Top 10 Tea Houses
This serene tea bar is part of a movement of teahouses introducing the ancient tradition of tea to grande-latte-with-whipped-cream drinkers. And it’s enough to convince a coffee addict to give tea a chance. Tastings from $7.50; teance.com or 510/524-2832.
2. Red Blossom Tea Company
Although it’s a shop only―no tea served―it’s worth a stop to stock up on the high-quality Chinese teas, which have been sold to the likes of Charlie Trotter’s restaurants and the Westin St. Francis. redblossomtea.com or 415/395-0868.
3. Miro Tea
This modern tea shop, which also serves food, opened in August last year in Seattle’s historic Ballard neighborhood and offers an extensive selection of teas, from rare pu-erhs to competition-grade Dragonwell green tea. Check out the shop’s informative blog. $; mirotea.com or 206/782-6832.
4. The Tao of Tea
Its two shops offer an extensive and sophisticated selection of Asian teas. There’s also a Tao tea bar in a Whole Foods Market (7380 S.W. Bridgeport Rd., Tigard, OR). $; taooftea.com, 503/736-0119 (3430 S.E. Belmont St.), or 503/ 224-8455 (239 N.W. Everett St.).
5. Le Palais Des Thés
The exquisite, upscale Le Palais, which sells 250 teas from all over the world, suits Beverly Hills to a T. Closed Sun; luxury- and rare-tea tasting $40, 10:30–12 Sat, registration required; lepalaisgourmet.com or 310/271-7922.
6. Ooh Cha Teahouse
“Tea is drunk to forget the din of the world” is the wise saying on Ooh Cha’s website. Just less than two years old, this teahouse (drink-in or take-out) was started by a father and daughter who spent time in Japan and while there acquired a love of good tea and conversation. Closed Sun; oohcha.com or 604/629-1331.
7. The Boulder Dushanbe Teahouse
An architectural wonder in its own right, this ornate, handcrafted teahouse was a gift to Boulder from its sister city of Dushanbe, the capital of Tajikistan. Host of the annual Rocky Mountain Tea Festival, the teahouse takes its tea very seriously but also serves meals. $$; boulderteahouse.com or 303/442-4993.
8. Imperial Tea Court
San Francisco Bay Area
The first traditional Chinese teahouse in the United States, this San Francisco classic was founded by Roy Fong, a Taoist priest and Hong Kong native who sources only the best Chinese teas. Although the original Chinatown location closed, the popularity of the current locations signals that teas have reached connoisseurs outside of the Asian community. $$; imperialtea.com, 415/544-9830 (San Francisco) or 510/540-8888 (Berkeley).
9. The Teahouse
“Where East meets the Wild West” is the tongue-and-cheek slogan of this Southwestern tea haven. Take advantage of the tea workshops: For only $25 and a five-person minimum, you can learn about everything from matcha to tea blending. $$; teahousesantafe.com or 505/992-0972.
10. Silk Road
Stop in for a tasting (from $8.50 U.S.) at the tea bar, followed by a green tea facial (from $38 U.S.) in the attached spa. Further refine your knowledge at a weekend workshop (from $8.50 U.S.), where you can learn how to make a tea martini, for example. The modern Vancouver Island shop also sells oddities like tea bricks―which were once used as currency throughout China―and is appropriately placed in Victoria’s Chinatown. silkroadtea.com or 250/704-2688