Sunday, May 31, 2009

Tea Nazi Looks at Tea in Los Angeles

I was called the Tea Nazi by Ed Fuentes. Now that siptea is closed I am on a mission to educate & inform Los Angelenos about tea. Proper, good, tasty tea. Here is my first review of tea in and around LA.
The Coffee Bean & Tea Leaf (Blueberry Pomegranate Oolong special on Steeping sign)
First the positives:
-Equal time to tea in the name & inside the store. Signage is the same for tea & coffee, not a second class citizen on the signs
-Asked if I could get it in a cup/mug rather than paper & they gave me a glass mug
(Tea, and coffee for that matter, taste much better in ceramic or glass than paper.)
-A decent selection of all types of tea, except pu'erh (didn't see any, but might have missed it)
-Loose leaf tea sold in tins (protected from moisture & light)
-Tea bag was pyramid style with loose leaf blend inside
-Proper use of "steeping" on the signs rather than "brewing"
Now the negatives:
-A tea bag, nuf said
-One source for hot water, so no temperature control, just boiling (so water was hotter than it should be for Oolongs)
-Didn't see any Organic options
-Tea bag was pretty stuffed when done steeping (a problem with tea balls, tea stick & bags in general - not enough room for the tea to fully expand, especially an Oolong)
-No place to put the teabag, just put it on a napkin on the table
-Flavor was okay, but thin & didn't really taste like an Oolong, blueberry & pomegranate flavors (chemicals?) took over tea taste
-Tea bags stored in glass jars (HUGE pet peeve, looks pretty, but the essential oils that make the taste & have health benefits, need to be protected from sunlight.)
-2nd steep was blah, nothing left & this is usually a better cup for a true Oolong, so makes me question if it was an Oolong or a mistake on the sign (left the bag in for the rest of the time drinking)
-No mention from staff on when to remove the teabag from the water & really not expected to, since it was tied around the mug handle
Well less than stellar example of tea in LA, no wonder people aren't drinking more tea, if this is what they normally experience.
2 leaves out of 5 for the things they did right.

Tuesday, May 26, 2009


Still working on the online shop. Hardest part is the descriptions. Have lots of pictures of tea, sharing some of them here.
Just to give you a heads up, there is someone taking over the lease, and it is an amicable take-over, so they are going to try to transition into the space for the next 3 months, while siptea goes online & looks for a new location. So the space will look the same, with slow changes happening as the new owner takes over. They like the teas & the service so will be carrying siptea, along with juices & coffees. About half the teas will be represented, which are the most popular ones, hopefully your choices will be included. Will keep you up to date on what is happening as soon as I know it.

Wednesday, May 20, 2009

getting punched in the gut by a former customer

The blogdowntown is a great source for LA to read about what is happening in our city, specifically downtown. Ed Fuentes wrote a really nice send off piece about siptea closing our doors. I just want to say that the economy & difficulties in opening my business in general made it hard to weather the storm here in a slightly more desolate section of downtown. Yet there are successful restaurants that have made it right around the corner, so I know that there might be other factors. Well I got two blogdowntown readers views & felt like they (really one in particular) punched me in the gut. I guess my response would be how the next writer responded, why didn't you say something? The one writer didn't like any of the seating, "uncomfortable", didn't like the food, didn't like the staff, I was listed as "ok", wanted us to carry the NY Times, wanted sofas & comfy chairs, too expensive, layout bad, signage bad, erratic hours, wanted more non-caffeinated options, wanted more events. I know that comments tend to the negative & that his bad review prompted another bad response, but really, what is the point of kicking someone when they are already down. I am not in business anymore & you could have said all that in a more positive way or if you felt so strongly & came in 15 to 20 times over the 7 months, couldn't you have said at least one thing? I know that no one suggesting getting the newspaper, it was suggested to be open on Sunday so we were, sometimes making as little as $50, we never closed early. We had a small selection of teas, that did increase over time & we tried to get things people asked for, I don't remember being asked for more decaf options. I know I could improve the staff's customer service & that will be something I learn from this, but as a business owner here is my advice to my customers, if you want something different ask for it, there is no way to serve the customer if we don't know what you want. I will do more surveys & have a suggestion box at the next location & would love to have your comments here so I can learn from them. You can email me too with complaints or suggestions on our 1st location & would love to hear how to improve what some people loved & others obviously thought was severely lacking in many ways.

Tuesday, May 5, 2009

rantings of a tea addled brain

I sit here after basically drinking tea all day long, a lovely Bai Mu Dan & now I need to vent. Customers are wonderful & also weird. Someone came in the other day & asked me, the owner of a tea house that sells bulk tea, if there was any place downtown I would recommend to buy tea. Huh?! I replied fairly politely, "besides here, no." WTF! You can buy tea wherever you want, but our teas are all organic. Think about the fact that tea is picked, then withered & processed, there is no cleaning or rinsing. So if you have chemicals on your tea plant, you are now pouring hot water on those chemicals & drinking them down. Tea should be organic. I think all food should be organic, but I am a crazy eco/green/liberal/tea drinking/prius driving/solar panels on house/greywater/native plant/permaculture/chicken raising/Los Angelino. So there!
Here are some pictures of my chickens, my neighbors are upset with them right now. Well I guess I should say they are upset with me, I was letting them free range in the whole backyard. Now they are coop bound, it's a big coop & they are fine. I need to be a better neighbor, have been at the shop too much, yard is a mess & my garden is in need of some major weeding/tending. Filled up my green bin in a couple hours yesterday on my day off. Well sort of day off, had bills & food to pick up so more like 1/2 day off. I think that siptea may have to become more of a tea/dessert place less of a lunch place. Too much work & not enough pay off. We have changed the hours, opening later in the mornings, 10am and closing earlier 7pm, except on Friday.
Tell me what you think siptea should be. Would like to expand the retail with more eco-friendly products, and cut down on the food.
What do you think?