Daily Dish

The inside scoop on food in Los Angeles

Category: Tea

A Spot of Tea pops up at Spice Station

QueenFriday through May 6, Spice Station in Silver Lake is hosting A Spot of Tea pop-up tea shop in celebration of all things British (it's Brit Week and Queen Elizabeth II's Diamond Jubilee). A Spot of Tea -- "a cozy vintage tea room with an authentic Britsh vibe" -- was created by the Anglo American trio music stylist Gemma Dempsey, creative director Jenny Charlesworth and producer Stacy Ruppel.

Spice Station teas will be served with finger sandwiches, cakes and other Brit treats. Freshly baked goods will come from Silver Lake’s Forage, Santa Monica’s Tudor House and Kings Head, and Culver City’s Platine.

On certain days, afternoon tea will be accompanied by live musical performances or tea time story recitals. U.K.-themed gifts for sale include Marfa Brands soap made with licorice tea and British violinist Maya Magub's ceramics. Seating is limited: To reserve a spot, email [email protected] with your day and time request and the number in your party.

Spice Station, 3819 Sunset Blvd., Los Angeles. For A Spot of Tea, contact (310) 612-6990 or www.popupteaspot.com. A Spot of Tea is open Monday to Saturday 11 a.m. to 6 p.m., Sunday noon to 5 p.m.


The Art of Cooking exhibit opens at Royal/T

Sunday pig supper at Eveleigh

A Getty dinner puts on the Ritts

-- Betty Hallock

Photo credit: A Spot of Tea.

Bellocq Tea and those alluring yellow tea canisters

Bellocq1 (1 of 1)Last time I went to London, I was intent on visiting the tea atelier Bellocq on King’s Road. Their website is evocative, no mystery once I learned the firm was started by several designers and tea fanciers who count Martha Stewart Omnimedia and Anthropologie among their influences and clients. 

Never got there, distracted by other things, mostly museums. Back home, though, I read the firm had closed their London shop and set up shop across the pond in Brooklyn, specifically Greenpoint. That address promptly ended up on my to-do list for an upcoming trip to New York. I never got all the way to Brooklyn because it turned out to be one of those glorious fall days that don’t come around all that often. I ended up spending the day in Central Park and at the De Kooning exhibit at MOMA.

But I still had the itch to try some of Bellocq's fine teas. I considered mail order before I discovered that the teas are sold at Restoration Hardware's fancy (free valet parking!) West Hollywood venue. 

I imagined a few tins on a shelf, but Bellocq actually has a small boutique inside the larger shop. They’ll pour you a sample of whatever they’ve got brewing that day and have samples set out for theoretically sniffing the teas’ aromas. I say theoretically, because most of the samples have been sitting out so long they no longer have a scent.

I was interested in two of Bellocq's signature blends: White Duke (organic white tea Bellocq2 (1 of 1)buds scented with Sicilian bergamot and organic blue cornflowers, lighter than an Earl Grey) and Bellocq Breakfast Tea (full-bodied blend of organic Indian, Chinese and Ceylon black tea.) The salesperson gushed about the Afghani Chai (blend of Assam black tea, red poppy flowers, green cardamon, star anise, ginger, clove and black pepper ) and Hindu Holiday (caffeine-free chai; rich and smooth South African rooibos, cardamom, fragrant cassia, and spicy ginger adorned with rose, jasmine and marigold petals), both of which I found too much.  

I really wanted one of the gorgeous yellow tea canisters, but buying tea in one considerably ups the price, so I went for the 2- and 3-ounce paper packets of loose tea leaves instead. Oh, well, unless you’re a restaurant or an obsessed tea drinker who could get through 10 ounces of large leaf pu-erh in a month, it's probably better to go with a smaller quantity anyway.

Another option available only online is Twelve Months of Bellocq — each month a different traveler’s tea caddy (yellow or blue) filled with a different tea, $390.


Take a Bao opens in Studio City

Tar & Roses aims for December opening

Gearing up for 'The Next Iron Chef'

-- S. Irene Virbila

Photos: Bellocq tea shop at Restoration Hardware and Bellocq teas. Credit: S. Irene Virbila / Los Angeles Times

Reading the tea story: "For All the Tea in China"

Tea in china1 (1 of 1) I don’t think a cup of tea has ever passed my mother’s lips. She just didn’t grow up drinking it and knows virtually nothing about it. And I don’t think she’s alone. 

