Thursday, July 8, 2010

Tea at the Numi Tea Garden in Oakland

Now that "Tea Culture" has been published, more and more friends and acquaintances are telling me about places to have tea. And, ever since I started the project a few years ago, my tea "radar" has been even more sensitive to all things related to tea.

So, when Molly suggested that we have a tea lunch with her friend Bea, I suggested that we try out Numi's Tea Garden in a warehouse district of Oakland. I've been familiar with Numi Tea and had recently read about their tea garden where they serve their teas with assorted snacks and light dishes. The ladies were game to try someplace new...and off we went.

Numi's location, in the shadow of Highway 880, is their main business office. The company was founded in 1999 by brother and sister Ahmed and Reem Rahim. Ahmed had operated tea houses in Europe, while Reem, with a degree in Biomedical Engineering, had changed career directions and became an artist. Today, Reem's art work can be seen by all on Numi's packaging and Ahmed is the company's master blender and alchemist. Numi's premium-quality, full-leaf organic and Fair Trade Certified teas are sold just about everywhere that tea is sold in the San Francisco Bay Area, including super markets. Many restaurants, and even the local bakery where I stop for tea, serve Numi Tea. I am a fan of their flowering teas which I brew whenever I have people over for tea.

When we got to Numi at about 12:30 p.m., we were the only customers in their small showroom and in the Tea Garden, which is an area behind the showroom. Being the only ones there, proved to be an advantage...we could spread out and talk freely and linger for as long as we wished.

Molly and Bea both ordered a Rooibus/Honeybush blend. I chose the Dragonwell green tea.

Our server advised us that the tea is served "Chinese Style" which meant little to us.

But we were fascinated when she brought each of us a wooden box with a slatted top on which was a wooden saucer with our loose tea, a ceramic teapot, a glass teapot filled with hot water, a tea strainer, a tea timer, a tea cup, and a few other accoutrements, including a little Buddha figurine on each tray. For each of us, she poured the loose tea into the ceramic pot and filled the pot with hot water. Then she turned over the sand filled tea timer (a variation on the timer that Tea List in Davis..see my previous blog post...uses) so we could keep track of how long to steep our tea.

Finally, she poured her remaining hot water over our baby Buddhas.

We did not get a real explanation of why each of our Buddhas got a hot water bath, but my little bit of research suggests it is meant to have a cleansing effect and pay tribute to Buddha.

When our tea was ready, we poured it, through the strainer, into the glass pot and then poured the tea into our cups.

As for our food choices, we decided to start with a cheese tray (three cheeses), the Labne with Zaatar Yogurt Dip, and a serving of Spanokopita. We were somewhat concerned that this would not be enough for our lunch and were prepared to also try some of the sweet items such as the tea flavored cookies or the Toast with Coconut Butter.

As it turned out, our three items were more than adequate for a tasty light lunch.

The cheeses were served with crackers, dates, and almonds.

The Yogurt Dip was garnished with sesame seeds, dried oregano, and assorted olives and served with pita bread.

Molly diplomatically cut the Spanokopita into shareable pieces.

After our tea lunch, we did a bit of shopping in the front sales area. I stocked up on more flowering tea and Molly and I both bought some of the Berried Treasure tea, a blend of tropical bananas, pineapples, cherries, rosehips, sweet currants, and tangy apples which we plan to prepare both hot and iced.

The Tea Garden is open Tuesday through Saturday from 11 a.m. until 6:30 p.m., serving tea and food. It's a wonderful place for a light lunch and conversation.

Wednesday, July 7, 2010

Afternoon Tea in Davis California

Davis is my favorite college town in California. I am there often and always making new discoveries.

Most recently, I was tipped off to a relatively-new place for tea and light meals: Tea List.

After one visit by myself, I realized that Tea List is a true "find" and a very special place.

Owner, Nahid Aram, has scouted the world for the finest of teas. She does her own importing, assuring excellent quality and handling, in much the same way that a fine wine merchant, like Kermit Lynch in Berkeley does with his wines.

Tea is served by the cup or the pot. I've now made two visits to Tea List, the most recent with Jim.

So far I've tasted the Osmanthus Silver Needle White Tea, the Vanilla Black Tea, and the Persian Tea, the owner's personal blend of four different Black teas. I had the Persian Tea iced but it was still served from a glass tea pot and poured into a China cup. As my server said about the service, "Little and big girls like their tea in cups."

Tea List serves Breakfast, Lunch, and freshly-baked pastries and tea cakes all day long. The lunch menu features sandwiches, salads, and a cheese plate. Prices range from $3.95 for a Peanut Butter and Jelly Sandwich to $7.95 for the Chicken Salad or Cheese Plate. Sandwiches are served with a small side salad. A special sandwich, dessert, & tea lunch is also offered each day.

On both of my visits, I've indulged in the complete Afternoon Tea (served from 11:30 a.m.). Priced at $15.95, it includes your choice of any tea, a warm scone with house-made Devonshire cream and fruit preserves, an assortment of tea sandwiches, pastries, and fresh fruit. The four kinds of sandwiches, each on a different bread were smoked turkey with cheese and pesto, chicken salad with grapes and walnuts, seasonal vegetables, and cucumber with mint. The two pastries were bite-sized portions of a napoleon and a chocolate cake.

My single-service Afternoon Tea was presented on a single plate.

The first time I ordered the Afternoon Tea, it was to sample a little bit of all the food that Tea List served. It was so wonderful, i did it again with Jim. Since we both ordered the Afternoon Tea, it was served on a tiered server.

Not only is everything tasty, the service is elegant, even for those choosing to eat on the outdoor patio. While my server apologized for not serving my tea in their best China, which they only use indoors, I was more than content to have Lenox tea service one time

and Ralph Lauren the second time.

The Devonshire Cream and Fruit Preserves are served in tiny ramekins with silver spoons decorated with tea pots at the tops of their handles.

Special glass tea timers are brought with your sand for green and white teas, brown sand for black teas, and pink sand for herbals.