The creation of an architect–turned–circus clown–turned–pastry chef–turned tea connoisseur, The House of Tea greets one with a surprisingly subdued interior — aside from the Barnum and Bailey Clown College class photo that hangs ominously over a doorframe.
Despite the shop’s zany origins (the store is now owned by the aforementioned renaissance man’s daughter), it offers a truly remarkable variety of teas from every corner of the world, with a friendly staff happy to share their vast knowledge of the store’s offerings.
The intimidating number of teas, stored in beautiful brass jars of black and gold, are stacked atop one another in apothecary–style mahogany compartments covering an entire wall. There’s even a ladder that scales the wall, able to swing from one side to the next.
The tea selection comes from Germany by way of China, Japan, Taiwan and Sri Lanka. Some of the jars still even bear the picturesque logo of France’s world–class Mariage Freres house of tea, who they used to partner with directly. Looking past their impressive pedigrees, glamorous packaging and names like “Sword of the Emperor,” these teas really have been lovingly curated for every taste.
With over 200 choices to pick from at any time, you’ll find dozens of greens, rows upon rows of blacks and even a sprinkling of the rarer (and more steeply–priced) pu–erh and white teas. Though some may be disappointed by The House of Tea’s scant selection of tisanes, the other choices more than compensate for this lack — try (and by try, we mean smell) the Gold Yunnan, the Gyokuro Jade Dew and the Lavender Earl Grey. And if you have no idea what any of this means, don’t despair — the staff will lead you toward the tea of your dreams by way of your olfactory senses. Take your time and ask as many questions as you want.
Some of the prices may prompt a raise of the eyebrows, but a hearty whiff of most blends will subdue any nerves and justify any surprising price tags. You get exactly what you pay for at The House of Tea, in the most complimentary sense.