Wednesday, January 30, 2008

How Far Will You Travel for Tea?

The farthest I’ve gone for tea is probably London. The most frequent? A toss up between New York and Portland, Oregon. But it’s nice sometimes when I can find a favorite tea right in my backyard.

This particular tea I’m featuring is my latest favorite. It’s a Red Peony tea that I got from Far Leaves Tea, which has operated a little tea room in the Elmwood neighborhood of Berkeley since 1998. I actually went to Far Leaves a long time ago when it first opened and I remember buying a black tea blend with blood oranges. The tea was overly roasted and the blood oranges were tart. So I never returned.

But recently I went to catch a movie with some friends at that old theater on College Avenue. We were early so we popped into the Far Leaves Tea shop. Since my last visit many years ago, Far Leaves has turned more into a lounge than just a shop. It had a big crowd of friends sipping tea at a big table in the front and in the back a bunch of tea zones made up of mats and cushions for people to escape through the tranquility of tea.

As I browsed their tea selection, I was captivated by the peony teas. I’ve mostly run into white tea made from the peony flower petals, but Far Leaves Tea offers a trio of white, green and red peony teas.

I ended up buying the red peony because the description sounded yummy: a sweet black tea with floral undertones. What I especially liked about the peony tea sold at Far Leaves Tea is that they’re tied into tiny bunches, called “rosettes.” So you can drop the entire rosette into your tea pot (a glass pot is especially nice to slowly watch it unfold) and when you’re done just get a pair of chopsticks to pull out the entire thing. No worries about a tea bag, mesh or strainer.

The Red Peony tea is more full bodied that the white peony teas I’m used to drinking. Iit has a sweet floral note similar to rose tea, which I love. During the recent wet and cold weather we’ve been having here in the Bay Area, this Red Peony tea has been great in taking me away to some place far far away. Preferably with in-house massages.

Red Peony Tea, $18 for a can with 7 rosettes.

Far Leaves Tea, 2979 College Ave., Berkeley. PH: 510.665.9409. Open daily, 11 a.m. to 9 p.m. Web site.


Anonymous said...

Thanks for the post, I need to try the teas at Far Leaves. Have u been to Holy Land? I've posted on chowhounds on it & recommend it. Love their mint lemonade.

Single Guy Ben said...

Where's Holy Land? Is that the one near Clement Street. Share the tips!

Anonymous said...

The floating flower looks so beautiful... I have a glass teapot and I need some of those peonies! Hey Chef Ben, I think the Holyland is in my old stomping grounds at Lake Merritt. It was also featured on Check Please Bay Area recently.

Anonymous said...

There's also a Holyland on College next to Far Leaves.

Single Guy Ben said...

Hmmm, I have to check out this Holy Land. Thanks!

Anonymous said...

Holy Land reviews on Yelp. hope u can check it out.