pots they use are super cool. I haven't seen them used anywhere else in town at this point.

      I have not had a bad experience with the teas at JIN PATISSERIE. In fact, I really appreciate that they steep it for you so it doesn't become too strong if you leave the tea in longer than you should. Their hot chocolate is wonderful also.

      1. i've had similar experiences at Jin. the tea was terrible, something wrong with the water that made it "hard", while the flavour was very lacking. i had a millefeuille type cake that i thought was pretty good at first, but then realised the cream had totally seeped into the pastry leading to some congealed mushy crap, didn't finish that. the 2nd time i went we skipped the cakes and got macaroons and chocolates - macs were pretty good, chocolates forgettable. the little outdoor area also has some serious feng shui type issues, very bad vibes and claustraphobic. also dont appreciate sitting on an extended family of ants!

        1 Reply
        1. re: missholmes

          I'm glad it's not just me with the tea. I know I have some pretty high standards when it comes to tea, but I don't think my standards are impossible. I also agree that the place has some serious feng shui issues.

          As I said, I had been reading about this place for years (again, they must have a seriously good p.r. firm) and after all the hype, it was a real disappointment. But hat's off to their p.r. firm.

        2. the last time i went (had the concubine tea- AMAZING flavor), i didn't find the tea hot enough. i wished they gave an option whether to have the tea pre-steeped or not.

          1. I am on the other end of the dessert spectrum, since I prefer soft custards and delicate mousses and take a pass on hard-crust pies and cookies. That's probably I love Jin's cakes, they have intense flavors and less sugar piled on than most dessert shops (like Sweet Lady Jane).

            Their chocolates are best if you pick a deep flavor such as the mango kalamansi, as the tea-flavored variants are probably too subtle. Plain coffee probably complements the chocolates better than tea, in my opinion. :)

            1 Reply
            1. re: WBGuy

              I'm in full agreement.

              Tea flavors are, in my opinion, terribly difficult to reproduce in truffles-- they're simply too delicate a flavor to work with most chocolates (maybe white, but that doesn't really involve cacao).

              I plan on going on Thursday!

            2. Not sure exactly what you're looking for but I suggest Susina on Beverly for tea and dessert. Although somewhat limited in tea selection, they have nice quality, served in french presses and certainly with leaves.

              There is also the English Tea place on 2nd St at Santa Monica which is, well, English like. And I remember liking Chado Tea room although its been awhile.

              2 Replies
              1. re: Food Good

                What I am looking for is the quallity of tea that you get in a place like Kai or Lady M in New York or at practically any nice Western-style pastry shop in Tokyo. The founder of Jin claims on her website that it was her travels to Japan that inspired Jin, but the place is a pale imitation of any good place to get tea in Tokyo.

                1. re: Food Good

                  I didn't like Chado. They make their teas the way Dennys make their coffee. Watery and weak. Could have been an off day, but I've never been back since.

                2. I am wondering why you did not discuss these problems with the the server of the teas. Or ask how they made them, etc, since there were so much wrong with them as you saw it.
                  There is little question in my mind, that they would have made it to order of let you prepare it to your satisfaction.

                  2 Replies
                  1. re: nutrition

                    Well, first it was a chore to even find someone to take my order. Second, the teaware wasn't high quality, so that was one clue that the tea wasn't going to be the best. It's kind of like when I go to a sushi bar and get mediocre fish - I don't discuss with the sushi chef why they don't serve higher-grade fish. I just figure they are catering to a specific market and I don't go back.

                    It's interesting that Jin has a wide selection of tea and they are all the same price. But when you go to a tea shop, everything isn't the same price. There is no apparent option to get really high-grade tea at Jin. Sort of if you went into a restaurant and were told that every single bottle of wine was $25 - we only serve $25 bottles of wine here and nothing else. And also perhaps with Jin's relatively wide selection, their tea isn't the freshest. (If you only have one choice in each varietal, the tea is probably not going to sit around as long before you sell it.) I distinctly remember going to dinner a few years ago at the Four Seasons restaurant in New York and being shocked at how good the tea was. They didn't have 20 different kinds to pick from, only 2 or 3 if I recall (and all the tea was the same price), but what they had was really good.

                    I assume that the people at Jin are just not that knowledgeable about tea, or they do not believe that they have the demographic that can support seriously good tea.

