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TEA HOUNDS! Why are we not talking about Dr. Tea's Tea Garden & Herbal Emporium on Pico/La Brea??

I'm asking this sincerely. I have just found out about this place from a coworker thirty minutes ago, and was shocked that I'd never seen it mentioned on the LA Chowhound board.

Is there a reason that nobody is talking about this place?

At first glance it seems like a tea hound's paradise, with a treasure trove of info on the website alone. (It's striking me as the sort of Sweet Maria's of tea.) Dr. Tea hands out these beautiful glossy cards with specific info about the tea you've purchased, what temperature and how long to brew it at, along with a brief history of the tea and tasting notes.

http://www.teagarden.com/dr-teas-libr...

Here's the info about their shop on Pico.

http://www.yelp.com/biz/dr-teas-tea-g...

Discuss.

Mr Taster

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  1. They're not talking about it because the prices are steep, the tea quality is mediocre, and the place seems too much like a snake oil shop. It may be a great introductory place to tea, but definitely where what you'd call a "tea hound" would frequent.

    Unfortunately, there really isn't a good tea shop in LA, so most of the tea hounds order online or, like my husband, host tea tastings with other tea-inclined friends.

    http://www.nakedsushi.net/

    34 Replies
    1. re: PandanExpress

      Well, that explains it.

      Thanks for the heads up.

      Mr Taster

      1. re: PandanExpress

        > Unfortunately, there really isn't a good tea shop in LA

        Outside of LA there's Wing Hop Fung and Ten Ren, both of which have some remarkable (and pricy) teas. Wing Hop Fung is the parent of Bird Pick Tea, which has stores in Pasadena, Culver City, and Santa Monica that have a reduced selection of the teas available at the parent store. I can't think of any other good tea shops in the area. I'm consistently disappointed by Chado.

        EDIT: I guess there's a Wing Hop Fung in Chinatown, too. I haven't been to it so I don't know how the selection compares with the Monterey Park location.

        1. re: Peripatetic

          That's true... Jimmy at the Ten Ren in Focus Plaza in San Gabriel (the one on Valley facing the Hilton) is a very knowledgeable tea buyer, and a gracious host.

          Mr Taster

          1. re: Mr Taster

            I don't know if that's their flagship SoCal location (I haven't been to the others), but it's a great location.

            1. re: Peripatetic

              I got the impression that Jimmy was one of the senior family members of the Ten Ren mini empire (he's most definitely an oolong guy. Well anyway, he's Taiwanese so he's got it in his blood!) He talked about traveling to Taiwan a lot to make purchasing decisions. Perhaps others may know more.

              Mr Taster

              1. re: Peripatetic

                AFAIK, Ten Ren / Ten Fu outlets in the US are mostly independently owned, and not owned by the "mothership". I could be wrong, but I don't think the local ones have the same owner. The Ten Ren brand sells primarily Taiwan grown teas and Ten Fu sells primarily Mainland China grown teas. The store in Focus plaza is a Ten Ren and Ten Fu in one location. I have been in there several times, but have rarely been graciously hosted - I've mostly been followed around with whatever god awful ginseng oolong they're serving in plastic cups, and the sales staff is usually a bit pushy / hovery. I think later at night is probably a better time to go.

                Tea selection mostly overlaps at the Chinatown and MPK WHF locations. There are occasionally some good buys, but nothing really spectacular IMHO. They did have some late 90s / early 2000s "Sea Dyke" brand tea in gift boxes, which is actually quite sought after in Asia -- at very affordable prices -- worth it even just for the pewter canister engraved with the tea's name and some artwork. Bird Pick carries mostly the exact same things, but marked up 15% or so.

                If you think teas at Wing Hop Fung are expensive... well, let me just tell you that tea can get a *lot* more expensive than just about anything there.

                There is also "Valley Coffee and Tea" on Atlantic. You generally can't try the teas in the shop before buying, they tend to only have greener (less oxidized / roasted) style oolongs, and there's a minimum quantity for purchases, but they have some items which are not bad. I rarely buy from them, but the boss is really nice. They don't do a lot of business; however, the boss's husband's family owns a fairly old tea business in Taiwan, and the teas are sourced directly from there.

