It may seem odd to launch our new recurring feature on DC’s watering holes with a nod to a mainly non-alcoholic spot, but make no mistake – Teaism can just as quickly become an addiction on par with your favorite bar. Though the food can be some of the most reliable in town (oh, that salmon ochazuke soup! comfort in a bowl), we’re here to talk about its liquid libation. Devotees of tea are never disappointed when
faced with the exhaustive menu of black, green, tisanes – served iced or hot – from a wall of colorful boxes.
There are three Teaisms in DC (Dupont Circle is the original, opened back in 1996). I’m lucky in that my office is equidistant from two, each with their own distinct vibe. The Lafayette Park location has a sunny classical interior, befitting its Decatur House view, and is usually full of suits. Whereas the Penn Quarter branch has mainly subterranean seating, bustling with tourists. Despite the setback of the fannypack crowd, the PQ boasts a koi pond and an adjacent tea shop where the true addict can load up on her own supply to brew at home.
If I head to Penn Quarter, I’m most likely desiring an iced Japanese sweet green tea to takeaway and sip while staring into the nearby fountains of the Navy Memorial. “What makes it so sweet?” I asked the tea shop lady once about the surreally green elixir, “is it a special kind of tea?” “Um,” she replied, “you do know there’s a lot of sugar in there, right?” It was a truly blonde moment.
If I wander over to Lafayette Park, it’s to escape for a while, taking respite with a pot of chai. Teaism serves the real thing, black tea blended with milk and spices like cardamom, ginger and clove – no scooping processed powder out of a can here! If it isn’t spice but perfume that I need, then it’s a pot of jasmine downy pearls, killer green tea rolled pellet tight, slowly unfurling to reveal the jasmine petals inside. Either way, I love the ritual of the cast iron teapots or the hefty ceramic mugs, watching the steam rise up, slowly getting buzzed from the gentle caffeine ratio.
What all locations have in common is a desire to serve tea perfectly but unpretentiously, and it’s this informal charm that keeps me returning again and again to dream over what really is my favorite drink of all.