                    1. re: omotosando

                      I have never been to Jin and have only read about it, so this is just a spectator's perception...
                      Since the name of the establishment is Jin Patisserie, I would imagine that Jin is focusing on the pastries/baked goods of its menu. My first impression of hearing Jin Patisserie in passing would be "ah ha, that's a place that possibly has great sweets." Personally, I've been looking forward to trying Jin Patisserie and still am, but only because I'm interested in their baked goods... a cup of tea would be nice too.
                      So I think you're right in part; Jin is probably not catering to a demographic looking for high quality teas, but rather one that is interested in pastries and a complementing beverage. Maybe the people at Jin think this is a wider and easier group to target and attract? In any case, it's a business and there are any number of reasons for doing what they do.
                      I have no other suggestions for you regarding places to find excellent tea, but there are several posts so far by others so I'll be quiet now! Hope you find a great place that suits your taste!

                  2. green tea terrace has a pretty good green tea selection.

                    1 Reply
                    1. re: greengelato

                      The problem with Green Tea Terrace is that they only serve tea in wax paper cups. I had a $5.50 cup of sencha there and I think it was probably decent quality sencha, but nothing tastes really good in a wax paper cup. I was kind of shocked that for $5.50 they didn't even have cheap mugs. Guess they don't want to be bothered washing anything.

                    2. I completely agree with your dismay about Jin Patisserie -- and also the assessment that it is probably pastries that is the focus. I think some of their cakes are excellent but the patio is a charicature of absurd -- dry burned out quasi-dead non-native silly plants in a parched front yard with nasty rakes and cobwebs littering the (visble) side yard; dirty, no help present, wobbly tables, uncomfortable seating cramed in on top of one another: the ambience is just *bizarre*.

                      As was my most recent experience there: it was really nightmarish. I thought I was going to be arrested. I walked in thinking to bring seven fancy pastries to family on the east coast; I brought a cooler and a ton of money. I ended up racking up a nearly hundred-dollar bill. I asked whether they had a menu to take or something with some explanation of the cakes I was buying. I received the most nasty and hostile answer; I can't tell you how uncomfortable it was, only it got worse -- later on the server accused me of *stealing a menu*?!?!!! I swear he would have spit and grilled me if possible. It was so bizarre. I thought he was going to call the police. It was just amazing. Needless to say I won't be back *there*! The owner came out and refunded my money for the cakes I'd been waiting for for nearly an hour, only then I thought "wait, this is cutting off my face to spite my nose -- I came all the way here and waited all this time and spent all this money becuase I *wanted* the cakes?!" -- so she recharged me, no police ever materialized, I walked away with my cakes eventually and man, poor feng shui vibes is only just the beginning of it (which I'm not exactly sure about the particulars of but I get the gist I think).

                      Oh, and I agree the tea was entirely undistinguished. Honestly, it just isn't very hard to make good tea. Boil water. Make sure it is boiling. With bubbles. Swirl boiling water in pot to heat it; dump out. Add leaves; wet with *boiling* water, then dump in the rest of the water. Let steep. Not rocket science. Also not worth the price charged!

                      Wild horses could not brag me back there for any amount of money and I would dearly love to discourage any and every living breathing human being from so-abstaining. I haven't begun to do justice to the weird menu-stealing-accusation scene. It was horrifying and my stomach is still aquiver with the thought of it. It felt a lot closer to Kung Fu movies than refined tea service.

                      6 Replies
                      1. re: aliris

                        All I can say is, wow. Thankfully, I only got mediocre tea - nothing that bad. But the idea that someone posted about why I didn't ask raise the issue of my tea with the staff is laughable in light of the place. For servers, we are talking about ditsy and distracted 19 and 20 year old girls the day I went.

                        1. re: aliris

                          I have to disagree with you about making good tea. If you're working with Lipton's, sure, just boil it to death. However if you're going to make gyokuro for example, you're going to burn the leaves doing it like that. Green teas are usually best made with water that's pre-boiling, around 150F.

                          That aside, while I still defend Jin's cakes (I don't think they have many pastries) they should know their teas better. It's a waste of their Palais des Thes teas if they don't brew it properly. And there's no excuse for rudeness.

