Hints of floral and chamomile permeate the Tea Flora Tea Boutique, a shop devoted to experimentation and taste.
For over 20 years, owner Cynthia Hsieh has dreamt of owning a tea shop after her family was involved in the tea trade over three generations ago. After her family lost their business, she wanted to carry on the legacy. Two years ago, Hsieh started doing her research, finding ways to be unique and on-trend in the world of tea, while actively planning to open her own shop.
“I knew I did not want to be a typical tea shop. I wanted to be unique, so I began focusing on the customer experience, and the importance of creating an individualized experience. I knew that is how we would set ourselves apart from other shops,” Hsieh said.
When customers walk through the door they will notice that there is not a menu inside Tea Flora, which Hsieh said she did purposely to emphasize the tea-tasting experience.
“My goal is to provide a place to experiment and find the perfect cup of tea. Everyone’s taste is different. My perfect cup of tea might not be the same as someone else’s,” Hsieh said. “This (tea experience) is about letting people unleash their creativity.”
The shop offers naked tea, which is a pure form of tea with a mild taste for people who like to mix and match a range of herbs and flavors to form their perfect blend.
However, the creativity does not stop at the warm teas, as Tea flora offers a build-your-own boba bar — a Taiwanese tea-based drink with pearls made from chewy tapioca balls, fruit jelly, grass jelly, agar jelly and aloe vera jelly — for bubble tea drinks. The boba bar offers patrons a variety of fruit syrups, boba flavors and tea types, according to Hsieh.
Tea Flora also provides traditional teas, from chai to English breakfast tea, and each month a special blend from around the world gets highlighted at the shop, according to Hsieh. For January, she featured a Portuguese milk tea called Cha.
Tea Flora also carries renowned Ippodo tea, which dates back to the Edo period in Japan.
At the shop, customers can also purchase the trendy blooming tea, which consists of a bundle of dried tea leaves wrapped around one or more dried flowers, that unfurls into a blooming flower once the tea bundle has steeped.
For patrons interested in trying a unique blend, Hsieh created a custom line of tea blends that include Garden Wedding Tea, Belgian Chocolate Tea, Earl Grey Lavender, Sugar Plum Fairy, and Mango Chai. The idea behind each blend was inspired by her favorite flavor combinations discovered through experimentation.
“Every tea blend can easily be called my favorite, but there is one tea blend that I really enjoy a lot, which is my Sweet Champagne Blanc,” she said.
Sweet Champagne Blanc is one of a few alcohol-inspired blends, Tea Flora also offers Strawberry Mojito, Cabernet Flora Blanc, Montreal Ice Wine Blanc, and a full-bodied Merlot Tuscany.
“I like the smell and taste of cocktails and wine, but I can not drink (anymore) so I came up with this idea to use tea instead. That way I can still enjoy drinking without having to worry about getting a hangover,” she said.
Tea Flora also hosts tea pairings —similar to a wine pairing— with different desserts and cheeses, so tea drinkers can find the perfect tea for any gathering.
Hsieh said she wants people to think of tea as something more than a health drink or caffeine buzz, she wants tea to become an experience similar to wine tasting.
“I would like to host a lot of events where we can reintroduce people to tea,” she said.
FLORA TEA BOUTIQUE
AT A GLANCE
Address: 1420 W. Kettleman Lane, Suite G
Phone number: 209-625-8033
Hours: Mon-Fri. 11 a.m. to 7 p.m.; Sat. 11 a.m. to 2:30 p.m.