The Green Teaist

March 20th, 2013: As seen on Archive (PDF)

Photo: Gavin Paul

Like a massage parlor for tea nerds, this Lake Forest green tea-ery boasts overnight leaf-shipments exclusively from Japan; it’s worlds away from ‘tall’ yerba mate latte land. It’s a place of no-take-away pampering, twinkling with Rachmaninoff piano concertos, sushi den furniture and a staff worthy of caffeine doctorates, with the amount of leaf knowledge they possess.

The catch? A cup of tea goes for more than the average glass of wine at a restaurant, at around $15 for a teapot good for two servings. But, again, the GT nails the experience. About 11 teas are brought to tables in vials, with orated explanations, as well as full-detailed menus, dropping descriptions like, “appropriate for consuming before retiring,” “robust wheat-like notes” and “ethereal tastes of spring.” For something a little more solid, Bernard Callebaut chocolates (3 for $5.25) and compote fruit dishes ($8.25) carry the crumpet weight.

Once selections are made, the mod tableware descends – crystal teapot, eggshell cups and steeping timer, should you fail to have a watch. The waiter, also equipped with his own utensils, busts out a leaf sifter, a pot of fresh steamed water, waits attentively as the minutes tick – usually about two – and pours you into tea and crumpet land.

Owned as a side dream-project by a local Japanese lawyer – hence all the teas shipped from Japan – the GT also doubles as a shop, where all the teas available at the cafe await buyers in a temperature-controlled cellar. Prices can please pocket books for more common varietals starting at $5.25 for 50-gram containers (a cup equals 4 grams). Aligned with the owner’s high-end, connoisseur taste, super premium options – usually reserved for ceremonies – present themselves as well, pointing to Kugetani at $82.50 for 50 grams.

Average cost: $10-$20