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Japanese tea: where to buy the best leaves in LA?

I'm familiar with tea sold at markets like Nijiya, Mitsuya etc, I am also familiar with Lupicia in Century City. None carry the quality I remember even in a neighborhood store in Tokyo let alone the fancier ones in Kyoto (such as Ippodo).

On this board I've seen references to Haru in Encino - but that's the only one (and a bit of a trek from the west side).

How come it is so much easier to find great Chinese and Taiwanese tea in specialty tea shops in LA but not so for Japanese tea?.... Perhaps - as with any other precious product - the good stuff is kept for local consumption. Still....

I'm thinking that now is a good time to look for shincha, (the new - spring - tea), which should be getting to our shores about now - allowing for a two week delay from the Japanese "season".
Any suggestions?

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  1. There's a tea stand in the huge Torrance Mitsuwa that seems to have a pretty big selection. They also make really tasty macha iced green teas.

    1. I have not been to Haru in Encino, nor to the Torrance Mitsuwa, since neither are convenient to me. If I can't buy tea on the Westside, I'd rather order it online.

      Here are links to two other threads about Japanese tea, which may be of interest.

      By the way, I recently ordered online three different teas from Ippodo in Kyoto and they were mediocre. I'm wondering if they are only shipping the dregs overseas on the theory that Westerners think green tea is green tea and wouldn't know the difference in quality between a great tea and a pedestrian one.

      1 Reply
      1. re: omotosando

        Many thanks for the links, omotosando! Looks like hibiki-an would be worth a try (though I am always reluctant to buy tea online).

        My experience with ippodo is only by going to their store where they can brew a sample cup for you or you can sit at their tea room and taste different products. I don't know what they sell online. What I bought was impeccably packaged, especially the high end gyokuro in tin cans. They also supply very specific brewing instructions, which can make or break a delicate cup of tea.

        I hope you'll let us know if white crane is worth considering.

        btw ... since you are on the west side: Lupicia may be worth a visit just to explore the options there. My comment above was just to say that I didn't find tea like the kind I love in Japan, but there are infinite other possibilities. They are in the recently-renamed Westfield mall.

        And thanks for the Torrance pointer noahbites - I got to do the trek one of these weekends...

      2. I've purchased excelent Gyokuro at Palais des Thés in Beverly Hills

        Le Palais des Thés
        401 N. Canon Dr.
        Beverly Hills, CA 90210
        Hours: 10 a.m.-6 p.m. Monday through Saturday

        1. Thanks for the links. Has anyone been to Sip Tea? They had a decent collection.

          In the past, I've bought from Yuuki-Cha.com but shipping is a killer...


          2 Replies
          1. re: 33Nicolas

            Never even heard of Sip Tea, but just checked out their website. Vanilla Hojicha, Pineapple Mango Papaya tea and Chocolate Mint Rooibos really tells me all I need to know about them and the likely quality of their wares.

            1. re: omotosando

              That's what I thought at first but when I tried their organic Japanese, I realized they had good qualities. Unfortunately, they also cater to fruity tea people, and I guess any reasonable business has to do to be viable these days. They get a lot of their teas from a German company that apparently does a good job on certifying organic products.

          2. If you want Ippodo, you can get some at Tortoise General Store / Studio in Abbot Kinney - they have two locations just blocks from each other - the one that sells it has it in the back of the store. The one that sells Ippodo is the one that is more West on Abbot Kinney.

            I usually just get Gyokuro from Nijiya - brewing temp is super important.

            1. You can get different types of Japanese tea and matcha at American Tea Room, in Bevery Hills. They have premiums too, like Yame Gyokuro.
              The owner seems to have a fascination with Japanese culture, as a personal hobby.

              1 Reply
              1. re: andrew_eats

                I've been buying my teas from the Ten Ren Tea company. Huge selection, high quality and some pretty expensive varieties. They have outlets in China Town on Broadway and on the main drag in Monterey Park. Now I just order from their website.