Tea leaves, according to tradition, can predict the future. And now there's plenty to say about the future of tea, which has earned a reputation as a health superhero as well as a beauty elixir. Who knew so much was brewing inside all those teapots?
10 Great Tea Salons Across the Country
1. Chai of Larkspur, Larkspur, California.
Chai offers Moroccan and Japanese variations on traditional English tea (415-945-7161).
2. Chaiwalla, Salisbury, California.
The salon was formerly a carriage house (860-435-9758).
3. Imperial Tea Court, San Francisco.
The owners travel to buy tea at the source (415-788-6080).
4. Revolution Tea House, Phoenix.
Tea shakes are a cool adaptation to the warm climate (602-955-5260).
5. Tea Box Cafe at Takashimaya, New York City.
Green-tea mousse is a lure (212-350-0100).
6. The Tea Garden, West Hollywood, California.
Staff members trained in Chinese herbal medicine customize tea blends (310-205-0104).
7. Teaism, Washington, D.C.
There are 50 teas and even a tea soup (202-667-3827).
8. Tealuxe, Boston.
The 120 tea varieties include a terrific iced lemon hibiscus (617-441-0077).
9. T-Salon, New York City.
Most of the 400 teas sold here are blended in-house (212-358-0506).
10. Villa Kula, Chicago.
This new tea salon is one of the city's most intimate places (773-728-3114).
--Monica F. Forrestal
The growing popularity of green tea in the West has turned Ten Ren Tea and Ginseng into one hip company. Ten Ren (the name means heavenly love) is among the largest tea importers in the world, with 22 stores in the United States alone. Ellen Lii, who, with her husband, Mark, runs Ten Ren's three New York branches, works hard to keep up with the demand, but she'll also take the time to brew a cup for any customer who requests a tasting in her Chinatown store, at 75 Mott Street. Buying tea can be daunting, with dozens of varieties to choose from, some costing more than $100 a pound. After a few minutes with the soft-spoken Lii, however, the whole process begins to make sense, and one is even tempted to sign up for Ten Ren's class on how to perform a traditional Chinese tea ceremony. Lii explains the importance of using small handpicked leaves, which are the most tender and flavorful, and of "waking up" the leaves by rinsing them. But she's far from a purist: her shops also sell a surprisingly tasty green-tea powder for blending with apple juice (though one enterprising customer uses it in a facial mask). Still, after drinking a cup of soothing Pouchong, one suspects that the old-fashioned approach is still the best.
Health Benefits of Tea
Research has linked both black and green teas to good health. John Weisburger, a scientist at the American Health Foundation (a private not-for-profit organization that studies disease prevention), cites three benefits of regular tea consumption:
Fighting cancer Tea is a rich source of antioxidants, compounds that protect against the cell damage that can lead to cancer. Animal studies suggest that drinking the equivalent of five to seven cups of black or green tea daily may help prevent the formation of tumors, particularly in the skin, esophagus, lungs, stomach, colon and breasts.
Protecting the heart The antioxidants in tea may also lower the chances of getting coronary disease: epidemiological evidence indicates that drinking five or more cups a day reduces the risk, although scientists don't know by how much.
Battling tooth decay Tea is one of the few natural sources of fluoride. Its antioxidants help prevent gum disease, too.
Hot New Teas
American tea buyers travel the world in search of new products. Right now, they're in hot pursuit of single-estate and organic varieties. Some of their best finds: Ambootia Estate Organic White Darjeeling and Organic First and Second Flush teas Stash Tea Dunsandle Estate Assam Serendipitea Dragon Eyeball and Sea Anemone green teas Harney and Sons Organic Green Tea with Citrus and Gingko Todd & Holland Green Japanese Sencha Supreme and pricey Gyokuro Special ($70 an ounce) Aveda Comforting Tea.