Monday, July 20, 2009

Intelligentsia for Tea

Another in the series of reviews of tea in Los Angeles.
Intelligentsia in Silverlake
I ordered an Oolong, Iron Goddess of Mercy $4.50 (I think that was the price) Sat down with my friend who had a Cafe au Lait, which they messed up by giving her a regular drip coffee but soon corrected. Had a nice chat in the sun after having hiked in Griffith Park and had 2 steeps out of the leaves of this fabulous Oolong tea.
Good things:
-Loose leaf tea! No teabags!
-Nice setting with outdoor seating.
-Good but small selection of teas.
-Tea presented in a glass double wall cup without handle & small glass teapot. Cup looked to be about a 6 oz. cup, but might have been 8. Teapot was perfect size to fill cup completely.
-Glass pot let you see the leaves as they opened up.
-Wood tray to hold cup & teapot.
-Told by staff that I could get another refill on water. Nice, especially for an Oolong.
-Tea smelled wonderful and could tell it was quality just from the scent.
Things not up to the level of the coffee preparation:
-Don't know when the water went into the pot & no instructions about how long to steep from staff, so guessed when the 3 min were up. Standard steeping time for an Oolong, but I guessed wrong because the tea was already a bit bitter. Still could tell it was a really nice Oolong.
-Seems like they put too much tea in the pot. I recommend 3g per 6oz. water or approximately 1 table spoon per cup. Looked to be about 2 times the tea I would recommend. Just makes for a stronger cup, but shouldn't be bitter if steeped properly, just strong.
-Glass cup was nice, but couldn't really see the color of the liquor, the tea took on the color of the table & changed with the color of the wood tray. Still prefer white porcelain. Points in my book though for the non-traditional presentation, very nice with the glass pot.
-2nd steep I thought I would have more control, since I brought the pot in to get refilled so I could see when the water was added. Here was the DOWNFALL of the whole process, ONE water boiler, I assumed set at boiling, so the tea was in water that was too hot.
-Tried to compensate with a shorter steep, but still slightly bitter, most likely due to the water being too hot.
-No mention either time how long the tea needed to steep from the staff.
-Tea seemed an after thought for the staff.
-Price reflected the quality of the tea, but not the preparation or training of the staff on tea. Seemed overpriced for what I was given.
Seems like tea is still a second class citizen in the coffee-centric US & Los Angeles. I have read about the person who buys tea for Intelligensia & he seems very dedicated & as concerned with quality as the coffee roasters. The website even mentions that the tea needs to steep at a lower temp. & recommends a 30sec steep, which wasn't relayed to the customer by the staff. I think the quality of the tea was done a disservice by how the staff prepared the tea. They need to get another water boiler, or have a way to hold water at different temperatures. It would have ruined a good green tea, if I had order that. Intelligentsia is giving people who want to try tea a bad taste in their mouth, bitterness rather than the sweet variety of an outstanding Oolong Iron Goddess of Mercy.
4 out of 5 leaves for the quality of the tea