Friday, July 07, 2006

Tea is like wine

During Dad's visit last week I took him to a restaurant called Modern Tea, located at the cusp of Hayes Valley (opposite Suppenkueche, for those familiar).

The menu items were limited and the food was decent fare. The real charm was the tea list, which had unique flavors from all continents.

This restaurant is the genius of a tea-freak couple. The wife loved quality tea; mentioning Bigelow or Earl Grey made her tummy churn. The husband looked like a hippie and spoke like one, he even called my Dad dude once or twice.

Dad isn't a gastronomic adventurer, so he asked for a good old Darjeeling. Unavailable. Curious, dad asked why. Hippie said: "The Darjeeling crop wasn't good this season. Try Nepal, it's like Darjeeling." Now even more curious and in professor mode, dad sought more knowledge about how a crop is related to a tea's taste.

Tea is like wine, hippie's wife said. Each year tea leaves turns out good or bad, just like wine. This year's Darjeeling crop wasn't good, but Nepal was excellent, which has a similar texture and taste. It's traditional to have a Darjeeling and Assam on tea menus, she said, and luckily the Nepal crop turned out excellent this year.

It's difficult maintaining a tea menu. They have to juggle their menu continuously depending on the quality of a tea crop. The Assam in India is good this year, but they don't expect a good crop next year, so it may not to be on the menu.

I had my best tea ever there -- the "Seven sisters"(or something similar, can't remember). The rare tea is found in certain parts of China. After it finishes growing, the tea is turned into a cake and kept in caves for a while so it can develop its acquired taste. So hardened is the tea that its taste never changes, Hippie said. Even after 45 minutes, the tea tasted light and fresh and not bitter. Cost $4 or something, well worth it in a world where we senselessly spend $3 for a coffee.

Whenever I need tea advice, I'll go to them. Quality tea needs to be sought out, they said. Tazo was rated as a decent brand by them.

In support of neighborhood restaurants, I hope this place succeeds. There's something San Francisco-ish about the place -- a tea-freak couple putting their full passion into an effort, hopefully, with some business acumen.


Blogger terence said...

good stuff. i'm not even a hard core tea person, but this place seems worth checkig out.

10:42 AM  
Anonymous brimful said...

I'll have to check it out too- have you gone to Samovar Tea Lounge? I'm interested in how this compares to Samovar.

4:30 PM  
Blogger Khakra said...

certainly worth a check out. work near samovar tea lounge and passed by, never in there. checked the menu online, and samovar has a longer tea list, and a much bigger menu.

5:19 PM  
Blogger rupa saumil said...

hi khakra,

thanks for visiting my blog! A hot spiced chai can save humankind from Khakras :) enjoy!!

12:51 AM  
Blogger Id it is said...

Tea is my passion too. I'd really want to check out this place when I fly West.

Have you ever tried 'Kehwa' a green leaf tea from Afghanistan and Kashmir? A tea to die for!

12:15 PM  
Blogger Khakra said...

thanks for the tip id, always keen on new stuff!

9:24 PM  
Blogger tkdjunkie said...

wow -- i never knew tea could be so complicated! the biggest tea selection around here is Lipton or Celestial Seasonings. somebody save us!

8:51 AM  

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