                Overall, it's unfortunate that we don't have branches of any of the old HK shops the way Vancouver does (they have Best Tea House, and Aroma (Canada branch of Lam Kie Yuen)).

                Tea Habitat, written about in the LAT a couple years ago, used to have a brick and mortar in RPV, but no longer. There is also Bana Tea, which specializes in pu'er; also no brick and mortar shop, but the owner does a lot of demos at local libraries, and occasionally brews samples at various Whole Foods Markets which sell her teas. [disclosure; the owners of both are friends]. 1001 Plateaus is another local outfit which is mostly online, but does some semi-private tastings for customers.

            2. re: Peripatetic

              well, I'm not a "tea hound" per se (being European I lean more toward black teas in the Mariage, Fortnum & Mason, Kusmi styles, which probably disqualify me as a tea person) but I like the Tea place at the Farmer's Market on 3rd & Fairfax.

              Never heard about that place on Pico and La Brea and I live a stone throw away. I can't even picture where it is.

              1. re: bad nono

                > Never heard about that place on Pico and La Brea

                When I first moved to LA, Tea Garden & Herbal Emporium had a location on Melrose, about a block down from Urth. I think they closed sometime in 2008. They seemed mainly to cater to the clientele of the (now also departed) Bodhi Tree bookstore.

                1. re: Peripatetic

                  No you are thinking of Ron Teeguarden who I think relocated to Robertson but is also at dragonherbs.com ....these are medicinal teas. Not sure if his name is coincidental or not. I think LA used to be so much more interesting than it is now. That was a scene there!

                  1. re: chewbacca

                    It seems that until 2007 it was a place called ELixir:

                    - http://www.yelp.com/biz/elixir-west-h...

                    Then became Dr Tea in 2007:

                    - http://www.yelp.com/biz/dr-teas-west-...

                    And then closed in 2009:

                    Was Elixir Ron Teeguarden's place?

                    In any case, by the time I moved to LA in 2007 it was Dr Tea.

                    1. re: Peripatetic

                      I remember Elixir on Melrose... they had a zen garden-y type thing in the back where you could drink your tea and herbal beverages among the stones & waterfalls.

                      I do tend to prefer the Chinese tea shops simply because they are so much more utilitarian. I prefer to leave aside all the baggage that comes with the new agey herbalist crowd :)

                      Mr Taster

                      1. re: Mr Taster

                        I may be biased, but I have yet to have an herbal infusion that didn't make me wish I was drinking something else. The one possible exception is the touareg (mint) teas I've had in some Northern African restaurants (and in Northern Africa).

                        1. re: Peripatetic

                          I like some tisanes / herbal infusions, though I don't blend them with tea, nor do I really consider them in the same category.

                          I think simplicity is the important thing -- one "thing" vs. chopped up blends. I like rose buds, soba (buckwheat) or barley "tea", persimmon leaf, chrysanthemum or osmanthus blossom.

                          1. re: will47

                            > I like rose buds, soba (buckwheat) or barley "tea", persimmon leaf,
                            > chrysanthemum or osmanthus blossom.

                            I do like soba tea and barley tea (my wife is Korean-American, so we have boricha all the time). Haven't tried persimmon leaf, but I like sujonggwa (dried persimmon punch), so I will definitely give it a try. (Not the same thing, I know, but I'm curious now.)

                            1. re: Peripatetic

                              I've only had it a few times, but if I remember correctly, steeped (dried) persimmon leaf is pretty mild in flavor, but pleasant. It is also alleged to have some health benefits (especially in regards to blood pressure).

              2. re: Peripatetic

                I love browsing and buying tea from the large jars at Wing Hop Fung in Chinatown. The prices on some are high, but I usually just tell the lady I want $10 worth, and that seems to work. Make sure you have one of their store "rewards" card if you want the discounted price if the tea is on sale. A few weeks back I was at the Sunday Melrose Place farmers market and bought a couple of interesting blends from the guy that sets up shop there.

