Category Archives: Food and Drink

A Tea Lover in a Coffee World: Savrika Tea Review

IMG_1795After a year of writing tea reviews, I have visited quite a few different tea shops and houses in the greater Seattle area. While none of the other tea shops I visited were bad, in fact all of them served great tea and food, it was apparent that the owners of some tea shops hadn’t invested the same amount of knowledge or time into learning about the products they sell. Or if they have, they haven’t quite figured out how to share that information with their customers. However, when I recently stumbled upon Savrika Tea in downtown Kirkland, I realized I had discovered something really special.

You can tell that the owner, Rupa D. Gadre, is passionate about tea. This love for tea is evident from the second you step into Savrika Tea. This is not only because the numerous tea certifications she has earned, Rupa has been taking specialized courses since 2011 and officially became a Certified Tea Specialist in the Fall of 2013, but also due to the tea wall focal point and huge variety of tea with something to suit every taste.

IMG_1821Rupa’s entry to the tea world and entrepreneurship was somewhat unexpected. She originally worked as a Web Analyst for Cisco Systems, but took a hiatus from work to have children. As a mom, Rupa often visited the mall for her kid’s play dates and stopped at Teavana while there. Yet, while the store introduced her to a variety of wonderful loose leaf teas, she soon realized there were major drawbacks with the experience. One, there was no place to actually sit and enjoy the tea she purchased, so Rupa was forced to take the tea home and drink it by herself. Two, Rupa explains that she had a lot of questions about tea that the store staff couldn’t answer. Thus, disappointed in the lack of the social aspect and wanting people to be able to learn more about the tea they were drinking, Savrika Tea was born.

When it was clear that the store was going to be a reality, Rupa told me that she lucked into meeting an architect, who also happened to be an ex-Starbucks employee, through a fellow parent. Rupa explained that, while not a designer, she knew she wanted “a modern and clean look and feel.  That is evident also in the tea wall focal point, the furnishings I chose, the concrete design on the floor, and the bathrooms.” Rupa adds that “because I’m the one making the final decisions, there was no committee to restrict my colors or themes,” which was nice since it allowed her to make the space truly her own.

IMG_1818The appearance of the store definitely accomplishes Rupa’s goal. The shop is a modern oasis, with shiny granite tables and a cozy nook to one side of the space that is excellent for curling up with a good book. The clean lines of the shelving put the tea ware and tea that is sold on display. Aside from the giant wall of tea, my favorite part of the store was the tea sampling station that is set up in the center of the room.  Here, all 200 varieties of tea the shop sells are stored in small, color-coded tins (black tins for black teas, green tins for green teas and so on). Customers are able to open these tins in order to smell and examine the teas inside to find one or more that they would like to drink. There is a directory of all the teas that the store offers, which lists the ingredients and a description of each tea to help you get a better idea of what each one contains. If you still aren’t sure what tea you would like to try, Savrika’s knowledgeable staff can help you find a tea that is a good fit for you based on what flavors you enjoy. To ensure her staff remains knowledgeable about tea, Rupa says that, “after every training [I go to], I bring back my coursework and notes and educate my staff. That way they have more information at hand when speaking with customers.” In addition, Rupa states, “ I encourage my staff to try a new tea on each shift; that way they can give personal recommendations as well make their way through all 200 varieties.”

After exploring a number of the different teas on offer, I ended up deciding upon a black-green tea blend called “Roxie’s Passion” at the recommendation of a staff member. This blend includes black tea, green tea, papaya cubes, rosehip peel, flavoring and sunflower blossoms. Since it is summer, and has been hot out, I opted to have Roxie’s Passion brewed iced.  The tea arrived at my table in a to-go cup and was a pretty golden peach color. The flavor was even better. The tea tastes of a nice, smooth traditional black tea, except slightly lighter, perhaps because of the green tea that was also in the brew. There were fruity notes, such as peach and passion fruit, in the tea that made it even more delicious. In addition, the tea shop sells quite a few desserts and tea sandwiches, which can be hard to find nowadays. I didn’t sample any of these goodies myself, but they looked pretty tasty.

