Is LA a Chinese tea mecca? I'm beginning to think so. It certainly benefits from the large, discerning Chinese population. To my delight, more and more sophisticated tea shops are starting to open and here are some of my favorites.
Bird Pick Tea: In the center of Old Pasadena, this is a wonderful place to shop, browse, and drink tea. They have a nice selection of very good quality Chinese teas and very elegant teaware. But more interestingly, along the side window, there are huge glass containers of things like dried lotus flowers, roses, longan, etc. — simply steep in hot water for a healthy, delicious tisane.
The tea is served at a bar where there's a limited menu, from pots of hot tea to iced tea lattes. What I really liked was that you can order a selection of snacks, which includes delicious dried plums. With a large pot of tea, a selection of three is only $2 more.
Bird Pick is actually a chi chi tea outlet of Wing Hop Fung, aimed for the Caucasians. Even the fixtures in the bathroom are ultra chic. One big plus of Bird Pick is that they let you buy as little as an ounce, which is great if you want to try a new tea (or if you haven't been paid in awhile).
Chado Tea Room: In Pasadena and the Fairfax District of LA, Chado is a tea room where you can buy tea. They have an extensive selection of excellent teas at fair prices, but the staff isn't really the friendliest.
Haven't tried the tea room, although the Fairfax room is always tempting.
Ten Ren Tea & Tea Station: I haven't quite figured out Ten Ren. It seems to be the retail tea part of Tea Station, a tea parlor and restaurant. Fantastic teas, but a limited selection. I usually go to the San Gabriel store for a refill of Jasmine tea. Ten Ren has about 9 different kinds, ranging from ~$12.60/lb to ~$100/lb. My favorite is the one for ~$37. Unfortunately, like so many places, the smallest amount you can buy is 4 ounces. Ten Ren also has something called King's tea, a proprietary blend of oolong and ginseng. Can't say I'm that big of a fan of that one.
Tea Station itself is always fun, buzzing with a good crowd of young and old. Great tea shakes and strange concoctions. Who knew tea could be so fun!
Aloha Boba Tea House: Located in a big retail complex in Monrovia, it's one of my favorite places to relax. Order an iced milk tea, sit outside, marvel at the great view of the mountains. You can also buy loose tea, tea sets, sandwiches and ice cream. Great staff.