                -----
                Wing Hop Fung
                727 N Broadway 102, Los Angeles, CA 90012

                1. re: Peripatetic

                  You're right that WHF (and Bird Pick) and Ten Ren all have teas, but when I said "a good tea shop in LA" I meant more of a place where you can sit down and taste the teas brewed the right way before (maybe) buying them.

                  I guess in a way, Funnel Mill in Santa Monica provides this service -- where they brew it for you in the pots or show you how to do it yourself.

                  But with WHF, every time I've gone, they either don't let you try any of the teas, or brew it terribly (too hot water, too long a steep) so you can't really get the right taste of the tea. I haven't been in Bird Pick yet, but it's pretty much the same quality of WHF, but maybe more expensive. I guess with how BP is set up, they do kind of brew the tea for you better.

                  -----
                  Funnel Mill
                  930 Broadway, Santa Monica, CA

                  1. re: PandanExpress

                    Jimmy at Ten Ren (who hangs out in the bulk tea side on the left) was always very gracious in allowing us to taste teas before buying (even though, quite honestly, we haven't bought that much from him), and he always takes the time to steep in the traditional way. Which is to say, using the tiny Chinese teapot/cup sets where the first steeping is thrown out, and subsequent steepings improve flavors, etc. I know not all Ten Rens are this hospitable, and maybe even Jimmy's isn't to everyone all the time. But we have had this experience with him on a couple of occasions.

                    Mr Taster

                    1. re: Mr Taster

                      1) WHF = Wing Hop Fung (both the Chinatown and Monterey Park branch)

                      2.) Ah I did not know that about Ten Ren. Most of the ones I've been at, the people were not that hospitable or patient with letting customers try the tea.

                      -----
                      Wing Hop Fung
                      727 N Broadway 102, Los Angeles, CA 90012

                2. re: PandanExpress

                  Yeah, I got the hard sell once... I'll stick to Bird Pick...

                  --Dommy!

                  1. re: Dommy

                    Never ordered from Bird Pick... I sustain myself with some Taiwan mountain oolong (I forget the exact name) from my father in law, who loads us up every time we go back home. I love the stuff.

                    On a side note, was in Flushing a week ago and picked up a small packet of (very expensive) oolong from a tiny shop behind a nail salon. I got the wonderfully named "Dong Ding Oolong Honey Aroma" based on a recommendation from the Outer Boroughs board... a tiny packet cost $12 (the larger 150g packet is available mail order for $108... yikes)

                    But seriously, check out this description from their website. I love it.

                    "When leaves unfold, its appearance includes ash spots like frog skin, leaves curled up like shrimp ball, light green leaves with red inlay at the edges known as “green leaf scarlet fringe” or “green stalk, green belly, red fringe”.

                    http://fangtea.myshopify.com/products...

                    Mr Taster

                    1. re: Mr Taster

                      As noted above, Bird Pick has legitamate roots, but is much less straight chinese tea shop, which is why I like it. Unlike those other shops, all the tea at birdpick is out on the floor so you can easily see the quality and freshness. You never have your taste in tea sneered at... The staff there never gets huffy at you if only get a couple of ounces... They never try to upsell or to add on more ounce that you asked for...

                      Plus, Bird Pick has a lot more herbal options and some really delicious blends like an Apple Spice...

                      --Dommy!

                      1. re: Dommy

                        One nice thing about shopping at Wing Hop Fung is that many of the teas are discounted if you purchase a Wing Hop Fung loyalty card ($1). They are the same teas as Bird Pick, and use the same product codes. Bird Pick doesn't carry my favorite Keemun, the #1187 "Qi Men Red", so I usually end up going to WHF even though I live near the Pasadena Bird Pick. The staff in the tea department couldn't be friendlier, though their command of English is limited.

