Tuesday, 19 April 2011

a tea stumble through Georgetown

Had several hours in Washington DC, and after making a quick search of tea rooms I found a few places that looked interesting in Georgetown. Actually, it seems like there are quite a few options for afternoon tea in nice hotels in the city, but by that time I'd already be back on my way to the airport. I think I did pretty well under the circumstances. For example, I've written here about Bubble Tea but had never had it. Well, once I realised that this little tea/snack shop featured some authentic Bubble Tea, if there is such a thing, I had to try it. Here I am on the left pre-Bubble Tea.

The place is called Snap (1062 Thomas Jefferson Street Northwest, Washington D.C. (202) 965-7627) and it's right around the corner from the historic C & O Canal in Georgetown.

Let me first say that I didn't have high hopes for this beverage. I'd even say that I prepared myself to be thoroughly disgusted. The young woman behind the counter was very friendly and eager to explain what the whole phenomenon was about. She said that one of the biggest problems with serving it is that it's made in such a wide variety of ways that people come in with very specific expectations of how it should taste.

There were many different flavours I could've chosen, but I went for a simple green tea. It's iced and served with a healthy portion of milk. Again, this isn't how I'd normally drink green tea, but I wanted the requisite experience in all of its glory. At the bottom of the glass, or in this case plastic to-go cup, are a layer of tapioca balls. Another variation offers little balls or pearls made of jelly. Many think the name comes from these pearls/balls, but it was explained to me that the bubble in the name actually comes from the froth that results when the drink is violently shaken.

Those of you who came for a teablog have likely already changed the channel. I don't blame you. But here's the thing: it wasn't bad. I wouldn't go for it everyday, but I can see why prepubescent South Korean girls go nuts about this stuff. In the future, they are welcome to have mine.

So a few streets over, there was a real tea room. It was immediately clear that this was the sort of place made for tea lovers. All the best things that come time to mind when I say Chinese Tea Room are involved here. The place is called Chin Ching Cha, and they know what they're doing.

The high ceilings and unbelievable selection of tea gear made me want to stay here much longer than my schedule allowed. There were as many Gaiwan and Yixing teapots as you see on many websites. There were some conventional looking packages of tea, but there were also beautiful tea tins with exquisite loose-leaf tea. I was the proverbial kid in a candy shop.

The only thing I'd complain about is that the prices for actually sitting down and drinking tea were rather steep. After perusing the website, I notice that having a meal there (with tea included) might be more economical. The menu I was offered explicitly said that the prices were for individual servings only, so sharing a pot was not an option. When I questioned the prices and the rigid serving arrangement, I was told that it was a tea house not a restaurant. I'm still trying to decipher what that meant exactly.

If you read this blog even periodically, you know I'm rarely negative, and aside from the prices here is no exception. The room was indeed beautiful. Were I living in the area, I might make an excuse to come here sometimes. An important client. A special occasion. Please don't take my word for it. Go see it yourself.


  1. From the sublime to the sublime (I'm a bubble tea fan).

  2. Get it - prices were steep? Couldn't resist.

  3. Heh heh...she said, 'Prices were steep.' Heh heh...