*The following article is a beginning journalism review
Hidden off University Ave is an inconspicuous little tea room called Tea Time. At first glance from the window of the car, people are drawn to the eye-catching shelves of colorful tea sets that lay against the neutral toned walls, and miss the tables set out for dining.
No wonder, then, Tea Time is often mistaken for a place that only sells tea. An assortment of 150 different flavors and types of tea accommodate a menu of both Western and Asian cuisines. At moments, the room fills with complete silence. Hints of chatter leak through the open door from neighboring restaurants, but conversations inside Tea Time are held in muted voices, in respect for the graceful atmosphere. Paintings of white lilies and lace dresses spread across the pastel colored walls.
Behind the cashier counter, a young women dressed in a black babydoll-maid dress greets each customer with a warm and welcoming smile.
The owners, Tim Pham and his wife Thao Nguyen, have gone out to make the popular and commercialized downtown area a more elegant and sophisticated, yet cozier place to eat, with a fireplace lined with goodreads and tables made with English bone china.
Pham and Nguyen started Tea Time and Lisa’s Tea Treasures (the sister location) with the hope that people will become more educated about tea and its nutritional values, while enjoying healthy food without compromising flavor.
“Ten years ago, not many people knew about tea, [they were] more focused on coffee, like Starbucks. We want more people to drink tea because tea is really healthy. It’s been around for the last 200 years, [but] it’s been neglected.”
Tim Pham, Tea Time owner
Pham worked as a chef in the food industry and Thao built her profession in marketing. With their skills combined, the two tea enthusiasts decided it was time to expand their fondness for tea to a professional level. They wanted a way to be able to introduce the benefits of tea to a larger audience.
“I would say we are one of the few in America who [have] tried to build up the momentum [for tea],” Pham said.
Today, Pham tries to monitor the production of the food and service in person every day, to ensure that customers are happy when they leave the restaurant. Tea Time serves high tea and light tea fare, crumpets, and savory and salad treats.
Pham stresses the importance of healthy eating and advocates for less sugary and fatty items on the menu. The two basic criteria for all dishes at Tea Time are said to be healthy and delicious. A handful of vegetarian and gluten free options are available, and even all of the tea sandwiches can be opted with gluten free bread! From spinach quiche to steamed buns, clearly some extensive nights of brainstorming were put into the creation of the intricate menu.
“We have all the food custom made for tea.” Pham said, “A lot of trial and error and [we] pick up the trends. And if people love it, we introduce it.”
With small-portioned dishes and an abundant amount of tea, conversations can go on for hours at Tea Time. The charming aesthetics of this tea room is the perfect place to take a special someone on a date, for grandma’s next birthday, or even your own with a group of friends.
Savory yet light, this relatively small bar is quiche served next to a cup of fresh mixed greens. The salad desperately lacked dressing, resulting as a product of bland leafs, instead of a salad. However, the flavor lost in the salad was made up for in the quiche.
Bursting with great piquancy, a combination of sharp cheddar cheese, onion, and egg flood my tastebuds. The fluffy eggy center of the quiche melts on my tongue and I am left with the crisp, buttery crust to indulge. Although disappointed by the inadequate amount of dressing, I do have to admit it balances out with the quiche very well. Perhaps Pham purposefully underdressed the salad, so the quiche could truly shine?
A snazzy name for a cream puff, the mini éclair is partly coated in dark chocolate and filled with mildly sweet vanilla cream. The contrast between the dark chocolate and vanilla balance each other out nicely. However the dough of the cream puff wasn’t impressive and lacked richness and texture. Overall a fancy-looking but ordinary-tasting cream puff.
Dipped in white chocolate, the first bite into the Petit four (the white box present) shoots an intense almond flavor to my palate. Slowly, the taste of a soft, moist vanilla cake-like biscuit inside appears, with almond paste between each layer of the biscuit. More rich in flavor, the petit four was definitely my favorite out of the two desserts.
I take a whiff of the mango passion fruit tea and I am transported to a tropical island. This ruby red herbal tea creates a calming aroma that goes perfectly with a tasty dessert. Hibiscus is added in the brewing process to give its vibrant color. The tea is faintly sweet and very tart, two sugar cubes is just the right amount to add. Tea and dessert is the perfect way to end a scrumptious meal.