At the beginning of my month long stay in Santa Monica one of the first things I did was see what tea shops were close to where I was staying. I was super excited to see Bird Pick Tea and Herb was a short five minute walk from the apartment and was bouncing out the door and on my way within minutes of that discovery!
The store is located in an outdoor shopping area, tucked away in a back corner. I walked in and to the left was a tea bar where you could order drink with several tables to sit and relax at. On the right was all the loose and bagged tea. I was able to browse the tea selection on my own and could open the jars to smell them.
The two gals working there were polite, attentive and left me alone when I said I was still browsing. They checked in on me briefly a couple of times and when I was ready to choose, they were there to bag tea for me. They have no minimum on their bulk tea and even have small zipping pouches for sample sizes. After each tea was bagged, the gal showed me how much was in it and asked if that amount was okay. I never felt pressured to buy more and she was able to answer all of my questions.
They had a large selection of tea ware from matcha whisks, tea cups ranging from traditional to modern, tea kettles, thermoses, tins and infusers. The larger tins seemed fairly air tight, but the smaller were not which is too bad because they were cute! For teas, they had a lot of straight unflavored teas, only a few flavored. Half of it was black, some green, some herbal and some herbs on their own. Unfortunately for me, all the herbal mixes had hibiscus in them so I stayed clear of those. I saw some pu-ehr cakes the size of my hand, some prepackaged looseleaf gift packs and some bagged tea. Every month they do a special and this month is 20% off loose green teas which works for me! I think the only thing that was disappointing was that there wasn’t more blends of tea or much in the way of decaffeinated or rooibos. Other than that I really couldn’t ask for much more in a tea shop and it was a great first experience with the company! If I end up liking the teas, I’m bound to be back multiple times during this stay.
I like Zhi Tea and I want to love everything about it. It’s in an odd part of town for a tea shop; across from the train tracks, next door to a small convenience store and further down there are some apartments. It’s not a classy part of town at all, but it’s my part of town and I’m happy to see a tea room there. The shop is dark and cool like a cave during the summer, which is a nice break from the Texas heat, and dry and cozy during the winter.
Every time I have gone in I have been greeted by and waited on (but not at all pestered by) lovely counter staff. They have all been friendly, offered me a free cup of anything I’d like to try, educated me on the subject of tea and left me alone when I wanted to browse while still being available to answer any questions I might have. Perfect!
There are little sample sized tins of each tea in front of each tea so you can see and smell them. I really like being able to check out the teas by myself without a sales person hovering over me, but last time I was in there the samples smelled a bit weak and may have been due for a refreshing.
Teas are sold in a few sizes. Smallest are the sample bags so you can go on a get to know you date with their tea, next step up is a tin full if you want more commitment, THEN they have large bags for sale for when you decide you are deeply in love with a tea and want to get hitched.
The teas they make are all organic. They don’t discontinue teas unless they can’t source the ingredients anymore because they don’t want to disappoint any customers who love that tea (something I wish other companies would consider). They have little magnets that give the steeping time for different teas on it which is a great reference to have on your fridge. The tins they use are tall and oval which makes room for more teas in your cupboard. So many reasons to love them!
The location, the building, setup and the staff are all great. What I’m not crazy about is the tea. I want to LOVE the tea and I don’t. I want to support local businesses too. I have found a couple of teas I like, but most of it I’m just not into. I’m an added flavor kind of tea fan. I want my tea to remind me of cookies and cakes with coconut and almond slices with a hint of chocolate drizzled on top. I want dancing ponies and flying monkeys shooting off fireworks! I don’t want to taste the slight nuances of tea from one hill in China from the next. I think I would be head over heels for Zhi if I liked more traditional tea or subtle flavors, but that is not my taste.
So in summary, great place, awesome staff, wonderful ethics, variety in amounts of tea to purchase, but the tea itself doesn’t thrill me.