IMG_1812While Savrika Tea is Rupa’s first foray into selling tea on her own, it is not her first experience with tea. According to Rupa:

As far back as I can remember, tea was always around and part of my life.  When we had guests, my Mom would bring out the nicer teapots.  At parties, chai was always the last item served.  When we’d go on vacations, my parents would stop the car for afternoon tea time. It didn’t matter where we were, but the tea break came to be expected. It was the tradition that followed from India to their new country, from their parents’ houses to our home, and now to my home and business.

Since tea has long been a part of Rupa’s life, she decided she would combine another important aspect of her background, her Indian heritage, into the store. As such, “the base of the [store’s] name is ‘Sarika,’ which is a Sanskrit woman’s name meaning beauty in nature. I added the ‘v’ to make it Savrika – wholly mine and unique, but with an Indian base. “

IMG_1823Savrika Tea is rapidly approaching its second birthday; the store opened its doors in September of 2012, and shows no signs of slowing down. Even on a Wednesday afternoon, when I visited, there were quite a few people in the shop sipping tea while reading or working on their computers. Besides selling tea, Rupa offers frequent tea tastings and classes so customers interested in learning more about tea have the opportunity to do so. It seems the abundance of knowledge Rupa provides her customers is likely what makes Savirka Tea so successful. Rupa said it best when she stated, “I have no agenda except to provide high-quality tea and perhaps educate customers along the way.”

Brewin’ with Brandi: Cappuccine Extreme Toffee Coffee

CappuccineThe heat is on, and there is no better way to cool off this summer than with a blended, frozen beverage. Many people satisfy this craving by ordering a frappe from their local café, but you can actually save yourself money (and a trip to you local coffee shop) by making this delicious treat at home with Cappuccine Gourmet Frappe Mix.

Besides being incredibly yummy, this powdered drink mix is about as easy as it gets when it comes to making it. All you have to do is blend a couple of scoops of Cappuccine with ice, milk and coffee and or espresso and you are good to go! What’s nice about Cappuccine is that there a number of flavors to try out and even more options when it comes to brewing with it, so you can get creative when concocting various recipes. After all, isn’t experimenting with different flavors supposed to be what cooking is all about?

For instance, we’ve also been know to throw in of our Monin syrups or fruit in the blender with our Cappuccine for added flavor. While Cappucinne specializes in frappes, you don’t have to reserve this drink mix just for hot months, you can also try mixing it with hot water or milk to create hot cocoa. Or even try it with hot coffee or espresso to make a mocha-like drink! The options are endless.

In our most recent foray into the kitchen, Brandi and Kaylie blended up an Extreme Toffee Coffee frappe. This may just be one of our favorite flavors, as there are actual chunks of toffee in the powder, like a Heath bar. Watch them in action as they brew up the drink to join in on the fun!

Brewin’ with Brandi: Cappuccine Extreme Toffee Coffee

Ingredients:

  • 14 oz. of ice
  • Two scoops of Cappuccine – The Cappuccine powder comes with its own handy scoop, but in case you happen to misplace yours, two scoops is equal to about 7 tablespoons
  • 5 oz. of coffee

Directions

  • Combine all ingredients in a blender – we used our trusty Vitamix.
  • Blend, and enjoy!

Brewin’ with Brandi: Espresso Sugar Cubes

Espresso Sugar CubesWant to flavor your coffee, with cream, sugar and more coffee? Well, we have just the thing, with a bit of a sweet twist. What is this magical potion? Espresso sugar cubes! These sugar cubes are similar to the popular drink “shot in the dark,” which is a shot of espresso poured into a cup of coffee. If this blend of coffee, sugar and espresso doesn’t wake you up and get you’re heart racing in the morning, we don’t know what will!

These caffeinated sugar cubes are surprisingly easy to make. All you need is white sugar, brewed espresso and a few cooking utensils. If you want to get fancy, you can try experimenting with cookie cutters or ice cube molds to create different shapes like hearts, stars or seasonal patterns. If you really want to step up your game you can also try flavoring the cubes with something besides espresso, such as Monin syrups. For instance, we think Toasted Almond Mocha sounds pretty tasty, and that Rose flavored sugar cubes would even pair well with tea. In other words, don’t be surprised if you find us back in the kitchen playing around with sugar in the not so distant future. In the meantime, watch Brandi and Kaylie get their buzz on as they mix up these espresso sugar cubes.

