The Spice & Tea Exchange is a lovely little shop that deals in exactly what its name implies. Though a bit on the pricey side (teas are across the board $4.79/oz) and a bit hit or miss, the good teas here are FANTASTIC and the friendly staff – in particular the owner, Keith – as well as the frequent-customer punchcard keep me coming back.
The shop is very open, allowing you to open and smell any of the teas and spices they have on display and often featuring a few teas for tasting – ask, and they’ll allow you to try any of the spices and spice blends but I’ve never tried with the teas. The staff seems to have a lot of personal experience with the products and I’ve always enjoyed the conversations comparing their various teas (and mourning the loss of Almond Cookie Tea with very nearly the entire staff – what were you thinking discontinuing that?!).
As mentioned, the teas can be hit or miss – I’ve been unhappy with their white teas in general, but they’ve got a wonderful Darjeeling (no mention of flush or estate) and the Coconut Oolong has been a mainstay of my collection since I very first tried it. They also have a fair selection of moderately-priced tea accessories.
I LOVE Ching Ching Cha and run over here far too often on my lunch break from work, given the cost. The atmosphere is everything I could want from a tea house – cluttered, authentic, tranquil, and (though, as I discovered one weekend afternoon, this is largely due to my tendency to go at 4pm on weekdays) empty.
The staff is friendly and knowledgeable about their wide selection of (somewhat overpriced) teas, along with which you can have some very overpriced but still delicious food. I highly recommend the curry beef roll. All of their teas are served as authentically as possible, in teaware specific to the type of tea. If you are unsure how to use the teaware for the tea you’ve ordered, the staff is more than willing to demonstrate for you.
After your tea, you can browse through a selection of teas and teaware to take home, which are fortunately much better priced than the sit-down tea varieties. I have enjoyed nearly every tea I’ve taken home from here, and will likely continue spending my lunch breaks here for a very long time.