I'm always in favor of the underdog, or at least giving them a shot, and, when it comes to eating out, that basically means anything that's not a chain.
That's why it was nice to discover a new tea shop in Brea. The nearby Starbucks had closed anyways (it's about to be replaced by a branch of Yogurtland--because there aren't enough froyo shops, seemingly). And the Seattle's Best Coffee inside the local Borders is perennially overrun with students who take root with their textbooks and laptops and small drinks. I know I'm sounding old, but, really, do they need to commandeer the whole café section for hours on end?
So, while trying to find an alternative, I was happy I stumbled upon Midastee, an independent tea house.
Inside the entrance is a display of tea canisters and tea sets (available to buy), while most of the wood-floor premises is taken up by tables covered with white and burgundy tablecloths. Photos of tea paddies decorate the pale green walls, and classical music plays in the background. It's instantly soothing.
The menu is encyclopedic, covering more than 100 varieties of tea, mainly from Taiwan, China and India. There are descriptions, but the charming owners are happy to give further explanations if necessary. So when I asked for something 'similar to English Breakfast Tea', the waiter should have cried. Instead, he steered me toward the Lychee Tea. I'm glad he did: it was sweet yet refreshing (and--other than the fact it's also a black tea--not a lot like English Breakfast Tea, unless you usually take yours with two sugars).
Individual pots of tea, which provide several cups' worth and are served on mini trays, start at just $2.75.
There's a food menu too, but--it pains me to say this--the sandwiches are overpriced. They're lovingly prepared and presented, and come in generous portions, but still not worth $7.45. The chicken variety, consisting of four lightly toasted half-sandwiches filled with chicken, mayo and chopped onion and green bell pepper, was fresh and zingy. Accompanying it was a bouncy mound of salad in a light Asian sesame seed dressing. There's also a soup of the day ($4.95), a couple of varieties of cake ($4.55/$5.55), and an afternoon tea spread ($15 per person or $17.50 if split between two), which sounds like it could feed an army, featuring sandwiches, cream puffs, cookies, cake, brownies, fruit and egg rolls (!).
And if your tea ceremony skills are getting a little rusty, book a lesson in Cha Tao, during which you're taught about the categories of tea, the process of tea manufacture, the art of drinking and serving tea, and how to brew it. It's $12 per person (minimum three people), plus the cost of teas.
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Overall, though, Midastee is really a place for a soothing pot of tea and some peace and quiet.
But should your itchy fingers get the better of you, it also has WiFi.
Just don't tell the students.
Midastee Tea House, 912 E. Imperial Hwy., Brea, (714) 256-1618