 

Brewin’ with Brandi: Espresso Sugar Cubes

Ingredients

  • 2 cups white sugar
  • 4 tablespoons brewed espresso

Directions

  • Measure out the white sugar and brewed espresso into a large mixing bowl.
  • Stir the ingredients together until everything is moistened and combined. The mixture should have the texture of wet sand.
  • Pour mixture onto a large rectangle baking dish or baking sheet, and smooth out the mixture with a spatula. You’ll want the mixture to be about ½ inch high, otherwise you will have giant sugar cubes.
  • When you have achieved your desired thickness, cut the sugar mixture into small squares to form cubes.
  • Let the cubes air-dry, uncovered for 12-24 hours.

Brewin’ with Brandi: Seahawk Burger

Seahawk BurgerRecently, the Seahawks have been a pretty deal around these parts. They did win the Super Bowl after all. Not ones to fall behind on a trend, we decided to celebrate their success by creating our own yummy treat – the Seahawk burger!

What makes this burger special? It has espresso in it! What, you thought we’d make something that didn’t involve coffee? Besides espresso, this burger contains the usual ingredients you would expect to find. To keep this recipe local, we did try to use Washington or Seattle-based produce, coffee and wine. Think Beecher’s cheese, Chateau Ste. Michelle wine and locally roasted espresso. We think this burger might also pair really well with a beer from one of our many craft breweries, such as Redhook or Pyramid. However, if you don’t live in the area, feel free to substitute in your own local brands.

While some naysayers, or fans of rival teams, may try to argue that football season is over, nothing says summer like grilling burgers on the barbeque. If it happens to be raining, you can always cook the burgers in a skillet. Plus, these burgers are a great way to help tide yourself over until football season starts up again.

Hungry? Check out our video to learn how to make these giant (and tasty!) Seahawk burgers with Brandi and Kaylie. You may even catch a glimpse of a surprise guest.

Brewin’ with Brandi: Seahawk Burger

Ingredients:

  • 1 teaspoon vegetable oil
  • 1 sliced sweet onion (such as a Walla Walla)
  • 8 oz. sliced mushrooms
  • salt and black pepper to taste
  • ½ cup Washington state red wine (Merlot or Syrah)
  • ½ shot brewed espresso (such as Zoka’s Espresso Paladino Blend)
  • 4 (6 oz.) grass-fed ground beef patties
  • 4 hamburger buns
  • 1 cup arugula (you will need a ¼ cup for each burger)
  • 12 slices of Colby Jack Cheese (use 3-4 slices for each burger)

Seattle Aioli:

  • ½ cup mayonnaise
  • ½ teaspoon Sriracha sauce
  • ½ shot brewed espresso

Directions:

  • Heat the vegetable oil in a large skillet over medium-high heat. Cook onions and mushrooms in the oil until the onions start to caramelize and mushrooms soften, or about 5-10 minutes.
  • Add salt and pepper to the skillet to season the vegetable mixture. When the mixture has cooked down, add the red wine and ½ shot of brewed espresso (reserving the other ½ for later).
  • Cook the vegetable mixture for five more minutes until most of the wine and espresso burn off. This will give the mushrooms and onions a really nice flavor.
  • In the meantime, cook four hamburger patties to taste and begin preparing the Seattle aioli.
  • To make the aioli, combine the mayonnaise, Sriracha sauce and other ½ of the espresso shot together in a medium sized bowl. Wisk until smooth.
  • Spread aioli on each hamburger bun.
  • When the burgers are done grilling, top each patty with 3-4 slices of Colby jack cheese, mushroom and onion mixture and arugula lettuce.
  • Makes four large burgers – enjoy!

