Sunday, August 24, 2014

Afternoon Tea at The Golden Tea Garden

Sitting in an oasis of beauty, I had a British style Afternoon Tea service with a friend at the Golden Tea Garden in Hayward, CA.  The owner Beneba Thomas has spared no effort in bringing the tranquility of a lovely private outdoor garden to her inside dining area.  There’s a grand trickling water fountain at the entry and live flowers everywhere along with rose petals (not real ones!) strewn about the floor.  A garden mural covers an entire wall and the white garden furniture is a perfect touch to make this inside area feel like a garden.  And like a real garden, the décor changes in part with the seasons.

Tea was served in a beautiful variety of fine porcelain tea cups, saucers, and pots with floral patterns.  Lavish displays of even more exquisite teaware appeared on extra tables and garden benches.  Only some of the teaware was for sale, some was part of the owner's private collection.
The charming owner, Beneba, was there serving her guests when I visited. Along with fine teaware, Beneba knows her teas!  There are nearly 200 options, the menu serves as a basic guide, but Beneba has even more teas available upon request.  I was pleasantly surprised to find she had one of my favorites, a ginseng oolong which is not very common in U.S. tea houses.

Sara & owner Beneba
The Golden Tea Garden also hosts events.  The day I went, I joined a class in the etiquette of Afternoon Tea from the British tradition.  I learned that there are two traditions of tea service taken in the afternoons, one called “High Tea,” and the other “Low Tea.”  High Tea originated in Britain as a late day tea and meal break for the working class, with the term “high” presumably because they had their tea break while sitting at regular sized tables.  This would be as opposed to the “low” tables of Low Tea, which originated as casual social meetings between friends of the upper class where the tea was served on low drawing room tables. The term "Afternoon Tea" typically refers to Low Tea, which nowadays is served on tables of any height.

Whether high or low, I’ll be back either way for more tea at the Golden Tea Garden.

Saturday, August 9, 2014


Mango Bubble Tea at Zencha, Columbus OH
In the window of ZenCha Tea Salon there was a sign  that said "Wanted - Tea Ambassadors."  If I lived in Columbus Ohio, I’d consider applying.  “Enthusiasm” in learning about tea and in promoting tea and tea culture is what ZenCha seeks in its tea ambassadors, a.k.a. tea support staff.  That sounds like me!   

ZenCha on High St, Columbus, OH
ZenCha believes that tea is a common bond between ethnic and cultural diversity across the globe.  To further this common bond, ZenCha offers teas from all over the world and also blends teas to capture the styles of the some of the major tea regions.  For its “Arabic series” of tea, ZenCha combines black tea with spices and fruits found in Arabia.  My favorite from this series is Cardimon Ginger and I buy packets of it in loose leaf to bring home.

ZenCha in Bexley, Columbus, OH

Recently at ZenCha, I ordered a mango bubble tea made the old fashion way, as explained by ZenCha owner Jean Wu.   Bubble tea is sweet latte tea with a number of tapioca “bubbles” or balls in it.  Bubble tea originated in Taiwan in the 1980s and is extremely popular there today.  Zencha’s bubble tea is still made from real brewed tea, real milk, and real natural ingrediants, unlike some bubble tea sellers today, who now use food dye, powdered tea and powdered milk.

ZenCha inside in Bexley, Columbus OH
With a tea philosophy based on the principles of “Harmony, Respect, Purity, and Tranquility,” ZenCha seeks to create environments where customers feel a sense of relaxation for a “Zen” tea experience.  I found that the garden in the window of their High St. location and the art work and soothing colors at their Bexley location both lead me to Zen tea moments.  It must be working for other customers too - judging by the way they linger     

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