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Loose Leaf Tea in LA,SGV and OC

Hi,

I am looking for certain varieties of Oolong and Japanese Green Teas in LA, SGV and OC areas, please help..

The varieties are

1. Bao Zhong Oolong tea
2. Deep Fired Dong Ding Oolong.
3. Japanese Green Gyokuro
4.Japanese Sencha.
5. Quality Matcha

thank you

regards
sasi

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  1. Try Teavana Century City Mall, Brea Mall, Beverly Center and South Coast Plaza.
    http://www.teavana.com/retail

    1 Reply
    1. re: wienermobile

      There's a Teavana at the Santa Anita Mall as well. There's also a place in Monrovia that I've heard good things about called the Loose Teas-http://www.thelooseteas.com/servlet/S...

    2. Bird Pick may have some of what you are looking for.
      http://www.birdpick.com/

      8 Replies
      1. re: WildSwede

        Bird Pick is a good starting place. Wing Hop Fung (http://www.winghopfung.com/) is the parent company of Bird Pick, and has a larger selection, often at lower prices, especially if you get their "VIP card" (loyalty card).

        1. re: Peripatetic

          Thank you, I have been to Wing Hop Fung and I am appalled at the way they maintain the tea and at their pricing as well. I am looking at a place which considers tea with passion.

          1. re: sasidhar79

            I know WHF isn't Mariage Frères, but I never realized they were doing anything "appalling". Could you elaborate?

            P.S. My favorite places ever, discovered while (or should I say "whilst") I was living in the UK, is Postcard Teas (http://www.postcardteas.com/) and East Teas (http://www.eastteas.com/). Both places are run by obsessive artisans. Unfortunately I haven't found anything like them in LA. Both do mail order to the US.

            In Berkeley there's also Teance (http://www.teance.com/),

            1. re: Peripatetic

              WHF Broadway Chinatown, they keep their $200 per lb tea and everything else in huge glass jars and anybody can open the jars and stick their nose in, and this $200 Li Shan Cha does not have the flavor or the fragrance of Li Shan Cha, the steeped leaves are nothing like the real Li Shan Cha.

              I am very doubtful of accessing WHF for Japanese green teas because of their storage practice.

              1. re: sasidhar79

                I agree it's not ideal. The best Gyokuro I've had was from Mariage Frères:

                http://www.mariagefreres.com/boutique...

                But at EUR 99 for 100g it's not cheap. (It was EUR 55 / 100g five years ago when I last bought it.)

                The closest thing to a truly premium tea retailer I've found in in LA was Le Palais des Thés in Beverley Hills, but they weren't as good as MF, and anyway they closed several years ago.

                1. re: Peripatetic

                  Le Palais des Thes has a US webstore (http://us.palaisdesthes.com) and a selection of products are now available in LA at Monsieur Marcel at The Original Farmer's Market.

                  1. re: Peripatetic

                    Actually, they never closed, they just went through some rebranding/name change. They are no longer a licensee for Le Palais de Thes but they still have some very nice teas.

                    I was once at the store when I saw a box marked "Rishi" and had assumed it was a shipment of tea wares. did some research on the Rishi website and realized that ATR gets some of their wholesale tea from RIshi. Some absolutely terrific blends, but now I know to watch the prices and buy from whomever I can get it from for less. ATR is good if I want to just try something, but if I wanted a larger amount, ordering from Rishi directly could be a money saver.

                    Their new name, by the way, is The American Tea Room.

                  2. re: sasidhar79

                    Just keep in mind that they have a very high turnover, and the glass jars are generally located in areas without natural light. I'm not saying it's great, but I don't think it's as horrible as you're thinking either. I would definitely be skeptical about the claims made about some of their teas, in terms of provenance / etc., but they do have some teas which are a good value, and I don't think their teas have as high a markup as many other places (even if you're paying 20% more for the same tea at Bird Pick).

                    I agree with liu's post below. With Tea Habitat's retail location closed, I don't think there are many places for serious tea in Southern California area, and if you want the best quality (and good value), I think that, for the most part, you're unlikely to find it here. You can try Valley Coffee and Tea on Valley (near Garfield) for greener Taiwan oolongs (they have modern style (i.e., fairly green) baozhongs and they have dong ding, though of a greener style than you are looking for. Their storage method is also not that fussy, but honestly, for oolongs, even greener ones, it's not necessary to be super fussy, and you will see this kind of storage (plastic bags inside trash-can sized canisters) in many wholesale operations in Taiwan. You could also try Ten Li in Orange County or one of the many Ten Ren / Ten Fu locations in the Southern California area; personally, I'd go with online vendors instead.

