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Ching Ching Cha, Wisconsin & M Streets, Georgetown


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Serenity on a Budget

When things get a little crazy and I want to pack a bag and head to the airport and get onto the next plane to, say, Santa Fe or Big Sur and just chill the fuck out in a luxury spa for a few days, but can't, I head to Ching Ching Cha instead, sans book or company, and practice the fine art of relaxing, undistracted, with a cup of tea.

That pretty much sums up how I feel about the place, but perhaps explanation is in order.

Ching Ching Cha is both a teahouse and a store. There are perhaps ten small tables set among the displays of loose tea, tea pots, books, and other assorted tea things for sale. Two tables are of the low sort, on a raised platform, where you leave your shoes behind and sit on cushions.

The majority of teas offered are green, although there are some white and yellow, and enough black to keep my interest (I love black tea above all others). The menu is small, focusing on tea-worthy noshes. Although everything I've tried is quite good, nothing stands out enough to write about in detail. I think I frequently get a bento box-like assortment of simple stir fried vegetables and tofu.

At any rate the food is not my reason to go here. It's about the tea and the ambience.

It's particularly nice having Mr. Yim give you a small lesson in brewing and appreciating the particular tea you've ordered. Once, for instance, he brought out all the proper accoutrements for enjoyment of pu-erh. Watching and listening as he demonstrated warming the clay cup was charming. I believe for every tea I've ordered, he's explained how much leaf, how hot the water should be, how long it should steep, what type of vessel it should be served in, etc.

And then he very graciously leaves you alone.

This is not a restaurant in the usual sense. It's a little haven of serenity. I always leave feeling much better than when I arrived. Well, except for the time when my car, boxed in by a double-parked flatbed trailer, was being cleaned of a pallet of sod that had been dropped onto it. So much for rock star parking. :lol: But that's another story.

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shhhh! don't let this cat outta the bag... please.... :rolleyes:

On a beautiful Spring afternoon, I strolled across the north side of the Key Bridge (because the north side is more-scenic and less-traveled), and headed down M Street. I passed Sweetgreen, which had a line out the door, and Georgetown Cupcake, which had a line out the door and up the street. I passed them both because I was headed for one of my favorite hideaways, Ching Ching Cha, where I walked right in, took a corner table, removed my book from my backpack, and enjoyed some quiet time, all to myself.

You cannot go wrong here with The Tea Meal ($12), but since it was mid-afternoon, I decided to nibble on some Chicken Dumplings ($5), paper-thin, triangle-folded wrappers house-stuffed with mild, minced chicken, and a Marble Tea Egg ($1.50), marinated in star anise, peppercorn, soy sauce, and tea leaves.

Tea service here is beautiful, and seemingly always different. The staff is genuinely nice, and always very helpful when it comes to pouring your first cup - today, I got the Pu Ehr 10 Year ($10), and I would have had no idea how to serve it on my own - my server brought out a grated tray with a catch-basin in the bottom - on top of it rested both a tiny pot containing the tea leaves, and the little bowl which served as my teacup. From the center of the table, he removed the kettle of water from the flame, poured it into the pot, put the top on the pot, then immediately poured the potful of tea into my cup. "The first pour is to wash the leaves," he said, before placing the pot back onto the tray, picking up the cup, and pouring the cupful of tea back onto the pot, the liquid running down the sides, through the grates, and into the catch-basin. "And that will help keep the pot warm," he said. Then, he poured another kettle of water into the pot, instructed me to let it steep for about a minute, pour, and repeat as often as I liked. Twenty minutes into my tea, they replaced the kettle of hot water with another. Not once did I feel rushed.

Despite being at the corner of Wisconsin Ave. and M St., Ching Ching Cha remains an undiscovered gem. It has always been one of my very favorite places to go in Washington, DC, and is on my shortlist of Absolute Must things to do for tourists visiting Georgetown, mainly because it's so ... not touristy.

Cheers,

Rocks.