                        1. re: Dommy

                          A tea obsessed colleague of mine who lives not far from the Westfield mall is beside herself with joy. Somehow she never saw Bird Pick. How long have they been open? And how do they compare with Teavana (her standard shop for aromatic herbal tea). I have never been to Teavana (I rarely ever go to shopping malls) so feel free to go into detail :-)

                          Mr Taster

                          1. re: Mr Taster

                            Personally, I don't like Teavana at all. In addition to from the tea cans being behind the counter thing, I find most of their herbal and fruity blends really aritificially flavored. While Bird Pick uses good quality big CHUNKS of dried fruit...

                            Anyway, I live near a Birdpick and I think if she really is tea obessed and knows what she wants, she'll LOVE it. (otherwise it can be a little overwhelming) You can easily see and compare different grades and styles of tea. Smell anything and EVERYTHING is sold by the ounce and all the containers have labels discribing the teas, origins and even serving suggestions!

                            --Dommy!

                            1. re: Dommy

                              Ditto. The Teavana at the Century City Westfield seemed like a Cheesecake Factory of tea: mostly theater, little substance.

                              1. re: Peripatetic

                                Interesting... my friend lives not far from your area (10 mins by car from Culver City Westfield) yet she would trek out to Century City for her Teavana runs, simply because she never knew there was a tea shop in her local mall.

                                Anyway I think we may have a new Bird Pick convert in our midst... I'll check back and let you know what she thinks!

                                Mr Taster

                                1. re: Mr Taster

                                  OK, my colleague and I decided to head over to Bird Pick after work today.

                                  My first impressions were that it was essentially a mini Wing Hop Fung catering to non-Chinese. Loved that the jars were out, and that we could compare, sniff and spot the differences between all the different types. My Teavana-obsessed colleague did some quick calculations and noted that although the teas tended to be more expensive per pound, they also weren't bulked up with non-tea bibs and bobs. What you're buying is, more or less, just the tea leaves and little else. There were some really beautiful (expensive) teas available. There was one gorgeous, bright green whole leaf oolong with hardly any stems, for a mere $220 per lb :) Interesting to compare that one side by side with the other mildly fermented oolongs, whose color was much less vibrant, and shape much less distinct.

                                  I was a little confused by the flavored/scented teas. Some of the teas, like the oolong lychee, claim to be "infused" with the flavor. (They certainly do smell like lychee). However, when I pressed the sales staff for more info, they really had no idea what the "infusion" process consisted of. Other teas were more vague about how the flavors got in there (the "candy" lineup along the back wall of peach, vanilla, caramel, etc.). Again, sales staff were not helpful or knowledgeable (but were quite friendly.... "we'll find out and get back to you" was the mantra of the evening.) We had some tasty drinks in the back bar and enjoyed flipping through the notebook of visitor doodles, flirtations and musings. I asked about the owners of the shop, whether they were Chinese or Taiwanese (they're Chinese) and was told that the teas come from their own plantations in China. My friend commented that she loved that every tea had some medicinal or health benefit attached to it, whereas Teavana is, as she put it, "just for fun".

                                  I came home and started reading the Bird Pick website. On the "Our Story" page I see that they are owned by.... WING HOP FUNG! Well I be. Turns out Bird Pick is essentially is WHF's attempt to bridge the gap between Chinese tea shops and western ones. That really does explain a lot.

                                  Next stop is to bring my colleague out to the WHF in Monterey Park and blow. her. mind.

                                  P.S. Oolongs are currently 20% off!

                                  Mr Taster

                                  1. re: Mr Taster

                                    Oh, and on a totally different note, this gave me the opportunity to finally check out the 101 Noodle Express at the food court in the Culver City mall.

                                    Dommy, you're right-- expensive, smaller, and not as good. Beef noodle soup was decidedly mediocre too. But compared to Panda Express down the road? It was spectacular. No dumplings on the menu (despite the logo which says something like "noodles and dumplings" and not a single mention of beef rolls, yet the beef rolls are all over the menu, paired with mysterious, distinctly non-101 items like "teppan chicken" and white rice with vegetables. Weird.