                    Overall, though, for oolongs from Mainland China and for Japanese greens, I'd really recommend buying online. This will maximize freshness and quality. Not being able to sample can be a disadvantage, but there's lots of information about vendors out there, and you can usually order small amounts to sample. I don't really drink many Japanese greens, but there are some recommendations for good (direct from Japan) sources of Gyokuru and Sencha at http://teachat.com (a site run by Adagio, a tea retailer, but which is moderated fairly independently). They also run some "tasting initiatives", which often feature these styles of teas -- these let you try examples from different (non-Adagio) vendors for a nominal fee. A friend who knows more about these styles of tea recommends Ippodo (but mentions their tea can be a little bitter for some people's taste), as well as O Cha.

                    For the types of Taiwanese teas you're looking for, I can recommend a few places - Floating Leaves in Seattle, Hou De Fine Tea in Houston, and Teamasters (http://teamasters.blogspot.com -- you will have to email him and get a price list to order). The latter is shipped direct from Taiwan. Finding a good traditional style (with a higher level of oxidation, and a moderate charcoal roast) Dong Ding (aka 'Tung Ting', etc.) has been getting harder and harder these days (the last source I mention will probably have the best roasted dong ding of the three). The Mandarin's Tearoom in NY has a great traditional (and naturally grown) dong ding, however, it may be expensive, and is not on their online ordering, so you'd have to email directly. The roast is still relatively light, but it is a very nice tea. You can also try searching for 'hong shui' or 'hung shui' (lit. red water) oolong - technically, this refers to the level of oxidation for the base tea, but is most often used in conjunction with teas from that area.

                    Not much 2012 spring tea is available from these sources yet, so you may want to wait a few weeks for the fresher teas (baozhong, high mountain oolongs). With roasted dong ding, it will actually benefit some from the resting time (honestly, I think you are better off looking for a medium roast dong ding, but even with a heavy fire tea, you're looking for the leaf to be able to unroll after brewing - it may feel a bit "chewy", but shouldn't be brittle and completely unrolled after brewing; a properly done charcoal roast will behave differently from an electric roast, even when the level of roast is quite high).

          2. sasidhar79, I urge you to order online for the quality you seek.
            However, I do understand your search for a tea shop that is passionate about their teas.

            For Bao Zhong Oolong, I suggest you try Valley Coffee and Tea at 1101 W. Valley Boulevard #103 in Alhambra, #626.281-5799. There you will meet the shop owner, Mrs. Cathy Lin. She travels regularly (monthly!) to China for her tea; therefore, I advise calling ahead before you go there to be sure that she is in town. She will talk tea with you! (She also might have the deep-fired Dong Ding that is #2 on your list.) Note that she carries many grades of Bao Zhongs. My favorite is her #42. Her prices are extremely fair. Her tea is very good. Still, I think you will find equal or better quality online.

            Nijiya Market carries some good Japanese teas. Since their turn-over is good, the teas are pretty fresh. Mitsuwa Market has a tea shop inside and their teas are quite good. However, with Japanese teas it is all about freshness. Therefore, I strongly recommend ordering directly from Japan online.

            1 Reply
            1. re: liu

              A little more background (re: Valley Coffee and Tea) her husband's family runs one of the oldest tea firms in Taiwan (Lin Hua Tai / 林華泰). Unfortunately, unlike most Chinese tea shops, they don't really allow sampling at the shop, and I get the sense that Ms. Lin, while super nice, is not super fussy about tea or tea brewing. The shop doesn't seem to get a lot of visitors these days (it's been open for quite a long time), nor do they spend a lot of time promoting their shop or encouraging people to learn how to appreciate tea.

              The tea itself is not bad, and the prices are fair, though they really only sell stuff that's the currently popular style (i.e., very green).

            2. The only sencha that I sometimes buy locally is SPIRIT OF OHSAWA ORGANIC GREEN TEA available at Erewhon Market on Beverly Blvd. near Fairfax. American Tea Room in Beverly Hills (which took over the old Palais space) also has some good sencha, although extremely overpriced. http://www.americantearoom.com/jagrte... Even though I live in the neighborhood, I have had it shipped because parking is a hassle in Beverly Hills and if you order over a certain dollar amount (which isn't hard with their prices), they will ship free and you will have it the next day.

              Other than that, I have been ordering all my sencha lately either from Mariage Freres in Paris (just got a shipment today, Monday, for an order I placed late Thursday night - it will be here from Paris quicker than if you ordered from most U.S. merchants) or from the Green Teaist http://www.thegreenteaist.com/product... which has decent sencha. I"ve had less luck re quality ordering directly from Japan. It seems counterinuitive to order Japanese tea from France, but Mariage Freres manages to get their hands on good stuff.

