Friday, November 23, 2007

Tee Tea

While here in the South Bay of Los Angeles, I've been spending some time just touring the Mexican and Asian/Japanese markets. While I've always been a big defender of Baltimore and the variety of ingredients one can find in Maryland, I have to admit that some places trump the offerings back home. In Baltimore, there is one tortilleria. Here in L.A., there are plenty and we happened across the famous Diana's earlier today that offered not only fresh corn masa but the damp smell of boiling tripe filled the air for tomorrows' pozole. Evidently, Diana's is popular not only for their tortillas but their pozole as well - to the tune of nine very large stock pots filled with tripe that will be all gone by tomorrow afternoon and the boiling will commence once again.

After spending the afternoon visiting various Mexican markets and the Marukai supermarket filled with many of the Japanese ingredients I so crave, in a shopping center filled with numerous Asian stores, Polly and I decided to have our afternoon merienda at Tea Station.

If you've never been to one of these modern Chinese style tea rooms, I think it should be a "must visit". I've been to other American-owned tea joints and they always seem to try too hard to be "Asian" or "Asian influenced." At places like Tea Station, its' understated elegance. The Chinese made chairs and merchandise displays are refined and not the gaudy "this is an Asian place" kind of interior design. It's comfortable without losing respect for the tea.

And unlike the "Asian Tea Joints" I've been to, there's no weird smelling patchouli incense lingering over your nostrils or menu items that reek of being "Asian inspired." No, my friends, there is none of that "Cumin Spiced Brown Rice with mango chutney" nonsense. Just simple East Asian delicacies like Sweet Milk Butter Toast, Fried Taro Balls and maybe the odd-ish sounding Tea Flavored Spiced Pork Slices.

At Tea Station, the menu is intense. It's large and varied. Well, sort of. It's got a lot of options for the tea drinker. Whether you like it hot, cold, with boba, with milk, traditional, with crushed ice, with jelly ice, as a healthy drink or with flavors, there's something for just about everyone. Don't know if this is good or bad but since they stick with tea (and maybe the odd coffee drink), they at least remain somewhat focused and that usually augurs something tasty to come.

For our merienda, Polly ordered the Milk Tea while I ordered the Royal Tea with boba. If you've heard of "bubble tea" then you know what boba is all about (and it has nothing to do with Fett). If you don't know what either of those are then they're basically large tapioca balls that adds texture to your beverage. If you're not Asian and you don't understand, not to worry, you'll get to try it sooner or later. If you're Asian and don't understand, well, I can't help you.

As you can see in the photo above, Polly's Milk Tea came in a rather traditional pot with a cup. My Royal Tea with boba came in a large bowl with a spoon. So while Polly was able to drink her tea fashionably with style, I ended up drinking mine like a soup and looking rather neanderthal about it. The tea was good, hot, with milk and sweet. The tapioca balls were just right. Soft, spongy and with a nice resilience. Not hardened like they had been sitting around too long - which, in the world of bubble tea is an indication on how busy the place is.

As an accompaniment, we sampled the Sweet Milk Butter Toast. A slice of my favorite Japanese style white bread toasted with butter and broiled with condensed milk on top. A sweet and tasty accompaniment to the teas.

It was a pleasant way to spend the afternoon chatting about friends, family and the latest gossip pertaining to each group.

Tea Station
1610 West Redondo Beach Boulevard
Gardena, CA 90247

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