Long ago, in a time before the Venti Half-Caf Skinny No Whip Mocha Frappucino, there was tea. Not the Coffee Bean and Tea Leaf or even the Teavanas of today, but unadulterated, delicate green leaves blended only with hot water. While this may seem like an antiquated idea in a land of Fru-tea, Mojitea and green tea latte boba, believe it or not, there are actual shrines to this ancient drink, even in L.A. Tea houses: quiet, sometimes traditional, sometimes updated temples of the tea leaf.
And whether you're loving or loathing the royal marriage madness, don't confuse these with the glittering lounges where gloved waiters present finger sandwiches and scones to ladies with big hats and lilting accents. The spots listed here serve the infusion as its own main course (although some locations do offer food as well). Come for relaxation, come to spend time with good friends, come to get a medicinal portion of healing brew — just don't come looking for a double shot caramel macchiato extra foam. Turn the page for our Top 5 Tea Houses in L.A., in alphabetical order.
5. American Tea Room: Sort of like the Sinatra song, if they can't make it here, they can't make it anywhere, American Tea Room offers hundreds of leaves, from all over the world, ranging from vintage Pu'er to their Organic Vanilla Noir. They have gifts and teas and accessories to go, or you can enjoy a cup and a cookie in their small-but-spotless intimate cafe. 401 N. Canon Drive, Beverly Hills, 90210; (310) 271-7922.
4. Hwa Sun Ji Tea & Coffee: Tummy trouble? Complexion problems? Sluggish sex drive? Hwa Sun Ji has teas to address a host of physical maladies and irritations, as well as delicious things to drink. This is the most traditional tea house on the list, with its available floor seating and mats and medicinal cures. Hwa Sun Ji is barely distinguishable as anything from the outside, but step inside this Korean tea and dessert shop and you'll be transported to a whole new (or, rather – old) world. 3960 Wilshire Blvd # 100 Los Angeles, 90010; (213) 382-5302.
3. Jin Patisserie: Inside the walled garden of this small eatery right off of Abbott-Kinney, lovers of tea and tranquility can sit under tree shade and linger over clean white pots of Thé o dor tea. There is a menu of chocolates and quiches and other tiny bites, courtesy of chef/owner Kristy Choo, who spent years working in some of the world's top kitchens before coming to the US to open her own shop. Everything here is pretty and delicate, and you might have to share your afternoon with a baby or bridal shower, but savoring your tea in the sunshine will surely be worth it. 1202 Abbot Kinney Boulevard, Venice, 90291; (310) 399-8801.
2. Teaforest Tea & Coffee Bar: This little Culver City cafe somehow manages to be both popular and peaceful at the same time, and bless them for it. Offering an assortment of sandwiches and sweets, plus a fairly wide selection of teas (including boba and milk teas), this is a modern, minimalist be-muraled favorite for coffee, tea, WiFi and readily available two hour free parking. And did we mention tea, too? 8686 Washington Boulevard, Culver City, 90232; (310) 815-1723.
1. Yellow House Cafe: Night owls need tea, too, and this social spot (with WiFi), is here to serve. The restaurant offers a full menu of Korean snacks and standard coffee drinks, and guests can lounge around one of the many fire pits and chimanea, or settle in with a book or laptop and a pot of something modern, traditional or medicinal. Try the flowering teas – they come in clear pots and are served over small burners; as the tea steeps, the tea flowers “bloom.” 234 South Oxford Avenue Los Angeles, CA 90004; (213) 365-0082.