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buying tea

  • t

I had a lovely experience driving down to SD to see the lady.

Highway's clogged up, I pull off in Fountain Valley. Just off the highway, in a little Sav-On mall, I find a pleasantly lit little store, a tea shop. Stop in and have a chat with the owner. Nice Taiwanese lady, doesn't speak English too well. Specializes in Chinese greens.

But she brewed me a beautiful pot - showed me the full formal Chinese ritual. A very different method from what I'm used to for green tea. More tea, multiple infusions, a washing of the tea, only one minute infusions. Beautiful tea - more astringent than I'm used too, but very flavorful. Also chatted about the differences between various forms of tea.

I'll look up the name when I'm at home if anyone really wants it. Ten Li or something like that.

Anyway - question. Where to buy good tea in the Los Angeles area? This tea shop is nice, but it's in the south of OC, for god's sake.

I've raised this once before. Some people recommended Upton, via the web, but I really like to sit and chat about the teas that the vendor really knows, and smell them, etc.

Some people sent me to Chado by the Beverly Center Mall. I had very good luck at Chado with Indian teas, but found their Chinese and Japanese tea selection lacking. With the assams and the darjeelings and the nilgiris, Chado had it down to different pickings, different estates. And those teas were really excellent. But with Chinese and Japanese teas, they didn't have the fine-grain knowledge or selection, and the teas weren't as really dead-on good.

So - good places for specialists in Chinese or Japanese teas?


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  1. m
    More of Everything

    Honestly, I know very little abou tea, but I bought my girlfriend some tea recently at Elixir, on Melrose across from the Pacific Design. I pretty much put myself in the hands of the people there, and after tasting some of their tea, I really liked it. I had this one tea made with flowers that was really soothing. They also seem to have a large selection.

    They even have a Japaneese garden for sitting and drinking your tea. This might be what you're looking for.

    1 Reply
    1. re: More of Everything

      I usually drink assam but for years I have bought all my teas from Upton Tea, and have been very pleased. They now have a web site: uptontea.com.

    2. while living in NYC, i used to buy my tea at Ten Ren. when i moved back home to L.A., i found out that Ten Ren is a pretty big chain, with locations in major metro areas. now i hit their store in Monterey Park.

      there is a location in Anaheim - any chance that was the location you visited?

      Link: http://tenren.com/unstatstorlo.html

      1 Reply
      1. re: Joe Blowe

        No, I know of Ten Ren. The place I went to wasn't it. I find their selection good, but the vendors have been, at every location I've been, unwilling to discuss teas. Nice thing about the tea place in Fountain Valley, and, say, my favorite tea place ever - Tea Luxe in Harvard Square - was that the proprieters knew a crapload about their teas, and were willing to talk.


      2. Like More of Everything said, Elixer has a lovely selection of teas. Oddly, the other place I like to go for EXPENSIVE teas is The Wine House at 2311 Cotner. They have a side gourmet shop that carries some amazing products.

        1. Hugo's...the in Sherman Oaks in on Riverside & Coldwater...can be quite pricey.

          1. There was a place in Chinatown, long gone, that had imports from the mainland, and four different grades of longjing(dragonwell) tea. The most expensive was something like $27 per container.

            So where can I get high high grade longjing tea, and does anyone know where I can get high grade BiLuoChun tea?

            Thi, you were lucky. When I was around Harvard Sq. the only place that sold decent tea was cardullo's.

            1 Reply
            1. re: Jerome


              If you're ever in Harvard Square again (and are looking for tea), check out Tea Luxe -- a great store with an extremely wide variety of teas. Monk's blend is one of my favs with grenadine and vanilla. The website has a complete list.

              Link: http://www.tealuxe.com

            2. In addition to making some strong coffee, Peet's (San Vicente in Brentwood) has wonderful teas including excellent Chinese green teas like ming mei and Ti Kwan Yin and a lovely superior Assam.

              You can order any of them by the cup, but beware that the counter people are trained in espresso and may oversteep.

              Not cheap especially the specialty teas from Darjeeling, but easy to find. The Peet's website is a good resource too.

              1. the method of tea brewing you were shown is called "gongfu"--lots of tea, short brewing time, multiple infusions, small cupfulls at a time. i learned this style from the proprietor of far leaves tea in oakland. their website has lots of information about gongfu tea. i haven't been able to find any similar place in southern california, but you can buy their tea online.

                Link: http://www.farleaves.com