                          1. re: WBGuy

                            That's interesting! I really didn't know there was a preferential way of brewing different teas but I could believe it -- I guess. That is, it would be fun to try and compare. Just for the record, I wasn't suggesting you actually boil the tea in the boiling water, just that the water you pour over the tea leaves have been itself boiling moments earlier. So its temp would be just below boiling and getting cooler, rather than the whole mash at boiling and getting hotter.

                            Anyway, you probably knew that and are refering to a different paradigm. I admit to thinking really only about "black"/assam/darjeeling -- "English"(read: Indian)-type teas.

                            I would imagine common to brewing both even should it be true that initial water brewing temperature should be variable, should be -- critically! -- that the (china) pot itself has been heated with truly *boiling* water. That's probably the step where most commercial establishments slip up.

                            Hope this isn't straying too far from restaurant chatter for this board. I should read the posting rules one of these days...

                            1. re: aliris

                              WBGuy knows his green tea - it's not a fermented tea like the black varieties - doesn't hold up well to heat, and gets very bitter when brewed even slightly longer than a what would be a few dips with the strainer, and/or if the water is too hot. Try brewing green tea in any respectable Japanese household by boiling the water and letting the leaves sit for too long, and you will be immediately banished - okay, maybe just corrected for wasting good tea.

                              Kristy makes her cakes, chocolates and cookies in such a way that they are definitely different from just about anything you'll get elsewhere and that they are almost like little works of art. Sometimes she hits the mark, and of course, sometimes her products may not appeal to everybody. Keep in mind that she is from Singapore - a place where so many of the ingredients that are commonly used there are so much more varied and probably rarely heard of over here. Mention pandan or durian to her and she will think of home immediately. I find that her combination of tastes are so entertaining and different that my tastebuds are working overtime just to figure out what those desserts might taste like just by reading the descriptions. Never actually sat down and ate a set meal there so I couldn't comment on that.

                              As for the service issue, I think they could use a few lessons on warming up to customers.

                          2. re: aliris

                            I totally agree with you on the ambience -- that patio looks like crap, imo. Uncomfortable, noisy, just not not my style. I do like her cakes, but are the pastry cases still constantly fogged up with moisture dripping down the interior of the glass? Ick. Afternoon tea was overall disappointing.

                            Personally, I've only gotten a good cup of tea in really high end restaurants (like the French Laundry or El Bulli). I'm not a tea fan, though, and don't seek it out.

                            1. re: emily

                              I always wondered where I had to go to get a good cup of tea outside of a high-end Asian restaurant. Now, I know. It's either to Spain or Napa Valley (assuming I could get a reservation, which I can't)! I guess that's why we have kitchens - so we can brew our own tea.

                          3. I live a few blocks from Jin's but have never stopped in until last week. My sister-in-law (a chef from the Midwest) was visiting so we went for a walk to check it out. I remember the fun place Jin's replaced, the Hydrant Cafe that was a coffee shop and doggie hangout. It was a very cold day, so we didn't feel like sitting down to eat. We went inside to look at the minimalist cake selection, the six slices on display for the day. We only picked out one to try. It was a chocolate cake with rum soaked fruit. My sister-in-law thought the chocolate was very good but the fruit seemed to be those nasty red and green things used in Christmas fruit cakes. I had to spit them out. They did put the cake in a lovely box tho.

                            1. I realize this is the LA board but we just returned from the Fancy Food Show in SF and searching out every chocolate and tea shop we could find.

                              In Berkeley, where the fun shopping is on 4th street, there is an amazing place called Teance. It is Asian in style and they have a beautiful custom made tea bar with a tea barista or what ever you would call him, brewing samples. It was quite interesting.
                              They carry lots of private lable teas with notes and details about them.
                              They had little hand outs about how to brew properly, even a DVD.

                              I thought it was just a shop and then was surprised to see them at the show, so they do sell wholesale. They must have some avalible in LA somewhere or you can order off the web site.
                              teance.com

                              I was also underwhelmed when I finally made it to Jin. Too much gelatine in the desserts.
                              Loved the chocolates we had but did not stay for tea.

                              2 Replies
                              1. re: Got Cake

                                Hello, Got Cake! I am so glad to see confirmation of what I already know!

