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


James Ayers said...

I purchase tea for resale from Intelligentsia. I'd like to get more information from you regarding your experience if you have time.

You can reach me at


James Ayers

siptea said...

James, I will contact you directly. They have great quality teas, just fell down in the preparation.