Monday, November 30, 2009

Lamill Coffee in Silverlake

Lamill Coffee in Silverlake is from the name, the place to get coffee, not necessarily tea. This is a coffeehouse but they do have a nice and well balanced list of teas. Went for lunch here and overall a good experience. I ordered a green tea they had on the menu, and even though I know quite a bit about tea, I didn't know how to pronounce the Chinese name or know the tea. So being adventurous I wanted to try this one, organic magnolia Yuncui green. When I said to the waitress, I would like this green tea, not sure how to pronounce it, hoping she would help me out, she responded, "I don't know either." Ok, not the answer I was expecting, but it is a coffee place. One friend got a silver needle, white tea and the other ordered iced tea. The iced tea was said to be a green tea. When it came it had other flavors in it, and having allergies my friend wanted to know what else was in the tea. That took quite a while and ended up having flowers in it, so she chose not to finish it. Side note food was excellent. Both the white & the green tea were bitter, again this could be due to too long steep time or too hot water. The tea came in a glass pot and the leaves had been removed, which is fine for presentation, but re-steeping, especially oolongs is important. The white tea was listed as a silver needle, but the waitress when asked said that all the teas were blended with lots of other ingredients & that nothing was pure tea. I didn't correct her, but my tea & the silver needle from flavor appeared to be just tea, not blends with herbs & flowers. They menu had cool names for the blends, but when asked what the ingredients were in the blends, the waitress responded, "there are 8 million ingredients in the blends," and therefore couldn't really give us a better idea of what was in the tea.
Things they did right:
- nice atmosphere & good music
- cool descriptions of tea, not the usual flowery, fussy, but modern & hip
- nice presentation with glass pot
- loose leaf tea (assumed because we didn't see the tea)
- tea given equal time in the beverage menu (beverage menu much larger than food)
- loose leaf tea tin available for purchase
Things that were off:
- staff knowledge of tea (might just be our particular waitress)
- took forever to find out what the iced tea was made of & it was a standard menu item
- tea preparation seemed flawed, not sure of the problem, but outcome was bitter tea
- no leaves so re-steeping isn't an option
- different cups for different tea, but no real reason
- price warrants better knowledge of what they are selling
Side note, the bench seats are uncomfortable & hard to get in & out of, recommend sitting in chairs.
3 leaves out of 5
For trying to make tea hip and atmosphere.
They might want to up their training of staff on tea, since about half the people were drinking tea.

Tea Review of Bird Pick Tea and Herb

This weekend did some more checking out tea in Los Angeles & Pasadena.
I had been hearing about Bird Pick Tea & Herb, for over a year. Finally getting to check out the place. It is located in Old Town Pasadena in a great storefront. The shop is calming right when you walk in and you are greeted by friendly and knowledgeable staff. I didn't really quiz them but they were attentive and helpful. My friends both ended up buying tea accouterments. They have a wide selection of pots, cups, tools and everything you need to make a good cup of tea, and lets face it lots of things that you don't need but are cute and make nice gifts. I found the displays a bit overwhelming & the pre-made gift baskets not to my liking. The packaged sets were nice and so were the teapots available. They offered tea samples and I tried a gen mai cha, Japanese green tea with toasted rice, and a keemun, a Chinese black tea. Here is were they really fell down in my book. Both tea samples were bitter, I don't know if they steeped too long, or used too hot water. My friends thought the gen mai cha was terrible, I agreed that it wasn't good. But I didn't blame the tea, which I love normally, while others don't care for it, I blamed the preparation. I also think the way they display the tea is pretty, with large clear glass containers, but it is the worst way to store tea. Tea should be stored in a cool, dry location away from light. They even had matcha tea powder out in the sun, which I have always been told needs to be refrigerated in a airtight container to keep it fresh. I think they could keep the tea in glass for display only, but have other containers that they pull from to fill orders. I would not buy my tea from a vendor that stored tea in clear glass, because freshness means more flavor & more beneficial anti-oxidants.
Things they did right:
- greet customers & offered samples
- good location & atmosphere
- lots of choices for loose leaf tea
- lots of choices for teapots and accessories
- tea cart with on the spot preparation, cool feature
Things that were not great:
- tea stored in CLEAR glass containers (they did have air tight lids) in the SUN
- tea preparation not great or had changed in flavor sitting in airpots
2 out of 5 leaves
Mainly for the staff & atmosphere and bringing tea to the masses, but I would not recommend the store for buying tea, just tea accessories.
Since they are opening up 2 more stores in the Los Angeles area, they might want to re-think the clear glass jars!