For her, or for anyone with the slightest curiosity about tea, I can recommend “For All the Tea in China: How England Stole the World's Favorite Drink and Changed History” by Sarah Rose. 

Now out in paperback, “For All the Tea in China” is a delightful read — intrigue, suspense, eccentric characters, dastardly deeds, treachery, exotic locales. The story of how Robert Fortune under the aegis of the East India Company outright stole the highly secretive tea trade from China. Disguised as a mandarin, he visited remote, hauntingly beautiful tea regions to spy out how tea was made and processed. He was the first Westerner to discover that black and green tea come from the same plant: they're just processed differently.

In the course of his Victorian-era travels, he secretly collected seeds and shipped thousands of seedlings to India where they languished in port—and died. Heartbreak and drama. But the guy never let up. Eventually, he pulled off the 19th century’s biggest feat of industrial espionage, Photo breaking the Chinese monopoly on tea production for the British market. And that’s why we have Darjeeling and other teas from India today. 

The fact that the long-nosed Brit passed as a Chinese high official seems improbable, but then again, China is vast and the locals probably assumed long-nosed was the norm in some faraway region. Much of the story is indebted to Fortune’s own account, written in 1852. I was surprised to find his book "A Journey to the Tea Countries of China"  available on my iPad via the British Library app and its Historical Collection (45,000 19th century works), scanned from the original. The 452-page book is also available for free from the Open Library as a PDF or Kindle text and many other formats. 

"For All the Tea in China: How England Stole the World's Favorite Drink and Changed History” by Sarah Rose (Penguin, 272 pages, paperback, 2011, $15). Also available in hardcover, sometimes at bargain prices. British Library app, free in iTunes store. An additional $2.99 per month gives you access to the full collection of 60,000 titles and helps support the library.


Italian marroni chestnuts available from Correia Farm

"Food and the Art of Consumption" exhibition

Tacos Clarita lives!

-- S. Irene Virbila


Images: Cover of "For All the Tea in China," and  "A Journey to the Tea Countries of China." 

Green tea workshops from 300-year-old Kyoto tea purveyor


Matcha1 Where better to learn about Japanese green tea than from tea masters at Ippodo, a company in Kyoto that has been producing tea for more than three centuries? It was founded in 1717, five years before this country.

On Sept. 23 and 24, Tortoise General Store on Abbot Kinney in Venice is hosting Ippodo staff for a series of Japanese green tea workshops. If you've ever been confused about brewing temperatures or tea etiquette, here's your chance to listen in on three centuries of experience with the delicate tea.

In “Introductory Green Tea” students will learn to prepare all four types of Japanese green tea — matcha, gyokuro, sencha and hojicha. Master both the basics and the difference between grades of matcha and gyokuro in the “Matcha & Gyokuro” workshop.

The 4 1/2-hour classes are limited to eight students and cost $45, including tastings.  

Call Tortoise at (310) 314-8448 for the schedule or email [email protected] to reserve a place.


New York Times restaurant critic moves on

Santa Monica farmers market celebrates 30 years

Food events: Moon Festival, Nancy Silverton and more

-- S. Irene Virbila


Photos: Matcha. Credit: Ippodo


Tea, the app

Tea1 My frequent houseguest Paul has his own morning ritual. No coffee for him. He passes up the pleasures of stovetop espresso for tea. Tea! And it’s not the Earl Grey or English breakfast stashed in my tea drawer for afternoons when I’m feeling sleepy. He drinks Japanese green tea exclusively, usually ordered directly from Japan.

He even brings his own teapots -- one pot in which to brew the tea, another in which to serve it. I leave him to it. There’s the kettle. There’s the filtered water. Since he knows I enjoy green tea, just not first thing in the morning, he’ll often leave me some of his current favorites as a present. Each comes with a handwritten note telling me how long -- down to the second -- to steep the leaves and at what precise temperature.

So I haul out the thermometer, I measure the water temperature, and adjust with cold or hot water. I brew the tea, watching the second hand on the clock. I know it makes a difference, but it’s such a bother. I don’t have the patience. I lose the notes. I misplace the thermometer.

But I’ve just discovered a tea app for the iPhone that might help me out. Tea expert Photo Thomas Smith was the consultant for Tea, the app, which comes pre-loaded with brewing suggestions for over 200 teas and 12 tea types. The app suggests brewing times, water temperature and how much you’ll need of each tea to brew a cup. It also calculates how many cups you’ll get from each tea purchase and tracks your tea inventory. There’s room for tea tasting or brewing notes. You can also easily adjust the amount of tea leaves, brewing time or temperature to suit your taste.