A Tea Lover in a Coffee World: Review of High Tea on an Alaskan Cruise

premium teaThe end of May and the beginning of June are not only the beginning of the camping and backpacking season for many people, but they are also the start of the summer vacation season. While many people in the greater Seattle area travel to warmer climes, another popular vacation destination is Alaska. After all, Alaska is considered part of the Pacific Northwest, albeit a very far northern part of it. In fact, a few of our other crew members have already made the trek, so I decided it was my turn and booked myself on a cruise. Besides, in addition to getting to explore the beautiful scenery, I thought it would be a great chance to check out the coffee and tea scene up north.

Before I left on my trip, a few of my co-workers gave me some advice on things to do while traveling. One of the most important pieces being to make sure to see if my cruise ship offered high tea on of the days during the trip. Once I was onboard, I glanced at the schedule and was excited to find that there indeed was a high tea planned for the next day and made a note to attend.

tea treatsTo my surprise and delight, the tea was far fancier than I expected. Arrayed on at least two-dozen, if not more, platters were hundreds of sweet and savory teatime goodies. These treats included sandwiches made with smoked salmon, cucumber, prosciutto, turkey and roast beef combined with either cream cheese or mayonnaise. In addition, there were a variety of muffins, breads, éclairs, brownies, cookies, cakes, tarts and fruit. There was even a snack that was new to me for teatime – biscuits and gravy! Behind this gigantic spread of food were six beautifully hand-carved watermelons and an ice sculpture of a windmill. In short, the display was stunning.

With so many different snacks available, it was difficult to take them all in, let alone decide which ones to sample. After much deliberation, I ended up picking up a salmon sandwich, cucumber sandwich, éclair, fruit tart and a chocolate covered strawberry. All of which were very tasty. The tea served, although good, wasn’t quite as impressive as the food. The tea was a pretty common brand that you could likely find at your local grocery store. However, I did pick up a little secret for others that also prefer to have premium teas at teatime. You can bring your own tea and brew it at your table. Hot water is readily available at every table, so all you need is your loose leaf tea and an infuser. The beauty of this approach is that you can use whatever travel brewer you prefer, be it a tea filter, a small tea infuser or travel tumbler. Even without this remedy, the high teas were definitely worth revisiting. There was one held at the same time each day of the cruise and some even had different themes, such as a cupcake tea.

Alaska Wild TeasWhile I wasn’t able to go to high tea every day, I did get a chance to check out some local Alaskan teas while I was on land. The brand of teas I stumbled upon is, not surprisingly, called “Alaska Wild Teas.” These teas are not “true teas” but are rather tisanes made out of a blend of wild Alaskan herbs, fruit and berries. Even though they aren’t true teas, they sure are tasty! The teas come in flavors like blackberry, blueberry, cranberry, raspberry, wild rose and strawberry, and can be served hot or cold. I even brought some back home with me to continue to enjoy and share with friends and family.

Overall, I thoroughly enjoyed the trip and it was interesting to sample and learn about teas from another part of the country. Will you be traveling somewhere exotic this summer that will also allow you to partake in local coffee or teas? Let us know about your experience in the comments.

Brewin’ with Brandi: Springtime Cocktail

Springtime CocktailIt’s springtime! That means it is time to break out the shorts, T-shirts and sandals. Okay, that’s not quite the case here in Seattle. It is still a little cold to start wearing our warm weather gear, although some of us do anyway. However, that doesn’t mean that we can’t start preparing for nicer days (after all, at least the sun is now out on a regular basis) and what better way to do that than with a springtime cocktail!

Made with zippy fruits and herbs like strawberry, lemon and basil, you’ll be thinking spring with just one sip of this cocktail. If you plan on serving this drink at your next party, make sure to pick up some extra ingredients since you will want to at least quadruple this recipe to make sure you have enough for everyone. Watch as Brandi and Kaylie stir up a few ingredients to create this refreshing adult beverage and serve it to a surprise guest.