                                    P.S. They are having a "grand opening" sale until mid November where everything is 30% off. (Grand opening? I thought they've been open for months...?)

                                    Mr Taster

                                    -----
                                    101 Noodle Express
                                    6000 Sepulveda Blvd, Culver City, CA 90230

                                      1. re: Mr Taster

                                        Glad you guys had a good time at Birdpick! Yeah, the staff there aren't tea experts, but I'm at the point where I know where I want or feel comfortable in spotting the good stuff and can get in and out of there quickly and with a smile.

                                        As for 101... oh the hopes! oh the dreams!! They might as well consider it a grand opening now, as their opening in general has been kinda 'meh'. They don't offer many things on that menu, BUT on occassion they do have dumplings... but they take FOREVER to get out because they don't seem prepared to take the order. The westside chinese curse (and maybe stricter mall hiring standards) have struck again!

                                        --Dommy!

                                      2. re: Mr Taster

                                        Aaand it looks like I totally glossed over peripatetic's earlier observation about the WHF lineage of Bird Pick... sorry P!

                                        http://chowhound.chow.com/topics/8153...

                                        Mr Taster

                                        1. re: Mr Taster

                                          Teavana teas seems really good to me, however i dont have much experience with other teas

                                          We have been drinking their black tea Golden Monkey (it is a bit weak but when double strength brewed it is really good) hot and also the peach cran tango (for iced tea not hot) and that makes great iced tea - also making that at a bit over double strength 6 tablespoons per 64 oz pitcher and two tablespoons of sugar (tastes awesome for iced tea that way)

                                          What is the difference between the other teas, are traditional teas supposed to be oolong versus black - reading this thread it seemed to be some difference

                                          I like some caffiene in my tea so that is why i have been sticking to the black teas because they have more of it than anything else it seems like, but certainly alot less than cofffee so i can drink it throughout the day

                                          Are there more differences between the oolong and black than just the caffiene?

                                          1. re: Dapuma

                                            We split some interesting discussion about types of tea over to our General Topics board since it wasn't LA specific and we wanted hounds from other regions to benefit. Here's the new thread: http://www.chow.com/topics/816351

                        2. Never been there myself, so can't make a really informed comment, but having watched some of the guy's videos and seen some of the claims he's made, I think this is more the kind of place that tries to get people excited about tea's health benefits, vs. really educating people about tea itself, its background / origin, and how to taste or appreciate it.

                          But I know that they have people gotten interested in tea, and that, to me, is a good thing.

                          1. There is a Korean tea and coffee place, Hwa Sun Ji on Wilshire that is a step back in time inside with their tatami mat seating area and little pond. Many types of medicinal tea drinks and they have Korean shaved ice as well. Worth checking out for sure.

                            -----
                            Hwa Sun Ji Tea & Coffee
                            3960 Wilshire Blvd Ste 100, Los Angeles, CA 90010

                            2 Replies
                            1. re: Servorg

                              Anyone been to Cafe Scent lately? I have always wanted to try it but it's out of my normal orbit. It certainly looks interesting. I understand they too feature tea and other drinks that are a bit out of the main stream. Not to mention dukboki!

                              -----
                              Cafe Scent
                              3680 Wilshire Blvd Ste 101, Los Angeles, CA 90010

                              1. re: Servorg

                                Have not tried this place; for Korean tea there is also Cha Saeng Won (Hankook Tea Co) on Wilshire. I believe they are a branch of one of the largest Korean tea companies; they have a good selection of teaware (which is beautiful, but not inexpensive), and some decent Korean teas.

                                I really like their hwang cha, which is different from Chinese yellow tea in terms of production. It's a partially oxidized tea, but not produced like an oolong.

                                Yoon Hee from Tea Classics knows quite a bit about Korean tea, and occasionally does presentations and demos up in the Valley somewhere.

                                I don't know of anything coming up, but you can get information through her various sites:
                                http://www.koreanteaculture.com
                                http://www.hanchatea.com/