              I know sencha and I can tell you there is no way in hell I would walk into Teavana in a mall to buy it. It's like wine -- once you have drunk the great stuff, it's hard to go back to Two Buck Chuck.

              Now if I could only find the world's best Assam. Mariage Freres has decent Assam, but I'm not convinced it is the world's best.

              6 Replies
              1. re: omotosando

                Hi, omotosando.
                I have not found any great Assam in Los Angeles. I am not an Assam aficionado, but most of the tea on the store shelves tastes stale to me.

                Contact Saunam Bhattacharjee at Assam Tea Company in Vancouver for some excellent Assam teas. I urge you to call him (#604.568-8695 or toll-free at #800.924-7295) and talk with him about your search.

                https://www.assamteacompany.ca/home.p...

                1. re: liu

                  Liu, Thanks so much for the link -- I've never seen such a profusion of Assam tea offered. Leaving for a trip, but will pour over this when I return.

                  1. re: omotosando

                    omotosando, they sell small packets, so you can sample many.

                    I tried about a dozen. Although I am currently into the greener, less processed teas (Korean, Japanese and Chinese), my favorites from Assam Tea Company were the Cream of Darjeeling/Single Malt Seasonal Batch and the Cream of Assam/Single Malt Seasonal Harvest. I found all of their teas to be of good quality and interesting, even if not for my palate.

                    I promise you will find Saunam to be very knowledgeable and friendly...if not by phone, contact him on email.

                    -- Safe travels to you!

                    1. re: liu

                      Just saw this discussion on assam. Have you tried Kusmi? Not sure of any local retailers in LA but I fell in love with the NY store when I was there earlier this year. You can certainly purchase online.

                      1. re: ggz711

                        I just looked up Kusmi's website. They have exactly one Assam -- a green Assam -- and Assam is not known for its green teas. Kusmi doesn't offer any single estate teas at all, just blends. And great tea does not go into blends.

                        1. re: omotosando

                          The OP seemed to be fond of Oolongs. I favor those from Formosa.

                          I order one or two varieties quarterly from my most trusted source. Here is my current favorite from Formosa:

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

                          It varies from 125 g for $22.00
                          to 1,000g for $154

                          Their extensive catalog is incredible. Ask for it.

              2. Wow ! Thank you very much, I have decided to order Japanese green tea from www.hojotea.com and try Bao Zhong from Valley Coffee and Tea before proceeding to order from "tea masters".

                thank you very much for all the information and suggestions.

                1. For high quality locally available 3 green teas you mentioned, Mitsuwa in Gardena has a perimeter store in the market that is has large variety, very high end

                  1. I think you should try Lupicia in the Century City mall in Century City. It is a Japanese Tea company. Call ahead and see when Charles Kellogg is working--he's the manager and he's extremely knowledgeable about tea.

                    Also, unlike some of the other "sneeze tea" mentioned below where everyone has stuck their nose in the tea, Lupicia's teas come in small vacuum sealed bags.

                    I would completely ignore the advice to go to Teavana--that is not in any way a serious tea shop. The sales people are teenagers and their tea samples are so sweet that they taste like soda. Very high sales pressure there but very little knowledge IMO.

                    Also, Chado tea room on 3rd street near Beverly Center is a good place (they are have a second location in Pasadena) is worth checking out--they have a lot of tea!

                    On another thread here there was talk of a Matcha-focused store somewhere near West Hollywood...I am trying to remember the name. If you search for Matcha you will no doubt find it.

                    Finally, I have had some very good tea and terrific customer service from Strand Tea Company--they are a small family run business in Oregon, you can find them online.

                    3 Replies
                    1. re: sablouwho

                      Hello, sablouwho!

                      Thank you for your mention of Strand Tea Company. I just browsed their website and they offer a wide variety of teas.

                      What have you ordered from them? What have you really liked?
                      Have you ordered any of their wares?

                      1. re: liu

                        I came across this thread yesterday and on a whim bought some tea as a gift for someone. It will be shipped directly to them, so I won't taste the tea, but WOW on the customer service. My order was confirmed by a personal email from Jack Strand, including some pleasantries about the place it's being shipped to, meaning an actual human being looked at, and thought about, my order. The shipping rate to Canada was also very reasonable, and the order was dispatched within about sixteen hours. I hope the tea is as good as the service!

                        1. re: Jetgirly

                          Ah...how refreshing to hear all this.

                          I never ordered from them, but with your post, I will give them another look. Thanks, Jetgirly, for the glowing report on Strand Tea Company's very personable customer service.

                          Meanwhile, if you hear about the tea from your recipient, please do report back.