                                To date, I have ordered from various tea purveyors, geography not a concern; these include Upton, Rishi, Red Blossom, Gong Fu, Cultured Cup, Special Teas and Harney and Sons. Just recently, someone on ChowHound turned me on to Teance. These are some of the best of the bunch. Of course, not all that I have tried from there are to my tastes, and I do have a few favorites from some other stores, but in general these are very fine teas that Teance offers. I have tried more than a few dozens from there, and some of them are divine, with wonderful color, heavenly aromas, and complex taste.

                                Thanks for your vote!

                                1. re: liu

                                  I literally swooned at the Harney & Sons booth.
                                  After trying everything at the show we decided we will be carrying their individually wrapped bags at our bakery since we don't have any tables to do a proper tea pot and tea service.
                                  Yummy! There are very passionate about their tea, it was fun talking to them.

                              2. I normally like this place but I had a problem last summer with the tea service. I was meeting a large group of people there and half of us got there on time and the other half were lost. While waiting for them the girl next to me asked me if I wanted to split a pot of tea with her and I said yes. Later, when we ordered, both of our dishes came with pots of tea, hers a large pot, and mine a small pot.

                                I was not brought a small pot of tea and on top of that I was charged an additional $2 for sharing her tea. Huh? I had to fight that charge when I feel that 1. They should have taken it off immediately when I explained the situation to them; and 2. They should have never charged me $2 in the first place!

                                After they took off the $2 we were still hanging around and I asked for some hot water for the last of my tea (which was cold) and they nearly had a heart attack because they assumed that I was asking for more tea; again, I had to explain in great detail what I wanted and how I wasn't trying to pull something over on them.

                                Lesson: never deviate from the menu!

                                http://myculinaryadventures.blogspot.com

                                1. I've never had a major problem here either, so sorry to hear about your experience. The teas served at Jin are loose-leaf, but they take the strainer out before serving to avoid overbrewing. I am not a jasmine fan so I don't know (maybe Les Palais des Thes really makes disgusting jasmine varieties) but overall I liked the teas I got at Jin (usually scented black/green varieties), noticeable but subtle.

                                  ~AquaW
                                  http://la-oc-foodie.blogspot.com

                                  1. Have had 'average' meal there. I do wish they had a water filter :( That is my suggestion for all restaurants.

                                    CatHair

                                    1. I finally was on the westside and decided to give it a go.

                                      Stepping into the low-key hidden residential turned eatery was interesting. I was expecting the patio furniture to be a little higher quality than Ikea.

                                      The decor was dingy, the plants and bamboo were not maintained well and the chairs were cheap. Their heaters were malfunctioning as well. and it is not pleasant to have two changed next to you (do it before you open).

                                      It seemed like 15-20 min before a waiter" came and took our order. I got the quiche lunch set and a double espresso, my friend got the scones and tea--and two waters. It was another 15-20 to get our drinks + food and had to remind them of our water.

                                      When billed, they double billed us for two quiche sets instead of one also. We had to ask for the bill 3 times in a 10 min. time span. Not to mention their price raised on the quiche.

                                      ...but it was entirely tasty and delicious. Will I ever go back? Perhaps for the novelty but hopefully someone will take this keen idea and actually execute it in a superior and tasteful way, not half ass and trying to save a buck on the decor and staff.

                                      1. I just tried one of their pastries with passion fruit mousse and mango chunks -- quite tasty. I'm also assured it was quite beautiful to behold before getting squashed during the journey in the car.

                                        1. It's been mentioned before on this board, but if you're still looking for tea, try Funnel Mill at 930 Broadway in Santa Monica: http://www.funnelmill.com/

                                          1 Reply
                                          1. i too had a very mediocre experiece at jin last summer. the tea was like lukewarm brown water. although the cakes looked beautiful, and perhaps at one point they tasted good, by the time we got to them they had taken on the taste of the fridge like all fats do if they're not properly stored. we had eaten half of each the cakes and at this point didn't feel we should ask to return them. instead we told the server the cakes tasted old and he just shrugged mainly b/c he barely spoke english. he wasn't the official server and he was doubling as the busboy all by himself. poor guy was running all over the place.

                                            if someone can recreate the cakes and teas like lady M in LA please let me know. although i find lady m to be pretty ostentatious they do serve a nice tea and that crepe cake is expensive but worth every bite.