Since coming to Rhode Island I have despaired over finding a new tea room to call home. Most places that serve tea here are not tea rooms but cafés. Chá Bēi is a tea room, and I’m very excited to call it my new home.
Chá Bēi is located on a busy street in Cranston. The parking lot is very small, as is the interior of the location. To be frank, Chá Bēi’s aesthetic ambiance is lacking; the tables are rough, the floor is a cold unappealing tile, the painting job is sloppy in places, etc. A generous description would express it as pleasantly quaint, and to a large extent it is; the owners have obviously taken care to provide as an appealing view as was possible. Once you accept the surroundings, there is nothing else to hinder you and you’ll find Chá Bēi has much to deliver.
When you walk into Chá Bēi you will see two comfy chairs to your immediate left, beyond those there is a magazine shelf with several issues of Mandarin Quarterly and other magazine options to choose from. There are no books. If you turn a bit from there you will see the table seating. There are three tables each of which sits two. However, two of the tables are pushed together and can be used as a table for four. Ahead of that there is the serving and ordering counter, this also has ample bar-like seating. You can see all of the teas on display in lovely clear glass jars behind this counter. To the right of that there is more bar-like seating at a free standing long table. There is no floor seating. Towards the back and directly ahead of you is the bathroom door with teaware display shelves on the right. This teaware is all for sale. They have double walled glass teacups, glass teapots, and full gongfu tea sets of yixing clay with table included.
Chá Bēi offers hot tea, smoothies/lattes, and noodle dishes. The tea menu is as extensive as I could hope to find in Rhode Island. There are perhaps 25-30 teas to choose from (all varieties of processing: green [including matcha], white, black, oolong, pu-erh), many different tea smoothies/lattes, and four noodle dishes (three in winter). There are also small tea snacks (crackers and the like) you can purchase from a hanging display near the teaware sale shelving.
I ordered a pot of green tea Chá Bēi called Lao Shan Autumn Spring. I’m not sure if it was picked in autumn or spring, its name seems to imply both, but either way it was quite nice. It was a light but distinctly rounded tea with very subtle hints of nut (Chá Bēi describes this as a hint of chestnut). I steeped it three times and enjoyed it each time. The second steep was my favorite. The tea leaves were a tiny bit faded and twigy but it tasted interesting enough, and smelled good enough, that I liked it; furthermore, its price was very practical considering.
Just prior to my third steep I ordered a regular sized bowl of noodles (there is a large size for the very hungry out there). My dish was called wheat noodles with dashi. It included shiitake mushrooms, Chinese lettuce, a hard boiled egg, and, of course, the wheat noodles and dashi stock. You could also have spam but I opted to omit that ingredient. It was nice and filling.
One of the most delightful surprises about Chá Bēi is its extremely reasonable prices. I have never gone out for high tea for such a cheap price before. It was (not including tip) only $8 for everything. The owners, a couple, are knowledgable and very friendly. The woman is from China and the man is (I presume) American. They are happy to speak with you if you are the chatting type, or let you sit and drink your tea quietly if that is your preference. Overall it was a pleasant experience and I highly recommend Chá Bēi to fellow Rhode Islanders, or visitors, who are seeking a tea room in the smallest state.