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Despite being at the corner of Wisconsin Ave. and M St., Ching Ching Cha remains an undiscovered gem. It has always been one of my very favorite places to go in Washington, DC, and is on my shortlist of Absolute Must things to do for tourists visiting Georgetown, mainly because it's so ... not touristy.

quite the thoughtful post, rocks. if i can gush, hollie wong, the proprietor, was kind enough to let me have my wedding reception here many, many moons ago. we combined her fare with yanyu's and a portable sushi bar. i've always found it a truly transportive, special place.

be good,

-chris.

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I just want to put in a quick word for Ching Ching Cha. It's no longer a "hidden gem," but could use some more patronage, especially during the week. I was there yesterday afternoon with a client and we were the only ones in the place. I know that weekends tend to get more crowded, but I was also there a few weeks ago, and the place was almost empty again. Yesterday I had a pot of spicy ginger tea, and my client had the flowering peach blossom (beautiful flower with a deep pink center). During my previous visit, I had a pot of one of my favorite teas--Yunnan gold needle--a full-flavored black tea with a touch of honey along with an order of silken tofu.

Ching Ching Cha is one of my favorite places to relax, do business, catch up on reading, and especially to warm up on a cold day. I really hope it sticks around.

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I just want to put in a quick word for Ching Ching Cha. It's no longer a "hidden gem," but could use some more patronage, especially during the week. I was there yesterday afternoon with a client and we were the only ones in the place. I know that weekends tend to get more crowded, but I was also there a few weeks ago, and the place was almost empty again. Yesterday I had a pot of spicy ginger tea, and my client had the flowering peach blossom (beautiful flower with a deep pink center). During my previous visit, I had a pot of one of my favorite teas--Yunnan gold needle--a full-flavored black tea with a touch of honey along with an order of silken tofu.

Ching Ching Cha is one of my favorite places to relax, do business, catch up on reading, and especially to warm up on a cold day. I really hope it sticks around.

I wish they had a web cam so you could see if the two tea service tables were currently available.

I love going to Ching Ching Cha, but those table are a big part of the experience for me.

Back in 2006, I took a friend to a Smithsonian Associates tea event, an evening of tastings, lecture, and Chinese history. Two days later, we wound up at Ching Ching Cha, her first time there. When we sat down at one of those tables, she had the most oddly confused expression on her face.

As the server came up to greet us, my friend asked "was this table on stage, two nights ago at the Smithsonian gallery?" The server indicated yes, the table was a classic example of classic tea service design from a specific region in China, and they had lent it to group conducting the event.

Kind of a twilight zone moment for me, I would have never noticed that level of detail. Which is why I should drink even more tea.

mmm polyphenols...

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I wish they had a web cam so you could see if the two tea service tables were currently available.

I love going to Ching Ching Cha, but those table are a big part of the experience for me.

Back in 2006, I took a friend to a Smithsonian Associates tea event, an evening of tastings, lecture, and Chinese history. Two days later, we wound up at Ching Ching Cha, her first time there. When we sat down at one of those tables, she had the most oddly confused expression on her face.

As the server came up to greet us, my friend asked "was this table on stage, two nights ago at the Smithsonian gallery?" The server indicated yes, the table was a classic example of classic tea service design from a specific region in China, and they had lent it to group conducting the event.

Kind of a twilight zone moment for me, I would have never noticed that level of detail. Which is why I should drink even more tea.

mmm polyphenols...

I thought of your post earlier today when I had lunch at Ching Ching Cha. There were only three other people there when we arrived. We parked ourselves at one of the tea service tables and enjoyed a quiet, leisurely lunch. I had my favorite Yunnan Gold Needle tea and got an a la carte order of the silky steamed tofu. My friend had one of the flowering teas and chicken dumplings. I was kind of stressed when I first arrived, but after having the soothing tea and spending time in that tranquil space, it all seemed to melt away....

And if you want to sit at one of the tea service tables, I'm fairly certain that you have a good chance of getting on weekdays (the earlier you go the better).

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