Brewin’ with Brandi: Springtime Cocktail

Ingredients

  • ¾ oz. Monin Strawberry Syrup
  • 1 leaf(ves) basil
  • 1 strawberry(ies)
  • ice
  • ¼ oz. fresh lemon juice
  • 1 oz. vodka
  • ½ oz. gin
  • 5 oz. cocktail/martini glass
  • Cocktail shaker

Directions

  • Muddle the strawberry, basil, lemon juice and Monin strawberry syrup in a cocktail shaker.
  • Pour in the vodka and gin, and if you want your drink extra cold, a few pieces of ice.
  • Cap shaker and shake vigorously.
  • Strain and pour over ice.
  • Garnish with an additional strawberry and serve.

A Tea Lover in a Coffee World: Panama Hotel Tea and Coffee House Review

Panama Hotel Tea and Coffee HouseWhen it comes to the oldest teahouses, the historical Panama Hotel Tea and Coffee House probably has most other locations in the greater Seattle area beat. Built in 1910, the Panama Hotel is over 100 years old. However, the Panama Hotel wasn’t always a tea and coffee house, that particular feature was only added on in the past 15 years, around 1999. As the building’s name states, it was originally a hotel.

According to the historical information found on the website for the Panama Hotel, it was originally built by Sabro Ozasa, a Japanese Architect and graduate of the University of Washington. The hotel was built as a “workingman’s” hotel and has served as a home for generations of Japanese immigrants, fisherman and international travelers. One of the most notable features of the Panama Hotel is the bathhouse found in the basement that was a huge part of the Japanese community before World War II. In fact, it was this bathhouse that attracted many of the hotel’s visitors in the early 1990s, as it was a place to relax after work with their friends. Interestingly, the bathhouse is now the only remaining Japanese bathhouse left intact in the United States, which you can arrange to tour when you visit the Panama Hotel or Tea and Coffee House.

The Panama Hotel itself is still in existence, and unlike the bathhouse, the hotel rooms are still serviceable, so you can stay in one the next time you visit. However, while the Panama Hotel has interesting background, part of the building’s history is bittersweet. Just 31 years into the hotel’s lifespan, President Roosevelt signed Executive Order 9066, sending thousands of people of Japanese decent to internment camps in 1942. These families were only allowed to bring what they could carry with them to these camps, so a lot was left behind. However, many people also turned to friends they knew that had a lot of space, and asked if they could store their belongings with them. This is how the former owner of the Panama Hotel, Takashi Hori and his family, came to have the possessions from a number of Japanese families stored in his basement. Sadly, many of the belongings were never claimed after the war ended in 1945.

Peach teaAs a result, many of these belongings now decorate the Panama Hotel Tea and Coffee House, providing a look back at the first couple of decades in the 1900s. In keeping with the historical feel of the hotel, the cafe has an old and unique design. There is a lot of exposed wood and brick, black and white pictures of Japantown prior to WWII cover the walls and there is even a window in the floor that allows you to look into the basement where the possessions were stored.

Despite my best efforts, I wasn’t able to talk to the current owner of the Panama Hotel, Jan Johnson, to find out how she came to own the hotel or what inspired her to add a tea house to the building. However, I did take advantage of the opportunity to sample their tea. I stuck with my usual white tea for this review, and tried one called Peach Blossom. My tea arrived in a glass mug with a net-like infuser full of nearly whole tea leaves. I immediately fell in love with the smell wafting from the cup; it smelled very sweet, like peach nectar or juice – perfect for spring! After the tea had steeped for about three to four minutes, I decided to go ahead and try it out. The flavor was very light, I tasted mostly peach (much like the smell) but the tea had a few floral notes as well. This tea is definitely one of the best ones I have tasted by far, and will definitely have to return for another cup in the future.

I couldn’t let my tea go unaccompanied, so I sampled the Panini Panama. This Panini is made with cheese, tomatoes, artichokes, roasted red peppers, olive tapenade and seasoned with basil and other spices. Just the smell alone made my mouth start to water all over again. Of course, it was excellent, and tasted like a veggie pizza but in sandwich form. Besides tea and Paninis, the shop serves pastries and traditional Japanese desserts like mochi and manju. If you come between 6-8 pm you can also get a tea based cocktail. While the focus of the café is primarily on tea, the café also serves Lavazza coffee and espresso based drinks for all you coffee lovers out there.

