What I Learned About the Art of Tea

Mandarin Silk, Rose Lavender, Silver Needle, 1896, Gyokuro, Jasmine Pearls (clockwise, upper left)

More people drink tea than any other beverage besides water. In fact, tea is drunk at least 3 billion times per day. So when I got invited to tour the Art of Tea headquarters in Monterey Park, I jumped at the chance to demystify this ancient practice.

I had seen Art of Tea served in many restaurants and hotels around the city, so to tour the facilities of a tea maker who has successfully captured a lot of the high end market was a great opportunity. Steve Schwartz, founder and CEO of The Art of Tea, first came into tea making when he lost his mother to cancer and became increasingly interested in Ayurvedic medicine.

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Afternoon Tea at Tres by José Andrés, SLS Hotel

Tea Time

There are ladies who lunch and ladies who have afternoon tea. My experience at Tres inside the SLS Hotel has convinced me that there need to be more of the latter.

TGT Green Teaist Blend

If you’re able to fit time in with your girlfriends sometime in between the slim, 2-hour daily window, you’re in for a real treat. Tres has beautiful tea selections to accompany your charming 3-tier pastry stand decorated with tiny titillations for your tongue.

Whether it’s a steamed bun filled with caviar and topped with crème fraîche, a peanut butter jelly sandwich made with (not only the best peanut butter I’ve ever had, but also) brioche flatbread or a foie gras sandwich with quince (swappable with a smoked salmon sandwich with coconut), each bite is a treat for the senses.

My favorite was one that my girlfriend Chris and I were instructed to eat right away, lest the delicate cookie melt - a beet macaron filled with goat cheese. Its sweet, savory and yet tart goodness simply melted in my mouth.

Guacamole Cone, Bagel & Lox Cone

The tea, of course, is an appropriate centerpiece. I chose a The Green Teaist Blend, a variety that is apparently drunk by much of the kitchen at Tres. It’s of a beautiful color and really elegant – much smoother than other green teas I’ve had. Our server came by often to fill our cups and make sure everything was up to par.

Definitively the most wallet-friendly way to experience the luxe Tres dining room (or SLS Hotel at all), the Phillip Starck-designed ambiance at tea is guaranteed to soothe. Travel and other books, fireplaces and translucent glass stag heads line the well-lit library-themed lounge adorned with light brown hues. The furniture has just-kitschy-enough details (silver AK47 standing lamps, anyone?) to pique intrigue; thankfully, they stop just short of gaudiness.

Afternoon tea at Tres is an elegant way to catch up with friends while enjoying some savory and sweet tastes. Sit back on the comfortable couches and enjoy tea inside the lovely space at Tres. As for me, I can’t wait until my out-of-town girlfriends come to visit LA again; Tres will be where we catch up.

Afternoon tea was hosted.

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3 – 5 PM daily

$32 per person ($36 with The Green Teaist tea selection)

Tres
inside SLS Hotel
465 S. La Cienega Boulevard
Los Angeles, CA 90048
310.246.5551

Momed: A Modern Take On Mediterranean

Pide with Ohanyan spicy soujuk sausage, red onion, and piquillo peppers with halloumi cheese

Momed, a new Eastern Mediterranean place on the south-of-Wilshire stretch of Beverly Drive, has all the makings to be a neighborhood hotspot. A contemporary interior is where you’ll enjoy an equally modern rendition of Mediterranean cuisine with beautiful wines to match. Specific cuisines that bring inspiration and are highlighted include those from Greece, Turkey, Cyprus, Lebanon, Israel, Egypt and Morocco.

Momed Exterior-to-Interior

The place, with its white and just-short-of-sterile decor, is equal parts eatery, wine bar, coffee and tea house. The aim was to create a neutral visual platform on which the vibrant spices and flavors of the cuisine would shine.

Enjoy tasty treats like their Pide topped with Ohanyan spicy sausage and sweet red onions. Or go for a more unusual, adventurous topping like Chicken ‘lahmajoun’ – minced chicken, pistachios and oven-roasted peaches. It may be wood-fired (the oven is the only thing from the previous tenants they kept) but don’t call it pizza. It’s Turkish flatbread, and it’s delicious with the right topping (the spicy sausage was my favorite).

Muhammara, Mediterranean Salad, Tzatziki

Want to dial it down a little? Momed offers a great selection of salads and dips with which to eat with your pita. I thought their tzatziki yogurt dip was especially flavorful and done well. The vast varieties of hummus, baba ganoush and other mezze (appetizers) were also palatable in large thanks to the warm, moist pitas served. The long display of spices like cardamom, sumac and cumin is evidence of Momed’s commitment to making everything from scratch with freshness being a priority.