Watch the video demo at teaapp.com.  

I’m not sure I’m ready to add tea geek to my list of obsessions. Also, I can’t help asking myself if Helen Gustafson, the late great tea fanatic who put together Chez Panisse’s tea program once upon a time, would approve of a tea app. Probably not. But for tea geeks in the making, it’s a help.

Tea from Samuel Iglesias is available in the App Store on iTunes, $2.99.

-- S. Irene Virbila

Screen shot of tea app

Patina now offers table-side tea service

Just in time for the chilly L.A. weather Patina has rolled out a new table-side tea service that will transport you to a fireside state of mind within minutes of its arrival. The new tea-cart experience offers 16 loose teas alongside a variety of fresh herbs that are cut table-side and used for infusion.

Upon request the teas and herbs will be rolled on over to you so you can personally inspect them before deciding on a flavor. The available herbs include chamomile, citronelle, lavender, rosemary and peppermint. If you select any of these they will be washed in fresh water and allowed to infuse for 5 minutes.

Loose-leaf teas include black, herbal, green and white varietals in rich, full-bodied flavors such as French plum, lavender Earl Grey, organic masala chai, jasmine pearls and organic bai mudan from China.

The service is tailored to honor ceremony, so expect a formal but lovely delivery method. And don't be afraid to linger over a hot cup of tea, that's what you're expected to do. It's all very civilized.

--Jessica Gelt

Photo: Organic plumberry black tea. Credit: Patina

'The Gypsy Tea Experience' is waiting to take you away


Not unlike the "Magical Mystery Tour," Kulov's "Gypsy Tea Experience" will take passengers on a trip by coach to a place where adventures can be had.

Unlike the Beatles' film, the excitement sought on this ride is not random. The point is simple -- the point is tea.

Hosted and curated by L.A. tea master Kulov, "The Gypsy Tea Experience" will take tea lovers from Culver City to Ojai by bus. On Sunday, Oct. 24 from 10 a.m. to 6 p.m., the tour will begin at Royal/T with a light breakfast and a guided tour of the gallery's latest art exhibition, "The Warholian."

In honor of Fair Trade Month, the bus tour will end at Zhena's Gypsy Tea in Ojai. Founder Zhena Muzyka was one of the early pioneers of the fair-trade movement.

Guests will be treated to tea-infused foods from Zhena's personal recipes, a tour of the Gypsy Tea headquarters, and a tea blending workshop, where participants will learn to create their own signature teas.

Kulov said his goal is providing tea lovers with unique tea experiences: This year's tea tour is the third time Kulov has taken tea lovers out in the world to tea destinations.

He said about the tours' beginnings, "When the Fowler Museum of Cultural History in Los Angeles was putting together their comprehensive exhibition 'Steeped in History: The Art of Tea in 2009,' they asked me to create something for their programming to run in conjunction with that exhibition."

"The Fowler’s programming manager, Bonnie Poon, and I wanted to create something more unusual, which would expand the tea exhibition beyond the gallery walls. So instead of bringing our tea masters, educators, and purveyors to the museum, we decided to take the Fowler’s audience to them … on a bus."

Tea and travel and art? How can it not be a lovely day?

Space is limited to only 25 passengers. Tickets are $80 per person ($150 per couple). Details at www.kulovteafest.com.

-- Lori Kozlowski

Art courtesy of www.kulovteafest.com.

Kulov's annual Tea Festival is hitting its stride

Japanese tea ceremony

The diversity of tea was on display at Kulov’s annual Tea Festival. Held at Royal/T art gallery and cafe in Culver City over the weekend, the festival seemed to have finally found its perfect home.

Royal/T is at once playful, open, and inventive. If you’ve ever been to Royal/T, you know it’s all Harajuku girls, pop art and high tea -- a wonderland, really. The space lends itself to the cultural. There was room for a Japanese tea ceremony in the front, a cooking with tea workshop in the back, and somewhere in the middle a man sitting on a huge gold pillar playing a sitar.

