What: Seventh Tea Bar
Where: 3313 Hyland Ave Costa Mesa, 92626
How Much: $3-10
Hours: Mon-Sat 9 a.m.-7 p.m. Sun 9 a.m.-6 p.m.
Rating: 3.5/5 (Taylor) and 4/5 (Kyle)
We’ve seen food trends come and go. A few years ago, someone decided frozen yogurt was the next big thing and soon enough, minimalistic fro-yo shops began popping up in every American mall and plaza. Recently, Beverly Hills-based cupcake shop, Sprinkles, began capturing the hearts of sweet-tooths everywhere, and now we have cupcake delivery services and even cupcake ATMs.
Now, we’ve been noticing the younger generation’s fascination with bars –– and not the dimly lit, rowdy, alcoholic kind. We’re talking juice bars like Nekter and coffee bars like Portola’s Theorem. And, as of this year, we’re also talking tea bars –– Seventh Tea Bar, in particular, a tea shop that also offers a full lunch and dessert menu.
Its Facebook description reads, “Giving one of the world’s oldest and most popular beverages a new voice in Orange County,” so yeah, that concept makes it pretty obvious where Seventh Tea Bar’s humble abode is –– in the heart of good ol’, “hipster” OC Mart Mix in Costa Mesa.
And even less surprising is that Seventh Tea Bar is owned by the creators of Portola Coffee Lab, Jeff and Christa Duggan.
We were a little hesitant going into the tea bar with this knowledge –– the whole “take something old and make it modern” concept is starting to get a little old itself –– but what we found was a cheery café, not obnoxiously modern in the slightest, staffed with some of the most charismatic and helpful “tea tenders” we’ve ever met.
Occupying a small space in between Portola and a long line of independent boutiques, Seventh Tea Bar is a sleek mass of lemon-yellow chairs and sofas, and black tiled floors and walls. But the quirkiness doesn’t stop there. Silhouette cameos of women with stately updos and lace collars sit pretty on the walls, while black-and-white drawings of dandies with bowler hats and handlebar mustaches dance across the length of the tea bar. The café is an odd mix between contemporary SoCal and Victorian New York, but it works.
Captivated by the ambiance and decor, we found ourselves almost forgetting about the tea bar. Almost. With a host of teas ranging from light to dark, including white, green, oolong and black, this old-fashioned tea bar does not disappoint with the variety it offers. They go where no tea bar has gone before, keeping six different iced teas on tap, further embodying the essence of a classic brewery.
We personally opted for a staple oolong tea, Oriental Beauty to be exact, and one of their unique pu-erh teas, a Dayeh Broadleaf 1995.
For those who are as much of a stranger to this exotic tea as we were, a pu-erh tea is a fermented dark tea, originating from the Yunnan province of China, that has aged with grace. Emanating a husky, woodsy aroma followed up by a oaky and robust taste, this broadleaf was a pleasant surprise, as it took the common conception of ordinary tea and put a twist on it, introducing a more mature and slightly liquor flavor.
The Oriental Beauty, while a dark tea, had a lighter feel with a faint, nutty aftertaste. Those who can’t stand the taste of strong teas will appreciate the subtlety of the earthy flavor.
As this quaint bar specializes in teas –– they even offer a special “tea service” for $30 that functions as a three course meal of sorts –– we were curious as to how the rest of the menu would hold up against these powerful herbal concoctions.
We selected, from one of their many sandwiches, the Genoa Torpedo. Peppery salami coupled with juicy tomato, sharp cheddar and fresh greens were sandwiched between two thick slices of soft pretzel bread. The quality of ingredients used to create this sandwich were perfection in their simplicity. However, it was the pretzel bread that made this lunch item into a star, with its savory taste and doughy texture, emulating the finest pretzel anyone could ask for.
Our visit to this new tea bar would not be complete without ordering dessert. We couldn’t help but stare hungrily at our choices, the Earl Grey Truffle and Lemon Tartlet, that made their way to our table, despite already finishing our sandwich and downing most of our tea.
The truffle was rich, decadent, smooth and velvety with a subtle aftertaste of earl grey that was infused into the truffle itself.
Juxtaposed with this sinful ball of chocolate was the lemon tartlet, garnished with a single blueberry and mint leaf. The thick and zesty curd was light and refreshing, nestled in a crumbly chocolate crust, and was the perfect way to end our meal.
Seventh Tea Bar, while not the most revolutionary café we’ll see in this century, is nonetheless a great place to chat with friends over lunch. While certainly trendy, it offers an incredible array of high-quality teas and gourmet sandwiches that establishes its authenticity.