Wonderful experience! Long time tea enthusiast and curator, David Hoffman, offers free tea tasting on Saturdays. I went in with two friends and joined about 8 other people who were sitting on stools around a tea table that David sat behind while he steeped and served his guests gongfu style. He would steep three selections of tea at a time from a bookshelf to the side of him, making sure all his guests got a chance to select a tea for tasting. He would answer questions and tell us a bit about the tea. I’m not sure if this is the norm, but there were musicians playing while we were there! One guy on guitar and three violinists that would rotate out to join the guitarist. You can purchase any of the teas you have sampled, there was various teaware for sale and in an adjacent room was the tea museum. The museum space was filed with various pressed puerhs, old tea tins and compressed tea stored in 4 foot bamboo stalks, bamboo baskets and sacks that I’m guessing may have held 50 lbs of tea. David is a super chill guy. He seemed modest, grounded and very generous. He doesn’t charge for the tastings he does. I sat there for maybe two hours, chatting with my neighbors and the friends I came with, enjoying various teas together. We ended up leaving with a selection of six reasonable priced teas that we had enjoyed tasting.
Aside from the great experience at the tasting room, David is a fascinating man whom you can read a lot about online. He has spent decades traveling the world, collecting tea and building his nearby home out as a sustainable ecosystem, complete with a puerh cave! He used to do tastings from an area on his property, but a changing of the guard of country inspectors who used to wave any requirements for permits to new inspectors who want his property to be held to current code has led to many restrictions and dealings with the county and court, hence the current location of the tea museum. You can read a bit about the uncertain fate of his property here: https://www.sfchronicle.com/food/article/Steeped-in-controversy-Marin-tea-guru-in-the-11958381.php
Visiting the tea museum for a tasting is an experience that I’d highly recommend if you are in the area!
What a let down! I was most excited in my exploration of NYC tea shops to stop in at Harney’s and check out all the teas I was curious about. When I walked in I was one of three customers in the shop and soon the only one including the tea bar in the back. I spent about seven minutes wandering around checking things out and didn’t have a single of the five employees greet me or ask if I needed any help. I had to approach the counter and stand there for a minute before asking for and receiving any help. The woman did not hide her lack of enthusiasm and I was left with the impression that she had much more interesting and important things to do. I asked if I needed to get their assistance in smelling teas I was curious about or if there were samples I had overlooked on the floor. Turns out I had to trouble her to smell them and only bothered to smell three before she wandered off and left me and I walked out the door tealess. During that time, I had asked what the minimum amount of tea was that they sold and was told 2oz was the minimum. I asked why they sold smaller amounts online, but not in the store and was told that they didn’t do that, 2oz is the min on line too. They have $2 sample sizes online, but it doesn’t say how much tea it is and for that price I kind of doubt it is 2oz. She starts telling me that 2oz really isn’t that much tea, only 20 cups worth and measures some out for me to see. I was thinking of buying multiple sample sizes and if I had to buy 2oz of numerous teas, that is a lot of potential waste if I didn’t like it.
Instead of encountering people who were excited about tea and recognized that I was too, I felt like I was a bother, was told I was wrong about the website and treated like I knew nothing. So I left with nothing, went to Dean and Deluca where I had an awesome experience and spent $30 on one tea. So I guess the romance was over before it even began with Harney’s. It’s cool though, I didn’t really need to fall in love with MORE tea. :P
This place is hard to find if you don’t know what you are looking for. I was expecting a storefront in a shopping center that housed the Mitsuwa grocery market. Turns put it was INSIDE the market. So imagine walking into a grocery store and finding other businesses in booths along the edges and you have the idea of this place.
I went on a Saturday and the market was packed. The parking lot was packed and it took a bit of scouting to find a spot. The Lupicia booth itself was not and I had room to roam, sniff a bunch of teas and get assistance from the very polite soft spoken asian ladies who worked there. They offered a free sample of the tea of the month, which was a jasmine and told me they could have teas that they were out of stock on transferred to their store if I wished. There was one long counter running the depth of the store that had drawers you could pull out to reveal many more teas to sniff and check out. I had to go through twice since I didn’t realize until the end that the drawer pulled out even further and I had been seeing only half the teas. Once you find a tea from the drawer that you like, the ladies can pull it from their stock behind the counter for you. There are many teas that are displayed and have stock you can grab, but with the small space they are working with, it would be impossible to have all the teas out like that.
