Bird Pick Tea & Herb in Old Town Pasadena

Behind Tiffany’s in Old Town Pasadena you’ll find Bird Pick Tea & Herb, a relaxing place to take a tea break after shopping in Old Town.  The city of Pasadena is well-known for is love of tea.  Within a few blocks you can find several British and European-inspired afternoon tea shops where you can get your fill of hot scones and curd.

Bird Pick Tea & Herb is a more modern take on tea with an Asian vibe where you’ll find large glass canisters filled some of their special tea blends and herbals.  Some of their more notable blends are Honeydew Sencha, Vanilla Matcha, and Caramel Houjicha.

This tea shop is a great place for picking up some rustic looking tea gifts.  I don’t believe glass is the best way to store tea since light can degrade the quality of the tea, but perhaps the teas are so great they don’t spend very long lingering in those glass vessels…they certainly do have some very special teas here.

I visited Bird Pick’s tea bar and ordered a Lychee Oolong Tea, which was brewed perfectly and not too sweet.  I really love their logo as it represents a bird’s choosiness when picking leaves for nourishment.

Bird Pick Tea also offers several caffeine-free tisanes.  Many are unblended herbals like rose buds, lavender, rose hips, and dried hibiscus.  It can be fun to make your own blends at home, and adapt them to your own liking and preference.  Since you can buy as much or as little at you want, it makes experimenting that much more enjoyable.  I made some Rosy Apple Tisane a few months back using the same type of rose buds you can find at Bird Pick.

The Vanilla Matcha at Bird Pick is really great to bake and make drinks with.  It has a bit of sugar and vanilla added in and can be purchased in loose form.  Its best use is for making smoothies and shakes, and even eveyone’s favorite…matcha ice cream!

If you’re looking for Asian teawares Bird Pick has a large selection of Chinese and Japanese tea vessels.  And if you are looking to take your tea on-the-go, they have many good quality infusers in lots of different designs.

If you’re in Pasadena, make a stop at Bird Pick for a no frills alternative to afternoon tea.  You’ll leave refreshed, invigorated, and ready to take on the rest of your day!
Bird Pick Tea & Herb

10 S De Lacey Ave

Pasadena, CA 91105

http://www.birdpick.com/

Hwa Sun Ji, LA’s Koreatown Hideaway

As you’re passing through LA’s Koreatown on Wilshire it’s really easy to whiz by Hwa Sun Ji and not even have realized it.  Behind this humble and unassuming storefront is a tea shop that is unique and thoughtful, with a tranquility rarely found in a such a busy city.

Upon stepping into the shop one of the first things you will notice are the raised platforms where friends can sit on colorful pillows and chat over a hot cup of  perfectly brewed tea.  Each of the tables in this tea shop are carefully placed, and separated with straw dividers to offer a bit of extra privacy and peace.  There is no loud music here, just some traditional Korean tunes playing in the background and the sound of water flowing from a stone fountain in the back of the room.

My choice? Jujube tea…so happy with my choice!

Don’t come here expecting to have a full meal like you would at and English tea shop for afternoon tea.  At Hwa Sun Ji, the highlight really is the tea itself.  There is a very long list of teas to choose from, from more traditional favorites like oxidized teas (Balhyocha) and artisan green teas (Jaksulcha) to fruit and grain-based teas specific to Korean tea culture.

There is also a strong focus on the health and healing properties of tea here.  The menu gives a short suggestion of each tea’s potential health effects.  Some of the stand-outs are Sa-Rang Tang (aka Lover’s Tea), Pong Yip Cha (Mulberry Tea), and Gam Yip Cha (Persimmon Leaf Tea), which is loaded with Vitamin C.  My choice was the Deh Choo Cha, or Jujube Tea, a lightly sweet red date-based tea which came highly recommended.

A comforting bowl of Deh Choo Cha, also known as Jujube Tea..you can drink this tea and eat it too!

Korean tea snacks including rice cakes, wheat-flour cakes, and walnut-stuffed dried persimmons. The white long snacks were lightly sweetened chewy puffs…so delicious, maybe someone out there can tell me what they are?

These are like thick fortune cookies rolled up and dusted with seaweed (and minus the paper fortune)

To go along with my tea, I ordered a plate of Korean tea snacks, which were brought to my table beautifully presented on a heavy wooden tray.  What’s great about Korean tea and tea snacks is that there is an emphasis on natural flavors and textures–nothing is too sugary, overdone, or complicated.

Korean teas and teawares for sale

One of the tea platforms at Hwa Sun Ji…a perfect setting to enjoy Korean tea!

Hwa Sun Ji is a tea shop unlike all other tea shops.  What makes Hwa Sun Ji special is that there isn’t just an emphasis on tea as a drink, but an equally significant emphasis on the culture of tea, including health, meditation, and of course, manners!  This tea shop embodies all the best virtues of Eastern tea culture.  You’ll leave feeling focused, centered, and refreshed…just as you should after a good cup of thoughtfully made tea!

Hwa Sun Ji
3900 Wilshire Blvd.
Los Angeles, CA 90010

Want to have a Korean tea break at home?  Persimmon Leaf Tea (which I purchased at Hwa Sun Ji and can be also purchased online) and Hachiya Persimmon Tea-Bread are a simple and satisfying pairing for a late autumn tea snack!

The Windsor Arms in Toronto

When I knew my husband I and were heading out to Toronto, I started researching for historic Canadian places to have tea.  Canada has a strong tradition in and appreciation for afternoon tea, and I wanted to take advantage of our time there. We made a deal…for every hockey or sports related event I consented to, my hubby would return the favor by accompanying me to a tea, shopping, or foodie related venue.  This agreement landed me at the Windsor Arms for afternoon tea after a morning at the Hockey Hall of Fame.

