Monday, December 04, 2006

Mini Travel Dish: Tao of Tea Standing Still Mountain Teahouse in Portland

Contemplate fall, and life, with every sip

2112 SE NW Hoyt St., Portland
(Northwest district)
(503) 223-3563
Open Wed.-Sun, 11 a.m.-11 p.m.

When traveling, it's always a luxury to find a place where you can just be. To catch your breath. To reflect on your day's journeys. Such a place is the Tao of Tea's international teahouses.

The Tao of Tea is a major producer of pure leaf, organic tea, and it's based in Portland. But you've probably seen their stylish tea tins at gourmet stores in the Bay Area. As some of you already know, I'm a bit of a tea snob. I love tea but am wary of mass produced tea that promotes itself as gourmet. But I've always been content with the Tao of Tea products. Their tea is often very rich in body and come in beautifully crafted tins that help retain their freshness.

The Tao of Tea has two teahouses in Portland, one in the Southeast and the other in the Northwest district. (They also operate the teahouse in the beautiful Chinese Garden in Portland's Chinatown.) During my recent trip, I visited their Northwest location, which they call Standing Still Mountain teahouse. The location's eclectic decor combines tastes from Japan, China, India, and Southeast Asia. They serve several vegetarian dishes that lean heavily toward Indian and Southeast Asian cuisine, and of course, a full menu of tea.

I found their mini dishes to be satisfying. It didn't transport me to someplace different, but they're nice complements to their well-poured tea. I especially liked the samosas and vegetarian dumplings.

The teahouse also has a wall filled with teaware for purchase and a full inventory of their specialty teas. Like I've mentioned before, I'm a fan of flavored tea so I purchased a can of Earl Grey with Blue Flowers and the Ginger Peach tea. I also tried their herbal peppermint tea that really holds a nice menthol flavor. Just perfect for an after-dinner tea for the holidays!

Minor note: The service can be inconsistent because they typically only have one or two people running the joint. So if you're in a rush, you may not have an enjoyable experience. But if you're ready to let go of your worries and spend time staring at the fall leaves falling outside the tree-lined homes, then step in and breathe.

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