Overall this is a well lit small shop that makes good use of the room they have to work with. It has friendly staff and is in an unusual yet interesting setting. Just don’t expect to see a sign outside that says Lupicia or you will be circling forever like I did!
At the beginning of my month long stay in Santa Monica one of the first things I did was see what tea shops were close to where I was staying. I was super excited to see Bird Pick Tea and Herb was a short five minute walk from the apartment and was bouncing out the door and on my way within minutes of that discovery!
The store is located in an outdoor shopping area, tucked away in a back corner. I walked in and to the left was a tea bar where you could order drink with several tables to sit and relax at. On the right was all the loose and bagged tea. I was able to browse the tea selection on my own and could open the jars to smell them.
The two gals working there were polite, attentive and left me alone when I said I was still browsing. They checked in on me briefly a couple of times and when I was ready to choose, they were there to bag tea for me. They have no minimum on their bulk tea and even have small zipping pouches for sample sizes. After each tea was bagged, the gal showed me how much was in it and asked if that amount was okay. I never felt pressured to buy more and she was able to answer all of my questions.
They had a large selection of tea ware from matcha whisks, tea cups ranging from traditional to modern, tea kettles, thermoses, tins and infusers. The larger tins seemed fairly air tight, but the smaller were not which is too bad because they were cute! For teas, they had a lot of straight unflavored teas, only a few flavored. Half of it was black, some green, some herbal and some herbs on their own. Unfortunately for me, all the herbal mixes had hibiscus in them so I stayed clear of those. I saw some pu-ehr cakes the size of my hand, some prepackaged looseleaf gift packs and some bagged tea. Every month they do a special and this month is 20% off loose green teas which works for me! I think the only thing that was disappointing was that there wasn’t more blends of tea or much in the way of decaffeinated or rooibos. Other than that I really couldn’t ask for much more in a tea shop and it was a great first experience with the company! If I end up liking the teas, I’m bound to be back multiple times during this stay.
I like Zhi Tea and I want to love everything about it. It’s in an odd part of town for a tea shop; across from the train tracks, next door to a small convenience store and further down there are some apartments. It’s not a classy part of town at all, but it’s my part of town and I’m happy to see a tea room there. The shop is dark and cool like a cave during the summer, which is a nice break from the Texas heat, and dry and cozy during the winter.
Every time I have gone in I have been greeted by and waited on (but not at all pestered by) lovely counter staff. They have all been friendly, offered me a free cup of anything I’d like to try, educated me on the subject of tea and left me alone when I wanted to browse while still being available to answer any questions I might have. Perfect!
There are little sample sized tins of each tea in front of each tea so you can see and smell them. I really like being able to check out the teas by myself without a sales person hovering over me, but last time I was in there the samples smelled a bit weak and may have been due for a refreshing.
Teas are sold in a few sizes. Smallest are the sample bags so you can go on a get to know you date with their tea, next step up is a tin full if you want more commitment, THEN they have large bags for sale for when you decide you are deeply in love with a tea and want to get hitched.
The teas they make are all organic. They don’t discontinue teas unless they can’t source the ingredients anymore because they don’t want to disappoint any customers who love that tea (something I wish other companies would consider). They have little magnets that give the steeping time for different teas on it which is a great reference to have on your fridge. The tins they use are tall and oval which makes room for more teas in your cupboard. So many reasons to love them!
The location, the building, setup and the staff are all great. What I’m not crazy about is the tea. I want to LOVE the tea and I don’t. I want to support local businesses too. I have found a couple of teas I like, but most of it I’m just not into. I’m an added flavor kind of tea fan. I want my tea to remind me of cookies and cakes with coconut and almond slices with a hint of chocolate drizzled on top. I want dancing ponies and flying monkeys shooting off fireworks! I don’t want to taste the slight nuances of tea from one hill in China from the next. I think I would be head over heels for Zhi if I liked more traditional tea or subtle flavors, but that is not my taste.
So in summary, great place, awesome staff, wonderful ethics, variety in amounts of tea to purchase, but the tea itself doesn’t thrill me.