A tea adventure in Southern California
If you’ve seen my last tea and murals blog post, you know that I spent the Presidents' Day holiday weekend in Southern California, in the Los Angeles area to be more precise. I was not sure where to go for a tea adventure, and then I remembered... A while ago, I had read an article on Eater, A Perfect Tea-Drunk Day in Southern California by Bill Addison, who visited an off-the-beaten-path tea spot in Alhambra, east of Los Angeles, last fall. That was exactly what I was looking for, so I quickly emailed the owner of that tea shop to arrange a tea tasting.
Imen Shan, owner of Tea Habitat, is known for her extensive collection of Dan Cong oolongs, the sought-after teas from the Phoenix Mountains in Guangdong Province, China. She’s been in business for 11 years and she’s very proud of her tea collection, even though, because of their fame, more often than not her Dan Congs overshadow all her other teas.
Tea Habitat tasting room is traditionally decorated but, unlike other traditional tasting rooms, it felt airy, with delicate accents and elegant details. I was fascinated by Imen’s beautiful collection of mismatched porcelain tea caddies. “Some women collect shoes, I collect teaware”, she joked.
Her other passion is orchids, which she is very knowledgeable about and grows for medicinal purposes. The lush Cymbidium with big yellow flowers next to the teaware shelf is proof.
To brew Dan Cong oolongs, Imen boils the water and then lets it cool slightly before steeping the tea. She believes in trusting one’s instinct and that a thermometer for the water is not necessary. In China you don’t need a special occasion to drink tea and because it is so deeply ingrained in culture and daily life, you don’t overthink it, really. She mentioned that different teas have a different energy and you have to find what works for you, for your body type. You are what you eat, the same applies to tea. That’s a very interesting way of considering tea.
During our 2-hour long tasting we had:
2014 Zhi Lan Xiang Cattleya Orchid Fragrance
2016 Ya Shi Duck Shit
2016 Zhi Lan Xiang Cattleya Orchid Fragrance
2017 Ye He Xiang Night Magnolia Fragrance
2017 Tong Tian Xiang Thru Heaven Fragrance
My favorite were the 2016 Zhi Lan Xiang Cattleya Orchid Fragrance, full bodied with a pronounced mineral finish, and the exquisitely floral 2017 Ye He Xiang Night Magnolia Fragrance. With Dan Congs you will notice that each tea has a fruit or flower fragrance, which is by no means artificially added, but is the result of selective breeding of the tea plants to mimic those specific flavors and aromas.
Tea Tasting is $25 per person, reservation required.
Do you like Phoenix Mountain oolongs? Do you have a favorite fragrance?
Disclaimer: I was not paid to mention or review businesses, products or services. This is my honest opinion.
A Perfect Tea-Drunk Day in Southern California (Eater)