I’ve lived in Southern California for 10 years: 3 months after Gene and I got married in our home town of Boise, Idaho, packed up both our cars and headed to the land of perpetual sunshine. People often ask, don’t you miss having four seasons? What are they talking about? We have four seasons: Nice, really nice, beautiful, and gorgeous! And right now, we’re experiencing the 5th Season – El Nino – just to mix things up a bit.
So, it was great fun to take a drive up to Beverly Hills on a really nice January day, where the thermometer rose just above 70, and stop in to meet the masterminds behind the American Tea Room. Randy, co-mastermind, greeted me as Gene and I entered the tea room. His warm, high energy enthusiasm is contagious! He immediately provided our choice of samples: their Earl Grey Sterling (which they should just call Earl Great), and Extreme Vanilla Organic Green Tea, which was 3 years in the making and incorporates three types of hand cut vanilla beans.
Then, I was introduced to David, who has been a key figure in my tea exploration this year. His suggestions, along with accompanying samples, have opened my mind and palate to worlds of black tea I have never even known to exist! What a pleasure to finally meet him live and in person!
David ushered us to the tea bar, where he offered to brew a pot of tea for us to share. I have been hearing great things about their Milk Oolong, so it was an obvious choice. As the tea was prepared, David began explaining how this oolong was processed. He presented the large tin of the Milk Oolong and pointed out its creamy aroma – a result of the processing, not anything that is added. The tea was steeped in a most beautiful tea pot – designed specifically for American Tea Room. (It has sold out of both colors (black and white), and has been a smash-hit among the Hollywood elite.)
Once the tea had steeped, we were shown how large the bright green tea leaves were once they unfurled from their tight twists. Then the first sip. Tasting Milk Oolong for the first time was exquisite! The creaminess translates nicely into the flavor of this tea. It is light, but full, and hits every point on your palate. To accompany this marvelous discovery, we were provided with some small and delicate tea cookies. One, covered in matcha, and the other harmless looking cookies were described as “crack cookies” because of their tendency to leave consumers wanting more and more. (I found this to be disturbingly true. How can I get my hands on more?!?!)
And this was just the first course. The second course was the visual feast of the space itself. Gene and I wandered around, examining the large and beautiful selection of unique teapots in both cast iron and Japanese porcelain. There were walls of tea to be explored, each tea with a small pot of leaves to be sniffed and examined. Gift boxes, tea cups, so many amazing things, and all displayed with an artist’s touch.
The third course was trying to decide what to take home with me. I had asked David what his favorite tea for the moment was and he talked about various green teas, particularly those from Japan. While I shy away from the grassiness of many green teas, that is what he most enjoys. Feeling brave and also inspired by his passion, I asked for his recommendation on where I should start in my green exploration. He walked me through some Chinese greens (less “grassy” than Japanese greens) and brought down tin after tin from his wall of tea. I was thrilled to end my adventure with a parcel filled with a couple of old favorites, my new-found treat of Milk Oolong, and some Long Jing (also known as Dragonwell) as a re-introduction to green tea.
The cherry on top was getting to know David and how the idea of this tea room came about, his travels, his knowledge, recommendations, commentary, and even an inside scoop to some exciting changes coming very soon to their beautiful space. Randy and David have a perfectly balanced partnership with each filling in the blanks for the other when it comes to operations, tea tasting and testing, organization, displays… the list goes on and on. It even goes as far as David keeping Twitter updated (@AmericanTeaRoom), and Randy focusing on Facebook (Become a Fan).
I look forward to my next trip to this Tea Destination and my continued tea adventures encouraged by David and Randy.
American Tea Room
401 N Canon Drive
Beverly Hills, CA 90210
Monday – Saturday 10 AM – 6 PM and Sunday 12 PM – 5PM
Add your comment to any of my blog entries & Win Gift Package of 2009 Award Winning Tea from An International Tea Moment! See details at http://wp.me/pv8CX-3x