SandwichPerhaps it is the old-timey feel of this café, but time simply seems to slow down at the Panama Hotel Tea and Coffee House. The slower pace and laid back atmosphere makes this a great place to relax and soak in some Seattle history. The latter of which makes this café a nice spot to take visitors, since it is one of the few places in the area where you can get a history lesson along with your cup of tea.

Brewin’ with Brandi: Kona Bar Milkshake

Kona Bar MilkshakeIn case you haven’t noticed, Brandi loves blending up different foods; and sampling the results of course! In her past recipes she has thrown a piece of cake and even a donut in a blender. This time around she blended up two candy bars (combined with a few other goodies). This leads to the question, will it blend?! There’s nothing worse than a lumpy milkshake, so we used our trusty Vitamix 300 to mix up this recipe. In our opinion, the Vitamix works just as well (if not better) than other blenders on the market. In fact, our milkshake turned out just how we like it – rich, smooth and creamy.

However, we didn’t use just any ordinary chocolate bars when making our milkshake, we used the Kona Bar. What makes these chocolate bars special is that they are made with Kona coffee beans, to provide you with a little extra perk and a little extra crunch. We used Raspberry Kona Bars in our recipe, because who doesn’t love chocolate, raspberry, coffee and ice cream? However, these bars come in other tasty tropical flavors like coconut, macadamia, vanilla, passion fruit and hibiscus, which we imagine would be equally good if you decided to substitute them in. We just started selling these bars at our retail locations, so if you live near one of our stores, make sure to come try them out.

To learn how to make this delicious coffee flavored shake, watch Brandi and Kaylie try it out in this video.

Brewin’ with Brandi: Kona Bar Milkshake

Ingredients

  • 1 cup of milk
  • 2 Kona Bars (we used a raspberry flavored bar, but feel free to substitute one of their other tasty flavors)
  • 4 cups of vanilla ice cream
  • 1 cup of hot fudge
  • Whipped cream (for topping)

Directions

  • Chop up the Kona Bars into medium-sized pieces
  • Combine the milk and ice cream in a blender
  • Add ¾ of the chopped Kona Bars to the milk/ice cream
  • Blend until smooth
  • Heat the fudge and drizzle it on the bottom of the cups
  • Pour milkshake on top if the fudge
  • Top milkshake with whipped cream and the remaining chopped Kona Bar pieces.

Brewin’ with Brandi: Coffee Crème Brulee

Coffee Creme BruleeCrème brulee is a dessert prep that has withstood the test of time (it has been around since 1691), and for good reason – it is so delicious! We recently found that if we were going to be historical about it we should have served this dessert last week, since in Catalan cuisine crème brulee is served on March 19th for Saint Joseph’s Day.

However, if you ask us, it’s always a good time to consume this scrumptious treat so we went ahead and made it anyway. After all, there’s nothing quite like the satisfying crunch of cracking through the crisp, glossy brunt sugar crust on a crème brulee. Although, diving into the smooth and creamy custard underneath is a close second. Our version of this old standby does have a slight twist to it though – coffee! As you might have guessed, we love espresso so much that we add it to a recipe whenever we have the opportunity. We must admit it does taste pretty darn good.

Watch as Brandi and Kaylie play with fire (we promise no buildings were harmed or burned down during this film) and create some mighty fine coffee crème brulee.

 

Brewin’ with Brandi: Coffee Creme Brûlée

Ingredients

  • 2 cups of light cream
  • 2 teaspoons of finely ground espresso
  • 8 tablespoons of sugar
  • 4 egg yolks
  • 2 tablespoons all-purpose flour
  • 1 tablespoon brandy

Directions

  • Start by heating your stove to medium, and combining the cream, finely ground espresso and half the sugar in a medium sized pan.
  • Stir the ingredients until all of the sugar is dissolved and the coffee is mixed in well.
  • Meanwhile, put the egg yolks in a separate bowl and beat in the flour to make a smooth paste.
  •  Then, gradually stir the warm coffee mixture into the egg paste you just created until everything is combined well.
  • Return this mix to the pan and heat gently, stirring the mixture for 5-10 minutes until it forms a thick custard.
  • Remove the pan from the heat and stir in the brandy.
  • Pour the custard into 4 small ramekins. Let them cool, then cover and chill the custard in the refrigerator for at least 2 hours or overnight.
  • When you are ready to serve the crème brulees, sprinkle each one with 1 tablespoon of the remaining sugar. Next, caramelize the sugar with a kitchen blowtorch. If you don’t have a kitchen blowtorch, you can achieve the same effect by the placing the sugar covered custard under your oven’s broiler for about 5 minutes until the sugar caramelizes.

