Although the US is known for its hip coffee houses, traditional tea from the Eastern hemisphere is gaining popularity and making its mark on the East Bay. This guide to East Bay tea houses will help you find the best cup.
This cozy tea house is tucked away in Berkeley’s Epicurious Garden, free of any street noise or sidewalk distractions. The tea menu is extensive and authentic and includes delicious fermented pu-erh varieties. On the shelves you’ll find delightful teaware, like traditional clay pots shaped like pigs, blowfish, and melons. Whether you choose to sit inside through the beautiful arched doorway or in the patio next to a fountain, you’ll find a moment of calm. Be sure to try the hand-pulled noodles in their flavorful broth.
Located on San Pablo Avenue, Far Leaves Tea is by far the best tea house to get lost in a book. The faint sound of running water from the fountain and the bamboo mats create a masterfully tranquil ambiance. Each table is set up with its own kettle, and their staff will instruct you on how to brew multiple infusions of each tea on your own. The most popular brews are White Silver Needle, Purple Bamboo Green Tea, and Dong Ding Oolong. The Far Leaves original blends, many of which are organic, are available for sale alongside sweet treats. Learn more about the art of brewing tea on the Far Leaves Tea Blog.
Teance prides itself on sourcing tea from individual family farms in China, Taiwan and Japan. Their tea is top-notch and delivers nuanced flavors in each infusion. Their representatives travel to Asia each year to get to know the farmers who produce their tea. Most of the leaves arrive at the store in the spring, which is when all the tea on the wall goes on sale. The two most popular varieties are the Phoenix Honey Oolong and the Lychee Red. Stop by anytime for a tasting at their tea bar, or sit upstairs in a private nook to enjoy a pot.
Sophie’s Cuppa Tea is Montclair’s go-to tea shop, where you can choose from long lists of teas from the blackboards on the walls. The shop aims to give Americans access to high quality healthy teas that may be hard to find in the area otherwise. Periodic free tea tastings are available, so come into this light and airy storefront to enjoy a steaming cup with one of their baked goods, ice creams, or salads.
Upholding British tea traditions, The Tea Room serves high tea with sandwiches and salads. Their tea is sourced from the Harney & Sons Company, with most the popular brews being English Breakfast and Gunpowder Green. Be sure to try the house-made lemon curd to go with your scone. Reservations are recommended on the weekend.
This hip tea house brings a bit of zen to bustling Downtown Berkeley. The founders of Asha Tea House believe that there is a cup of tea out there for everyone, whether it’s a simple whole leaf infusion or a sweet milk tea blend. Asha sources teas from China, Japan, India and Taiwan. Try their matcha (stone ground green tea) for something authentic, or their Kumquat Green for a tangy kick. ‘Asha’ is Taiwanese for ‘someone that enjoys life’ – a good motto to drink tea by.
Though it may seem unexpected to enjoy a high tea service in a museum, the Pardee Home Museum provides visitors with an authentic British tea experience. English Breakfast is the tea of choice, and it is served with cucumber or smoked salmon sandwiches and exquisitely tiered dessert trays. The tea service is volunteer-run, so there are limited spots and a reservation is recommended. The price of the high tea service includes a tour of the historic 1896 house.
A’Cuppa Tea is an ideal spot to sit and relax in Oakland’s Elmwood Neighborhood. Most of their teas are sourced from China. The most popular green tea is a Jasmine variety, and the most popular black is Assam tea with milk. Sit on their comfy chairs to enjoy a cup with a friend, or watch the world go by on College Avenue.
MeloMelo Kava Bar is the first kava-focused bar in the Bay Area. What is Kava, you ask? It is a plant closely related to Black Pepper, and its root is used to make a kava herbal infusion. Chemically, kava produces subtle psychoactive effects which can make you relaxed and sometimes euphoric. Pacific Islanders have been consuming this elixir for years. At this newly opened kava bar, you can try the bitter original brew or fruity sweeter versions. They also sell kombucha, tea, yerba mate and plenty of kava products to take home.
This tea garden and casual cafe is one of Alameda’s gems. Because the owner and founder, Julie, has a background in herbalism, you can order herbal jellies with your toast and buy homemade herbal body products in the storefront. Sit on the patio or one of the comfy couches to enjoy an herbal tisane. Julie’s Coffee and Tea Garden also offers more than 60 bulk coffees, teas and herbs to take home. Be sure to check out the ceramics, paintings and pieces by local artists.