A set menu for afternoon tea at the Windsor Arms.

A set menu for afternoon tea at the Windsor Arms.

One of the reasons I decided on the Windsor Arms for tea is because it is supposedly where Richard Burton proposed to Elizabeth Taylor for the first time in 1964.  If the Windsor Arms was good enough for Liz Taylor, surely it would be good enough for me!

The purple tea room overlooking St. Thomas Street.

The tea room at the Windsor Arms is quite unique.  It is divided into 3 separate cozy rooms, each with a distinctive color and decor.  The main room is a classic white and gold, followed by two other rooms, one a royal purple and the other a velvety crimson red.

The Russian-inspired red room.

The Windsor Arms has 4 afternoon seating times and 2 late afternoon seating times.  They allow guests to occupy their tables for up to 2 hours to allow for ample relaxation and chatting time.  We had our tea on a Friday, and it was quite busy without being overly crowded.  If you are thinking of coming on a weekend, I would definitely suggest that you book a reservation in advance.

My choice?  Earl Grey with Rose Petals…gotta wake up after the hockey museum!

The scones were like light biscuits, and the jam was fresh and made in-house.

Tea sandwiches…elegant and oh so pretty!

Petit fours and a refreshing raspberry sorbet to finish.

I really enjoyed my time at the Windsor Arms.  You’d have to ask my husband, but I think he would say the same.  It looked like he was enthusiastically going for the sandwiches…or maybe that was him trying to get an extra sandwich in before I got to them?  Not sure.  I didn’t feel too bad for him though, after tea we went to a Toronto Blue Jays’ game. The hockey museum, a baseball game, and a delicious tea at the Windsor Arms… the hubby definitely came out the clear winner on this travel day!

http://www.windsorarmshotel.com/tearoom

Tea on The Strip: Verandah, Las Vegas


When one thinks of Vegas, I’m betting that afternoon tea isn’t the first thing that pops into mind.  I was at the World Tea Expo a few weeks ago, and had just enough time to slip away for a mid-day tea break.  I decided on Verandah Restaurant at the Four Seasons hidden in a corner of the Mandalay Bay Resort.

The Verandah at the Four Seasons in Mandalay Bay Las Vegas

I came for tea at around 3:30 in the afternoon, which is popular tea time elsewhere in the world but no so much in the U.S.  The Verandah has a set menu for its afternoon tea, and you must make reservations a day ahead of time.  They don’t have a large variety of teas to pick from, but all of their teas and tisanes are organic.

My choice?   The Organic Assam, coppery and deep in flavor.

Tea and sanity for one

The stand-out tea foods at Veranda are the scones and lemon curd.  The scones have a light, almost crunchy texture and the lemon curd is very tangy and bright tasting.  The tea sandwiches, although artful and pretty, aren’t the best I’ve ever had but still good.

Some very delicious scones and lemon curd

Quality, not quantity!

Petit fours- the mango passion fruit tart was my favorite

There are several books on tea and etiquette, but none of them mention the rules of taking your tea time treats home in a “to-go” bag.  Since nobody was looking and because no one really should eat 3 scones and a plate of desserts in one sitting, I figured it was a good idea to break tradition and go for it.

Class all the way!  To-go bag with leftover scones and sweets.

Above all, the service at Verandah is outstanding.  If you need a moment to escape from the crowds, heat, and clanging craziness of The Strip, the Verandah is an elegant, peaceful place to get away to.

Mariage Freres: A French Tradition in Tea

Mariage Freres, on 30 Rue du Bourg Tibourg in Paris

Mariage Freres, on 30 Rue du Bourg Tibourg in Paris

After getting lost for 45 minutes in not much more than a half mile radius northeast of the Notre-Dame Cathedral, there it was–the unassuming store front of one of the oldest tea stores in France:  Mariage Freres.  Upon stepping into the store, I was hit with the most deliciously fruity and floral fragrance, the smell of edible perfume.  It seems as though the best and most beautiful scents of tea have literally seeped into the wooden walls of this sophisticated little shop in the trendy Marais district of Paris.  Founded in 1854 by two brothers, this establishment has raised tea into an art form.

Mariage Freres Loose Tea

Mariage Freres Loose Tea

When you step into the tea room of Mariage Freres, it’s like stepping back in time.  In the tea room, there are vintage French colonial posters of tea production from early 1900’s Indochina (presently Vietnam, Laos, and Cambodia) covering the walls, crisp white table linens, and breezy rattan finishes.  Attempting to run down their impressive list of over 500 teas from over 35 countries, it’s easy to see why tea enthusiasts have Mariage Freres at the top of their to-do list when they come to Paris.  I decided on the crème brûlée infused with their signature fruity Marco Polo tea, with of course, another cup of tea on the side.

A cup of Marco Polo

A cup of Marco Polo

The tea at Mariage Freres is so exotic and treated with such respect.  There is a level of relaxed refinement at this tea salon sure to exceed the highest standards of any tea drinker.  The good news is, one doesn’t have to travel all the way to France for some of Mariage Freres’ extraordinary tea blends.  In America, these special teas can be purchased at William Sonoma, Market Hall Foods, and Dean & Deluca.  And for the most special of occasions, Mariage Freres ships out tea, tea accessories, and gift sets directly from its famous flagship store on Rue du Bourg Tibourg…Paris, at its finest, in a cup!

Mariage Freres Storefront

A very special memory of Paris

Mariage Frères, Salon de Thé

Address: 30 Rue du Bourg Tibourg, 75004 Paris, France

Phone:+33 1 42 72 28 11

www.MariageFreres.com