Harajuku/French maid waitresses dashed from cafe table to cafe table serving milk tea and scones to hungry visitors. Kulov, 45, was the magic maker. He wore a Mad Hatter hat and was sitting at a children’s table when I met him. Right away, he asked me to join the children’s tea party, sat me at the head of the table, poured me a cup of rose-colored tea, and offered me my pick of treats from a silver tower: tiny scones, cucumber finger sandwiches, green grapes, and sugared strawberries.

Tea parties for Kulov originated this way. “I was living in Amsterdam at the time, and I had some brand-new nieces. Since my name has L-O-V -- 'Love' -- in it, we started having tea parties for them on Valentine’s Day. From there, it went from the nieces to having the tea parties for friends and clients, and then we finally opened it up to the public.”

The event has been public for five of the 10 years it has been in existence. Though the attendance grows each year, Kulov enjoys the intimacy of the festival; he hopes to never get to “expo” proportions, hoping to keep the communal feel. That seems to be right, as tea -- to Kulov, and to many others -- suggests intimacy and peacefulness, connection and universality.

Continue reading »

'Tea party' steeped in confusion

Tea Reporting from Chicago - During a trip to China in 2006, Tony Gebely fell in love with tea, both the drink and the ceremony of enjoying a calm cup.

He launched an online tea business this month, but he is having a little trouble ensuring that chicagoteagarden.com gets noticed.

"When I look at search engine results for 'Chicago tea,' I find a whole bunch of Chicago 'tea party' movement sites," Gebely said. "There are a few tea places and then all this political stuff. It's pretty annoying."

Purveyors of fine tea and tea enthusiasts in general find themselves steeped in a linguistic shift, their beloved beverage now associated with a conservative political movement routinely praised or pilloried on talk radio and cable news shows.

The tea party movement's name, a reference to the tax protests that led to the Revolutionary War and an acronym for Taxed Enough Already, really has nothing to do with tea. But that doesn't seem to matter.

"I certainly can see and have seen some confusion with regard to the name they've chosen for their movement," said Dan Robertson, owner of the Tea House in Naperville, Ill., a major tea distributor. "When I first heard about it, I thought, 'Oh, maybe I can sell them some tea.' Then I realized that probably wasn't going to happen." Read more here:

Photo credit: Tony Gebely pours an oolong tea during a party at his Chicago apartment. Gebely launched an online tea business, but he is finding it hard to direct Web traffic to his site because search engines have become so cluttered with Tea Party movement sites. Brian Cassella / Chicago Tribune


A winning cake, corraling coupons, cow power and more

Griffith -- One wild cake: The Griffith Observatory has been memorialized in film, with "Rebel Without a Cause." Now, it's memorialized in cake. Pictured is the sugary confection that won TLC's "Ultimate Cake Off" Monday night. The challenge: Honor the L.A. landmark as it prepares to celebrate its 75th anniversary. That will be done with a May 15 fete where art meets astronomy called "Cosmic Conjunction 2010: Diamond Nights * Northern Lights." That's Dr. E.C. Krupp, director of the observatory and a guest judge on the show, with the winning cake, by Colette Peters. Peters is owner of Colette's Cakes in New York City. Her cake re-creates the Griffith Park experience, including the gravity-challenging drive up and the starry skies.

-- Twip of the day: Follow @foodlibrarian and check out her blog: the Food Librarian. Today, she's serving up Meyer lemon olive oil cake, courtesy of a Gourmet recipe. Sniff, sniff. R.I.P., Gourmet.

-- Got supermarket coupons? Here's an adorable way to corral them. 

-- We'll toast to that: Scientists discover an alcohol that fends off hangovers and helps you sober up more quickly.

-- Something's in the air. 1) A Swedish entrepreneur has developed a single-use toilet that can then be used to fertilize crops. (But the best reason to click is to find out the name of said product.) 2) Some farmers are dragging their heels when it comes to turning dung into gold. And 3) Another entrepreneur closer to home is making a mint off manure tea bags. (Do these three stories belong on a food blog? It's debatable.)

-- Rene Lynch
On Twitter @renelynch

Photo: TLC


Recommended on Facebook


In Case You Missed It...


Recent Posts
5 Questions for Thi Tran |  August 6, 2012, 8:00 am »
SEE-LA hires new executive director |  July 31, 2012, 9:34 am »
Food FYI: Actors reading Yelp reviews |  July 31, 2012, 9:16 am »
Test Kitchen video tip: Choosing a bread wash |  July 31, 2012, 6:04 am »



About the Bloggers
Daily Dish is written by Times staff writers.