Daily Dish

The inside scoop on food in Los Angeles

Category: Tea

Cold winter days are a fine time to plan a tea garden


"I just picked this from my backyard" is a phrase usually supplied by someone handing over a clump of kale, or maybe a calla lily bouquet. But it could easily apply to a pot of herbal tea.

It's completely doable here in California, where mild weather allows any backyard garden to become its own Celestial Seasons. Camomile, thyme, rose hips, ginger, endless varieties of mint, lemon grass and lemon balm, and even allspice all can be grown relatively easily, and all make great herbal teas. Tempted?

Check out Los Angeles-based garden guru Lili Singer's story about growing tea in the garden.

Photo credit: Karen Tapia-Andersen / Los Angeles Times

Less than 10 days 'til V-Day: Sugarbird Sweets (and teas and more) for your sweet


Sugarbird Sweets has expanded from its original lineup of marshmallows and now sells hand-blended teas and dainty scones. You may have seen my friend and proprietor Kei Okumura's Sugarbird stand at the South Pasadena and Larchmont farmers markets.

Among her most popular teas, named after friends' children, are Fiona, a blend of organic rooibos with red raspberries, vanilla seeds, honey, rose hips and hibiscus flowers, and Zoe, a blend of organic green tea, mint, vanilla seeds and cacao nibs, inspired by chocolate mint ice cream. Mini scones have chocolate chips or mixed berries in them. And her latest marshmallow flavor is Meyer lemon with vanilla.

Vdaybox And as Valentine's Day approaches (still scrambling for a gift?), Okumura has put together a special Valentine's Day box that includes her specially blended Valentine's green tea (called Aileen) -- with berries, rose and hints of chocolate. Also in the box are marshmallows and another bag of tea of your choice. She has collaborated with XT Patisserie to include a dozen assorted macarons from pastry chef Xuan Ngo (whose macarons are nothing less than extraordinary).

Sugarbird Sweets & Teas Valentine's Day box: $47, available at www.sugarbirdsweets.com.

Larchmont Farmers Market, on Larchmont between 1st and Beverly, Sunday 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. South Pasadena Farmers Market, Meridian and Mission, Thursday 4 to 7 p.m.

-- Betty Hallock 

Photos: Sugarbird Sweets & Teas

Sampler Platter: Bacon Christmas tree postcards, L.A.'s best vegan Reuben, microwave with a brain

Imen Shan prepares to steep and serve traditional Chinese gong fu tea inside her Palos Verdes store, Tea Habitat

May your holiday be wrapped in the goodness of bacon Christmas tree cards, fancy Parisian wines, low-cost restaurant gift cards and hot tea.
-- Bacon Christmas tree postcards! Eat Me Daily
-- Cars crash in nearly 12-inches of offal. NZ Herald
-- Quarrygirl says Locali wins the vegan Reuben wars.
-- Tour d'Argent restaurant in Paris begins auctioning 18,000 bottles of wine. Guardian
-- Restaurant holiday gift card deals. Fast Food Maven
-- Animal chef Vinnie Dotolo gets married. Was bacon on the menu? 100 Layer Cake
-- Recipe junkie takes on Pillsbury challenge. Columbia Basin Herald
-- Microwave oven with a brain? Brand X
-- Food companies explain the amount of air in the bag. New York Times
-- Yelp launches Andorid app. CNET
--  FBI investigates disappearance of Italian chef Angelo Faliva aboard cruise. Los Angeles Times
-- The real tea party: Tea Habitat. Sku's Recent Eats
-- Domino's pulls ads from MTV's "Jersey Shore." Inside TV
-- Elina Shatkin

Photo: Imen Shan prepares to steep and serve traditional Chinese gong fu tea inside her Palos Verdes store, Tea Habitat. Credit: Jay L. Clendenin / Los Angeles Times

What does one wear to royal tea?

President Obama and First Lady Michelle Obama, with Britain's Queen Elizabeth II at Buckingham Palace on Wednesday, April 1, 2009. Credit: John Stillwell / Associated Press While jeans and T's might fly at Royal/T -- the cafe and art space in Culver City influenced by Tokyo's cosplay where waitresses are known for their French maid attire -- royal tea with the Queen of England might require a nicer dress code -- but not too nice. You don't want to outshine Her Magesty.

As L.A. Times fashion critic Booth Moore pointed out, Michelle and Barack Obama visited Queen Elizabeth II today during their visit for the G-20 environmental summit. She adds:

"First Lady Michelle Obama arrived for tea at Buckingham Palace ... dressed conservatively in a black cardigan, [and a white and black Isabel Toledo dress] that appeared to have a tulle overlay. She was also wearing her trademark pearls, with her hair half-up, half-down. Because this was not an official state visit, the meeting with the queen was considered informal."

For more on Michelle Obama's fashions, check out the L.A. Times Image section's All the Rage blog.