And don’t forget selections that come already prepared with their fantastic pitas, like one filled with warm duck “shawarma” and fig confit – my personal hand-rolled pita favorite. If you’re looking for a warm side, no look further than the Baleela (chickpeas with toasted pine nuts, preserved lemon and perfectly flash-fried with brown butter) – absolutely divine!

Duck "Shawarma" with oven-dried tomatoes, fig confit & garlic spread on whole wheat pita

Intelligentsia coffee, traditional Turkish coffee, a rare selection of fine teas including Du Hammam, Moroccan mint, Eve’s rose petal and white pomegranate, as well as six different hot chocolate options from The Chocolate Box are offered. In the back, behind the wood-fired oven, is where you can get your coffee or Turkish Spa tea fix.

Momed is a great place to approach quality Eastern Mediterranean – whether it may have been intimidating before or always been a favorite. And while you’re there, try to pair your meal with one of their wines. You won’t find a French, Italian or Californian bottle of vino but rather a Greek, Israeli, Moroccan or even Lebanese. When I had the opportunity to visit I had the pleasure of tasting a beautiful Israeli ’09 Muscat Rose as well as an Israeli ’07 Golan Heights Chardonnay…delicious. No matter what, you’re in for a unique treat each time you dine at Momed.

All food and wine were hosted.

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Momed Market Cafe
233 S. Beverly Drive
Beverly Hills, CA 90212-3886
310.270.4444

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Open Daily 8 AM – 9 PM
Fri & Sat 8 AM – 10 PM

Parking:
Metered street parking & 2-hour free lot adjacent to restaurant

Libre Tea Glass: For Loose Leaf Tea On-The-Go

Above depiction not actually how Libre glass works

Once upon a time, I survived without coffee. I never went near the bean; I was true and faithful to the leaf. Even while I was running, I avoided the dark, caffeinated drink. It was strictly tea and vegetable juicing for me.

Well. Those crazy days of mine are over. But I do have reason now to return to that steeped, hot beverage since I recently got approached by a representative over at Libre. She offered me an opportunity to give their product a shot – apparently it was a glass designed to enable you to “drink loose leaf tea on the go.”

Libre Tea Glass-in-poly deconstructed

Hot water? And no tea bags? On the go?

Quite frankly, I just wanted to see the thing – it had to be made of good materials if you were able to port around hot water.

And it is. My version, the glass-and-poly, comes with a glass inner chamber and an outer poly shell. Insulation and protection for your hand, check. The top actually has two parts – two screw caps with the middle portion containing the stainless steel tea strainer to hold the leaves and the outer cap, which traps the leaves and water inside the entire glass. To brew the tea you simply turn your Libre Glass upside down, exposing the water to your loose tea leaves. Neither of the caps contain BPA so your water will never come in contact with it.

The best thing about the Libre Tea glass’ design, though, is the ability to stop brewing your tea whenever you wish by turning or simply leaving your glass right side up. The hot water, in my many times using the glass, stays hot for a fairly reasonable amount of time – probably in no small part by the outer and inner parts being separated by a little air.

Anyway, if you’re looking for more reasons to enjoy tea, you can add portability as well as using less paper with the Libre. I’ve already explained the glass to those at my local Coffee Bean and they pack the tea leaves inside my Libre cap without having to use a tea bag or cup of their own. Studly.

A glass-in-poly Libre will run you $24 while a glass-in-glass will cost $25 (though I’m not quite clear why you’d get a glass-glass one – perhaps for home). Just be aware the shipping does cost $8 – but is probably still worth it if you’re, say, not prone to losing things.

Perfect for Christmas, don’t you think…?

Libre Tea Website

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@libretea

UPDATE: For one week (Dec 10 – 17), get 20% off a Libre Glass using Closet Therapy Blog Coupon Code!

Dressing For Pinks: Lolita Party at Royal/T

I didn’t know much about the Lolita craze (or any other Japanese craze, for that matter), but when Julie Wolfson of LAist told Caroline on Crack and me that she had girls that would be participating I decided to give the scene a look-see. Cute? Yes. Pink? Certainly. Youthful? Of course.

There were abundant helpings of cotton candy for all guests to enjoy and one could get a good glimpse of the Lolita movement by looking at Royal/T‘s merchandise – as well as all the girls who came dressed to be photographed themselves. It was great to see personal style embraced through dressing up in the genre. I found myself saying, “Oh that’s cute!” probably a hundred times too many.

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