This is a tea-house travel guide and reflection on tea culture in the US, where the traditions from China, Taiwan, India, Japan, and elsewhere, have infused and blossomed within the ever-changing modern milieu of our west coast culture.
A tea house, for the purposes of this guide, is not just a shop where tea is sold, not just a tea themed restaurant, or a regular cafe with some tea on the menu. A proper tea house is an open, welcoming, dedicated community space where tea is prepared and shared in a traditional style, and where people can come together to relax and enjoy themselves. For this guide I am focusing primarily on Chinese style “gong fu cha” tea houses.
West Coast culture has this wonderful way of adopting things from all around the world, then re-mixing them all together, sometimes by adding some avocado on top or electronic beat underneath, to somehow make it our own. Traditional tea is enjoyed here not just for the old world nostalgia, but also as a gourmet indulgence, a healing medicine, an exotic adventure, a spiritual practice, and most importantly a good time.
The tea trail as mapped is about 1,500 miles.
[Last updated forever ago, lots of info is out of date, working on an update, stay tuned <3 – editor]
Tea House Trail, listed from North to South:
Vancouver, BC, Canada
The Chinese Tea Shop
101 E Pender St Vancouver, BC V6A 1T6, Canada
1-6pm daily except Tuesday. TheChineseTeashop.com
Small and very personal, run by Daniel Liu, who holds deep dedication to Chinese tea, especially Pu-Erhs and Oolongs, a destination for Chinese nationals and serious collectors, while still maintaining a cozy, beginner friendly atmosphere.
2208 W 4th Avenue Vancouver, BC V6K 1P2, Canada
9am-10pm daily, 10:30am-9pm Sunday. o5tea.com
Community oriented, hosts many events, many different varietals of Asian teas and Kombucha.
Mobile tea house, hosted by Omar, creator of exquisite and imaginative handmade teaware.
Floating Leaves Tea
1704 NW Market St, Seattle, WA 98107
Thur – Sat:12pm-2pm floatingleaves.com
A very personal small shop and tasting room, hosted by Shiuwen, focusing on Taiwanese oolongs. High quality tea, traditional preparation, more by instinct than by lots of little rules, a focus on tea as energy medicine, and a nice welcoming beginner-friendly vibe.
B. Fuller’s Mortar & Pestle
617 N 36th St Seattle, WA 98103 bfullers.com
Mon-Fri 12pm-5pm, also mobile@ various markets/fairs.
Steampunk elixir bar. Hosted by Will & Josh, who have a built a fun menu out global teas as well as strong herbs like Kava and Damiana. Rather than stick to an old tradition, these guys have invented their own and it’s awesome.
Teahouse Kuan Yin
1911 N 45th St Seattle, WA 98103
9am-10pm daily teahousekuanyin.com
More of a cafe. A good place to bring a laptop or book and get a bite to eat. Included on this list because they have a teahouse philosophy behind their cafe style implementation. They do serve Chinese teas in traditional style, plus other teas from around the world, and herbal teas. Occasional events.
14603 Northeast 20th Street, Bellevue, WA 98007
Tue-Sun 11am-8pm smacha.com
High quality Chinese teas, tea tasting.
Heavens Tea, School of Sacred Tea Arts
Hosted by Po, a poet, modern monk, true master of the old ways and the new school of tea. Po has created a magical tea temple as part of OneDoorLand, a private home to a community collective of artists. The space is often made open for tea workshops, meditations, and adventures. A strong focus on aged traditional chinese teas prepared with proper technique, a deep exploration of the spirituality behind the tea, an approach to tea as vibrational plant medicine, as well as an open and friendly space for newcomers.
In addition to Po, there is a larger community community of tea pourers, mystics, wizards, poets, artists, and healers centered in this house. Of special noteworthyess is Elija, who practices tea with Gene Keys readings.
2778 Friendly St, Eugene
A simple, bright, serene space, tea and teaware shop with a bar in the middle. Hosted by Josh, who has a deep connection with Tawianese and Chinese teas, especially oolongs and green teas. Teas served in a traditional style and also available mixed up into fun blended drinks.
Dragon Gongfu Tea House
33 North 3rd Street, Ashland, OR 97520
Friday & Saturday, 5-10pm
Community tea house w. GongFu Cha, Caco & Kava.
75 North Main Street, Ashland, OR 97520,
Mon-Sat 9am-10pm, Sun 9am-7pm dobrateaashland.com
Moroccan / Global style. Lounge areas.
Mt. Shasta, CA
105 E Alma St, Mount Shasta, California
3-9pm daily except Thursdays silkroadchaishop.com
Hosted by Lewis Elbinger, Silk Road is a colorful community gathering space for Shasta eccentrics, musicians and poets, old and young. Inclues a small library/reading room.
Nevada City, CA
236 Commercial St. Nevada City, CA 95959
Thur-Sat 12-6pm, Sun 12-5pm jadesummit.com
Tea room and antique store. Interconnected with the wider communi-tea.
