04 August 2016

Visiting California Part 3: The Return of Tea Habitat


Shortly after I left Southern California, Tea Habitat's physical location closed. Imen, who owns and runs the company, specializes in dancong oolong and offers more varieties of it than any vendor I've visited on this or that side of the Pacific. My partner and I, along with the LA Tea Affair folks, had spent handfuls of mornings - that turned into afternoons - tasting and discovering better dancong oolong teas at Tea Habitat. Of course, any time a physical shop closes, it should sadden us; there are too few places in the U.S. to taste high-end teas before you buy them.

Thus, I was excited to learn that Tea Habitat opened a new shop space, although it's available by appointment only. Even better, Imen was there and tasting when we wanted to drop by.

Imen hated me for taking this photo, but I think she looks good.

The new space is cozy, bright and well decorated.

As pictured, we drank many teas. Many were new shipments fresh from China that she herself hadn't tasted yet. I wish I could remember all the names and which ones impressed me most, but my focus was on catching up. She did take notes, and if they're not already on her site, they will be soon.





I wish I could remember all the names. In addition, we had a delicate green and a punchy, supposedly wild-harvested bai mudan (white peony).



I had to take a break to appreciate a few of her teaware items. This cute vintage plate tempted me, but too many plates line my shelves already.



After this, we took a trip to the Huntington Library and Gardens to see how their Chinese garden had fared. The willows and shrubs have grown in, the koi have grown fat, lotuses and water lilies dot the ponds, and new pavilions and paths have popped up.




We needed a refreshment after all the walking. Ever heard of Okinawa-style milk tea? I had not, but I'm glad my friend introduced me. It's milk tea with caramelized brown sugar as sweetener, and it's aromatic and rich. Not as fancy as the tea we'd had earlier, but a delicious alternative to a cold coffee beverage.

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