April 26th, 2011

Té House of Tea: The House that Tea Built

In 5 Words: Green, Grey, Scarlet, Black, Tea

I recently moved to another rental house, and while my new place is only about a mile from the old one, it might as well have been a cross-country expedition. Move a thousand feet or move a thousand miles, and you still have to own up to how much superfluous crap you have, incur scratches on anything wood you may own, and perform the quantum physics it takes to wiggle a sofa through a doorway. The only glimmer of light at the end of the tunnel is the prospect of exploring your new surroundings. After the bed frame bolts were located and the neighbors had been greeted in a half-assed but friendly fashion, I arranged the Fast Five posters in my room and took to the streets to find some refreshment. And there it was… Té House of Tea. I was taken aback. How could they have known that I was coming? What manner of sorcery was this? Whether it was divine intervention or they had inserted a chip into my brain when I wasn’t wearing my tin foil sleep helmet, these people somehow knew I was moving to the neighborhood and had named their place of business in my honor.

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I’ve always been more of a coffee guy, so despite the place sharing my name, I walked into House of Tea with a Venti-sized chip on my shoulder. Examining their enormous variety of fair trade and organic teas scribbled in psychedelic swirls of chalk, I made the commitment to be a stubborn convert. I was a bean and filter man, damnit. If I wanted bags of foliage, I would have opted for yard work or watching Half Baked for the 100th time. That attitude was quickly abandoned after seeing the food. Any culture that tea has touched lends itself to the House of Tea chow menu. Fluffy quiche and various cakes and scones share the road with chewy beef pot-stickers and spicy lamb dishes. Weekend brunch offers fresh fruit and plate-covering omelets chock full of local veggies and meats. House of Tea grub blows the stale doughnuts and plastic-wrapped sandwiches at your local Starbucks out of the water.

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Until my Té House of Tea adventure, my experience with the legendary leaves was limited to reciting Snapple facts in a garish English accent, but there’s more to it than that, evidently. At House of Tea, they don’t just sell you a product- they offer you a journey of the senses, if I may be so bold and metaphorically predictable. A house concoction called the Yin Yang (coffee meets tea meets milk and sugar) ended up being my favorite, but basing your H.O.T. experience on one drink is like going ankle deep at Surfside and telling everyone you’re a “swimmer”. Zesty green teas, oolong and robust black teas make each visit unique. I even learned that “Having some Earl Grey in the morning” wasn’t my grandmother’s admission of infidelity with a redneck. I purchased some of the famous gentleman to stash at home.

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House of Tea is also a perfect example of the success that can ensue when friendly people with a good idea enthusiastically keep their fingers on the pulse of their community. House of Tea does so with kooky events that somehow, over time, just stuck. Non-discriminatory open mic nights on Mondays bring in poets, musicians and comics, all eager to flex some creative muscle for a receptive crowd. It’s difficult to understand how tango on Friday evenings and Saturday night swing dancing could work in a place that’s not much bigger than an efficiency apartment, but you should never doubt the power of spastic physical activity in tight quarters.

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Beyond their regular calendar of events, House of Tea also carries theé torch for just about any noble cause that pops up. They’re an original carrier of Scarlet Threads textiles and are planning an extensive community garden right out back (Plots still on sale very reasonably as of press time). With many of their menu items celebrating the rich culture of Japan, supporting the tsunami relief just came naturally too. A friendly staff member behind the counter was quick to tell me during my visit “We’re not naive. We know it’s just a few bucks we’re raising, but at least it’s something”. Selling house-designed t-shirts and origami cranes may not seem like much to the average Joe, but a few bucks to the Japanese Red Cross sure beats bad Twitter jokes from Gilbert Gottfried. TéHouse of Tea likes to remain seeped in a positive outlook.

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Té House of Tea ended up being a great silver lining on the black cloud of relocation. Sometimes life gives you leaves instead of grounds. In those situations, it’s often best to enjoy what’s fallen into your lap and to just put a kettle on, so to speak. Of course, that would mean unpacking all these damn boxes.

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Where – Montrose – 1927 Fairview St., Houston, TX 77019 (Google Map)
What
– Tea and more Tea
Wear – Traditional garb optional
How Much – A pot for cheap
Hours – Tuesday, Wednesday: 11am – 10 p.m; Thursday: 4pm-10pm; Monday, Friday and Saturday 11am-midnight; Sunday: 11am-8pm
WebWebsite; Twitter; Facebook

— Tea Jones

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