American Tea Room: blended tea made better
I wrote in my previous post based on an interview with one of the founders of the American Tea Room, David Barenholtz, that “The philosophy of the company is inspired by America as a melting pot, which does not have its own tea culture, but is curious about blending different cultures and tastes together.” The original house blends at the American tea Room were born to echo this fusion of cultures in a cup of tea, rooibos or a herbal infusion, all created with the important accent on a great taste.
Most blends take two to three years to develop. The company resorts to master blenders in Europe and Japan, but also mix the teas and herbs themselves in Los Angeles. Mr Barenholtz described their house method: “We are inspired by restaurants, places, tastes, fashion. For example I have been to a Peruvian restaurant and the lime in ceviche inspired me to add lime to green tea or we added coconut to tea as there were many coconut products around and the popularity of coconut water is immense.”
Their instinct worked, resulting in a wonderful exotic taste. The delicate Polynesian flavours or roasted coconut shine in the brew of Coconut Oolong. Using a Taiwanese Bao Zhong oolong with large, curled, blue-green leaves imparting a creamy body and floral notes of orchid and narcissus. Its sweet grass and vanilla character is deepened by caramel, resembling the fragrance of roasted coconut.
La Vie En Rose is a must for anyone who loves roses. It is also one of my favourite blends at the American Tea Room. It is based on the rather sweet organic Bai Mu Dan (Pai Mu Tan) style white tea leaves (a combination of silvery buds and the delicate top two leaves) and wild-harvested fuchsia rosebuds. The intense rosewater fragrance dances around the wildly earthy tones of the blend. Divine!
From the green tea assemblages, I like the Nirvana with heavenly effects on your mind. Although it is based on a Japanese green tea, its typical grassy character is subdued by fruity strawberries, sweet figs and the dominant kiwi. Added rose petals softly balance the brew.
Immortal Green, light in caffeine, is another organic Japanese Sencha blend, and also the American Tearoom’s favourite. The tea leaves are tossed with yellow bright marigold blossom, peach – the Taoist symbol of immortality, and passion fruit. The Marigold blossom fragrance stands out on the nose and combined with the intense almost candied peach and passion fruit they camouflage the grassy green tea. In contrast, on the palate the peach is hardly detectable and the tea comes out from hiding. Do not brew for too long, otherwise you get a tea leaf stew rather than a balanced cup. It is refreshing when iced, and delicious warm. Water temperature for brewing this tea should be lower – between 70 and 80°C, and steeping for maximum three minutes.
Kaanapali was inspired by the Hawaiian island of Maui. The ginger roots and liquorice with the refreshing green tea and exotic pineapple sooth a sore throat, warm your body during the winter months and boost immunity. It is [for me] best savoured warm. A perfect winter cup for a dreamy exotic trip to the tropics.
For a non-caffeinated exotic freshness or an illusion of summer go for the Martinique. This organic blend of an African green Rooibos with mango, papaya, peach, marigold and orange petals is a boonga-boonga party pick me up when served over ice during warm days.
The organic St Tropez brings the Mediterranean summer memories back to the foreground. Also a green rooibos, but bolder, with whole red currants, rose petals and blue mallow blossoms creating an exotic berry infusion. Sweet, with powerful currant notes making it refreshing, while the earthy character of the rooibos adds an overall complexity.
Lemoncello is the Italian opera supported by an orchestra of citrus fruits. This organic rooibos is elevated by vibrant lemongrass and marigold aromas. Citrusy yet deepened with earthy and creamy vanilla and caramel notes of the rooibos. My favourite for summer.
Choco latte is also based on rooibos, but the cocoa makes it more gourmet, indulgent, and surely a mood lifter.
Herbal infusions at the American Tea Room are also popular with their therapeutic and caffeine-free nature. The calming ZZZ organic tisane of chamomile with Verveine (verbena) and mint will put you sleep like a baby lamb cuddling next to her sheep mummy.
Pure tea at the American Tea Room
High quality pure teas are indispensable at every tea shop, whether it prides in its house blends or not. At the American Tea Room, Matcha is their best-selling tea and green tea overall has been so far the most successful in Beverly Hills. The shop offers three varieties of a stone ground Matcha made of an extremely fine gyokuro (a high-grade Japanese green tea characteristic with grassy taste), that creates the sweetest taste without the bitterness found in lesser Matchas.
The rare organic Silver Needles [Yin Zhen in China started commercially produce this type of tea], which are the white silver tips (buds) picked by hand only once a year over a two day period, is becoming even more rare as with an increasing popularity of tea around the world there are more connoisseurs competing for the top growths. White teas are now grown and made even in Hawaii, catering to the high demand. The islands’ foggy and hilly microclimate suits to the tea plants. With the highest amounts of antioxidants it is an age-defying brew with a pleasant floral bouquet. Smooth in the mouth, with soothing blossoms of peony, relaxing your mind. The name comes from the silver-coloured, needle-shaped, tips.
White tea [Bai Cha in Chinese] is the ideal mellow beverage for anyone disliking bitterness of some green and black teas. Handling them with care is essential since they are the least processed of all tea – they are just plucked and withered (dried naturally on sun). Steeping can be as long as 15 minutes but in a low temperature (70°C ) of high quality water (not too hard and chlorinated, so filtered at least). They are perfect for summer as they lower the body’s temperature.
There are dozens of teas and blends at the American Tea Room, you can browse their online store for inspiration. You can also read more about their concept, shop, classes and advices in my previous feature based on the interview with David Barenholtz for La Muse Blue.