-- Whitney Friedlander

Photo: President Obama and First Lady Michelle Obama, with Britain's Queen Elizabeth II at Buckingham Palace on Wednesday, April 1, 2009. Credit: John Stillwell / Associated Press

Tea drinkers beware?


For all the rah-rahing we’ve done over the health benefits of tea, our colleagues over in Health report that there may be a drawback to your favorite afternoon drink.

It seems that hot tea has been linked to esophageal cancer. Gasp! Something wrong with tea? Who would have guessed!

Click here for the full report.

--Lori Kozlowski

Photo credit: Christopher Furlong/Getty Images

Tea drinking as a solitary sport

Found: the perfect glass teapot for one.Found: the perfect glass teapot for one.

Afternoons, when I’m writing, I like to have a pot of tea, preferably green tea or a tisane of herbs cut from my garden. Right now, I’m favoring lemon grass or lemon verbena with maybe a few mint leaves thrown into the mix. I love the way you can see the fresh lemon grass color of the tea through the glass. A spiral wire at the base of the spout filters out any bits of leaves.

Another plus: This little pot, unlike my everyday one, pours beautifully. It's a friendly, comforting presence northwest of my keyboard.

— S. Irene Virbila

Photo caption: Hario small glass teapot, $21, at L.A. Mill Coffee Boutique, 1636 Silver Lake Blvd., Los Angeles; (323) 663-4441; www.lamillcoffee.com. Photo credit: S. Irene Virbila / Los Angeles Times

Settle in for some more tea talk

Teatop10teanceteabarm In our ongoing tea talk, for all you naysayers who thought tea wasn’t hot (pun completely intended), check out Sunset Magazine’s tribute to the Top 10 teahouses on the West Coast.

Locally, it names Le Palais de Thes in Beverly Hills at No. 5. Le Palais serves over 250 teas from around the world and boasts a selection of cast iron Japanese teapots.

Now do you think there is something in the air?

--Lori Kozlowski

Photo: At Téance in Berkeley, owner Minnie Yu pours a whole-leaf white tea from China.

Credit: Jen Siska

The perfect cup of tea


In our ongoing conversation about the world’s second-most-consumed beverage—tea—we noticed a lot of discussion over how to make the perfect cup of tea.

Opinions vary greatly, but this is for sure: people are passionate about their brew. George Orwell, who gave the world "1984" and "Animal Farm," also gave us an instructional essay called “A Nice Cup of Tea.”

In his short work, he laid the foundation for his ideal version of the drink. Here are Orwell’s 11 Golden Rules:

1) One should use Indian or Ceylon tea. Not tea from China.

2) Tea should be made in a teapot.

Continue reading »

Ever see a cup of tea interrogated? Watch this

We recently asked whether tea was the new coffee -- and boy, did we get a debate brewing.

Many of you offered advice on how to make the perfect cuppa. And some of you scoffed at the very idea that coffee could be outdone. Yet there is something about tea right now. Our new president drinks it. And since everyone seems to want to get a piece of Barack Obama — be it art or other merchandise, perhaps more Americans will be inspired to sip the leafy beverage.

The tea industry certainly hopes so.

The Tea Council of the USA recently held its annual Calm-A-Sutra video contest, in which the organization ask students to submit two-minute videos that educate viewers about the health benefits of tea. The grand prize is a $20,000 scholarship. Not bad, eh?

The most recent winner was John Ford, a student at the American Film Institute here in L.A.

Check out his short, “Interrogation.”

'Cause if we really wanted to get to the bottom of tea’s health benefits, why not ask the tea itself, right?

-- Lori Kozlowski

Is tea the new coffee? Ask Barack Obama

President-elect Barack Obama drinks Honest TeaThere’s no doubt that coffee holds a unique place in our culture. You know the routine by now. A colleague wants to talk to you about a project — let’s have coffee. You want to catch up with an old friend — let’s have coffee. Someone wants to ask you out on a date, but is either too chicken or doesn’t really want to pony up that much cash — let’s go get coffee.

But tea -- cold or hot -- is giving coffee some competition. It is the second most widely consumed beverage in the world. (The first is water.) We’ve recently been bombarded with messages about the ancient drink’s health benefits. Starbucks is unveiling a new line of tea drinks — London Fog Latte, anyone? And as it turns out, bottled tea beverages are one of President-elect Barack Obama’s favorite things.

However, Seth Goldman, president and co-founder of Honest Tea –- a bottled tea favored by the president-elect -- rejects the notion that tea is the new coffee.

“Tea is the new tea," he said. “Tea is the world’s second most popular drink. It has been around for thousands of years. People are moving away from soda and looking for healthier options. Tea is its own thing.”

Goldman said Honest Tea came together about 11 years ago, when he and co-founder....

Continue reading »

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Daily Dish is written by Times staff writers.