The Random Tea Room & Curiosity Shop in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania
White Antlers rated this place
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It’s mind boggling to see high ratings for this hole of a place. When I first moved back home, a friend who knew I enjoyed tea suggested we try this place. She drove, since I don’t and parking around here is complete insanity. We finally found a spot and had a long, cold walk to the place. When we arrived, I thought it was a derelict store front in a condemned building and we’d somehow missed the tea room. Nope-this was the place.

The drinking/dining area was not much bigger than a tiny dining area in a private home. It was dim, dark and not at all inviting. Part of the low light stemmed from the unclean front window, the rest from the poor output of low wattage bulbs and heavy, dirty window covering. There were 3 tables vacant (3 tables PERIOD) but was no one at the counter to help us. There was an old dresser covered in dirty, tatty linens which served as an open display case for some wretched looking pastries on mismatched crockery. We did not know if we should seat ourselves or stand at the counter until someone came out to instruct us. I just wanted to get out of there but my friend was cold and said she wanted to try the house chai to warm up.

After about 5 minutes, a sullen and unhealthy looking woman with a runny nose and an oversized wool cap came out, seated herself behind the counter and ignored us pointedly. I poked my friend to signal ’let’s go,’ but she greeted the woman and asked if the shop was open. The young woman said nothing but handed us a menu.

We took a seat at a table with a dirty glass top. My friend said we should order a pot of the house chai and get some cookies or pastry. I pointed to the limp looking stuff we’d seen earlier and raised my eyebrows to indicate “really?!” The counter person, now really bored, must have been watching us and said, ’everything’s vegan.’ That would not begin to account for why the baked goods looked so shop worn.

Since we clearly were not going to be waited on, my friend went back to the counter, ordered a pot of chai, a slice of banana bread and peanut butter cookies. She was told where to find cups, plates, napkins, utensils and saucers for the table. I asked for a glass of water and had a carafe pointed out. I grabbed it along with a napkin and used the wetted napkin to clean and then dry the glass table top. The white napkin came away deep grey.

As we sat and waited, wondering if we would have to make our own chai as well, another person came in and was greeted happily by the counter woman. Apparently, in addition to being a tea room, there was also a massage therapist doing business in this space. The customer was waiting for her massage appointment and chatted animatedly with the suddenly pleasant counter person.

At least 15 minutes went by before we were told our chai was up. The woman made no motion to bring it to our table. My friend got it and then inquired about our pastry and cookies. A grimy hand pointed to the dresser, which held neither banana bread or cookies on display. I said there was nothing there that we had ordered and was told, “Gee, that’s too bad. It’s all vegan.”

The tea pot had seen better days, but the chai was hot. There was no milk in it or any sweetner and neither of us saw anything like that out for use. By then, the newest customer had disappeared somewhere for her massage and the counter person seemed absent as well. I asked my friend how much she wanted this tea. She looked at me and agreed that we should leave. I put the price of the tea on the counter, did not leave a tip and we left. Our hands were dirty from everything we’d touched. The board of health should close this place down. We walked over to another little restaurant, Honey’s Sit N’ Eat, not too far from Random, washed our hands thoroughly, had a big, satisfying breakfast and a large pot of perfectly ordinary but very warming black tea with milk and sugar.



The most beautiful piece of music to listen to while drinking tea. Or doing anything really.

I am a very blunt, highly opinionated, queer, widowed senior citizen. Not retired. Probably old enough to be your grandparent, thus been there and done that. Holistic doctor, art therapist, herbalist, certified aromatherapist, tarot reader and amateur astrologer. INTJ, Eneagram 5 with a 4 wing, Dragon in Chinese astrology. Sagittarius Sun, Scorpio Moon.

As far as following people goes, that’s not my thing. If you follow me and I don’t return the ‘favor,’ usually it isn’t personal at all. Since I don’t do Facebook or social media, the whole follow you/follow me thing just feels forced. And creepy.

I’ve been on Steepster for 6 years but I do not swap, have a wishlist or post tasting notes because tea just tastes like TEA to me thus there’s nothing for me to write about. How many times can I write, ‘This XYZ Assam tasted like tea…’ I don’t keep a cupboard here, either.

My main reason for being on Steepster is to relax and read interesting, well written and entertaining tasting notes while I drink tea.

If I like you, I may gift you with tea as my Swedish Death Purge is ongoing. Even if I live to be a centenarian, there is no way all the tea I have accumulated will ever be drunk by me. Placing it in good homes is my goal.

Flavored teas and rooibos don’t get past my threshold. Green tea tastes like grass clippings to me. The Godfather of Pu Erh has sent me a curated selection of pu erh from his own collection and it’s still something that I just do not grok, no matter how it’s prepared, who prepares it or what kind it is.

I brew Western style and collect antique tea pots and cups-mostly European-but there are some Asian ones in my collection as well as some de rigueur clay pots. I don’t find gong fu brewing relaxing or meditative; rather I find it fussy, annoying and nerve wracking so while I do have several gaiwans, they are rarely pressed into service. I adore Bitterleaf’s tea cup selection and left to my own mad devices, I would have a room completely devoted to tea cups and several rooms devoted to chairs (another passion-yes, CHAIRS).

My maternal grandparents, who were both immigrants, were my primary caretakers and I began drinking all kinds of tea when I was a toddler. Mostly we had wicked strong black tea every day, but if there was an illness or health issue, folk remedies were brewed and used. My grandparents introduced me to tisanes, tinctures and herbal concoctions which I still use in daily life.

I have lived in many states and did some of my schooling in several different countries where I happily enjoyed and engaged in numerous tea adventures.

One of my silly indulgences is a yearly birthday treat to myself-over priced, inauthentic high tea at a pseudo-British pub here. Having a Manhattan or two with it makes everything more festive.
: )


East Coast-Northeastern U.S.

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