A Tea Lover in a Coffee World: Baicha Tea Room Review

Baicha Tea RoomOn a recent quest to find teahouses outside of Seattle proper, and explore lesser-known opportunities for delicious tea, I stumbled upon Baicha Tea Room in Edmonds. This city, which is north of Seattle, has always been full of coffee shops, but actual teahouses have been few and far between. As such, I was excited to discover that there now was one in the area and to get a chance to visit one of our “neighbors.”

Located a few blocks down from the heart of Edmonds, Baicha may be slightly challenging to find if you haven’t heard of it before. However, this hidden gem is definitely worth the trek. According to Ann Budharaksa, who owns the store with her husband Joe, Baicha sells 90 different teas, which include white, green, oolong, black, blooming and flavored and scented teas. Ann and Joe have also concocted some tasty sounding tea lattes and smoothies, the latter of which I’ll have to come back and try once it starts to get warmer. However, Ann says the shop’s most popular teas are their specialty wellness blends that have been created to help alleviate colds, stomach aches, joint pain, hangovers and even skin problems. In fact, Ann and the rest of the staff are more than happy to help recommend a tea to help cure what ails you.

IMG_1314I had the opportunity to talk to Ann further, and she explained that they opened Baicha, which means tea leaf in their native Thai, because her husband was interested in tea and wanted to get into the business. It is not only Joe that enjoys tea though; Ann says she drinks tea every day, varying the type depending on what her mood is. The tea room has been open for a little over three years, as it had its grand opening on the auspicious day of 11/11/2011.  The day must have been lucky indeed, since they have been doing well ever since, with people frequently coming in to study, work just to meet a friend for breakfast or lunch. According to Ann, the store is busiest on Thursdays, Fridays and Saturdays, with the peak times being from 11:00 a.m. to 12:00 p.m. This makes sense since the shop serves breakfast and brunch all day as well as soups, salads, paninis and traditional tea sandwiches.

Tea sandwiches can be surprisingly hard to find at even some tea houses, so I tried a plate of the cucumber parsley cream cheese ones. They were delicious, and came with seasonal fruit (in this case a bowl of strawberries) and chips. I had tea too, of course, and sampled the Pai Mu Tan or “white peony,” which is a white tea. The tea was served in a Bodum glass and infuser, and came with a sand timer so I knew how long to let the tea steep before drinking. When the tea was done steeping, it was a light yellow color and had sweet, floral flavor with a hint of peach.

IMG_1321After snacking on the sandwiches and tea, I decided to check out the rest of the shop at Ann’s urging. The main entrance, and upstairs, of the tea house is where you’ll find the counter for ordering tea and food, as well as a long bar that runs nearly the length of it, where you can sit and sip some tea. Although the upstairs is fairly small, there is also plenty of seating along the windows as well. However, as Ann pointed out, the downstairs area of the store is really what makes the tea shop unique. The space is surprisingly large, especially when compared with the upstairs, and is somewhat unexpected. In fact, the downstairs is large enough to house three rooms; a large room with a long table that would be great for meetings or studying, medium-sized room with cozy couches and a fireplace and a small side room with a fish tank and love seat. The décor in the rooms is modern, with an Asian feel. There are also canvases with pictures of tea or tea kettles hanging on the lightly colored walls that lend a calming vibe to the space. Every room looked so inviting, I actually had a hard time choosing where to sit. With so many options for seating, tea and food, it is no wonder so many people have made this tea room their secret spot for relaxing and hanging out. I just may have to make Baicha Tea Room my secret hideaway as well.