408 Broad Street, Nevada City, CA 95959
Wed, Th: 12-6pm, F: 12-11pm, Sat 12pm-12am, Sun 12-5pm
Art gallery and tea tasting lounge.
130 South Main Street, Sebastopol, CA 95472
Mo– Sat 11am-7pm, Sun 12-5pm, manyriversbooks.com
A book store with a tea corner. Hosted by 3 proprietors, each with their own approach to tea.
* The Western Gate Teahouse
7282 Sir Francis Drake Suite 1A, Lagunitas, CA 94938
Tue-Sun 8 am-7 pm
San Francisco, CA
SF Tea Oasis
[closed/moved, see Tea Oasis Oakland below]
548 Fillmore San Francisco, CA 94117
Mon-Thur: 2pm-12am, Fri-Sun: 6pm-12am teasf.com
The city needs this, has needed it ever since OmShanTea closed. And Travis really pulled it off. Tthis is a true communal tea space, perflectly cuddled up in the heart of the ciyt. It is, first and foremost, a place for friends to gather. Barely an actual business, more of an endless hangout. Guests are encouraged to select an pour their own teas. Frequent events are hosted. Really it’s just the best thing there is, and we all love Travis.
498 Sanchez Street San Francisco, CA 94114
Daily 10am-10pm samovartea.com
A local chain with a few locations, some of which have more of a fancy restaurant feel, featuring global teas and paired snacks. But their Castro location carries the community tea house spirit best.
831 Grant Avenue, San Francisco CA
M-Sat 10am-6:30pm, Sun 10am-6:00pm redblossomtea.com
Red Blossom is strictly business. They have some of the best tea in the Bay Area. Their tastings and hosts are very professional. Not much of a hippie party, but a good place to get the good stuff.
Vital Leaf Tea
At first it’s just another China-town tea shop for tourists, and the teas are not that high quality. Vital Leaf is on the list for one reason. Uncle Gee, the proprietor of this SF Vital Leaf location, leads a constant tea ceremony for the tourists that wander into his shop like some sort of insane fantastic abusive standup comedy routine. If you’re getting a bit bored of tea rituals where you have to be silently thankful for minutes at a time, this one will make you wonder if you aren’t maybe on some kind of hidden-camera-prank tv show. Highly recommended.
East Bay Area, CA
1780 Fourth Street, Berkeley, CA 94710
10:30 am – 6 pm daily Teance.com
Definitely a commercial tea store, but with the proper spirit of a tea house underneath.
Far Leaves Tea
2626 San Pablo Avenue Berkeley, CA 94702
Tue – Sat 11-7 Sun 2-7 FarLeaves.com
More of a cafe, a good place to spend an afternoon with your laptop, but again, with the spirit of a tea house underneath.
* Tea Oasis Oakland:
Extension / New Location of SF Tea Oasis
Monday – Friday, 2pm til midnight.
439 International Blvd in Oakland, near Lake Merritt BART.
* Redwood Tea House:
* Tea House of 1000 Names
* Tea Arts Institute Oakland
mystery (seeking: Gaetano Kazuo Maida)
Santa Cruz, CA
Hidden Peak Tea House
1541 Pacific Avenue, Santa Cruz, CA 95060
Sun-Wed 11am-9pm Thur-Sat 11am-10pm hiddenpeakteahouse.com
Hosted by David Wright, Hidden Peak is THE west coast tea house that really takes traditional Chinese teas, especially pu-erh, seriously and does it right. Open community space, extensive menu, traditional tea tables and service, vegetarian snacks, occasional live music and tea events. You’ll almost always run into a friend here.
Rabbit’s Moon Tea Arts
Whales Weep Not, Steev is here, or somewhere anyway, somehow.
Santa Barbara, CA
Charles holds it down, creating space at our local fests, especially Lucidity. You can also sometimes find him holding space at DiviniTree Yoga & Arts Studio, 25 East De La Guerra Street, Santa Barbara.
Los Angeles, CA
Tula Tea Room @
Museum of Jurassic Technology
9341 Venice Boulevard Culver City, California 90232
Thur 3-7pm, Fri-Sunday 1 -5pm mjt.org
Hard to describe, just go. I actually didn’t even know there was a teahouse, almost missed the upstairs entirely. It was the greatest surprise when I found it. But there’s no way I can think of to include it and keep the surprise.
Various times & Locations: More info – Meetup Link
San Diego, CA
4966 Santa Monica Ave Ste C, San Diego, CA 92107
Wed-Sun 2pm-7pm madmonktea.com
Ambassador of the crystal kingdom. Friend and inspiration to all.
Frequently spotted holding epic space at festivals.
In Our Hearts
Founder of OmShanTea. A community leader and incredible inspiration to many of us, a talented vegan chef, a kind poet, a funky DJ, wrongly incarcerated: TeaNotPrison.com
Part of our portland community, loved, missed.
Top illustration by Joseph “madsketcher” Irzarry