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Teaism, Linda Neuman and Michelle Brown's Tea House in Several Area Locations


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[i'm surprised that there isn't yet a thread on Teaism, but in case I just missed it, please re-file.]

Five pm. Sustenance thus far today consisted of a bag of Fritos. Awful day at work. About to meet a friend for drinks.

And then I turn the corner and see Teaism, and something about the place draws me in.

Nothing about my tuna bento box was extraordinary, but everything was Good. Soft sweet potato in peanut sauce. Crisp cooked broccoli in thickened ponzu. Warm rice, seared tuna were just fine. Delicate cold mint tea.

I've got no standing to judge this meal relative to others in the DC area. All I know is that this was the first meal in a month that felt nourishing and tasty and satisfying and relaxing.

Thanks, Teaism.

ETA: In case there's anyone in the metro area who doesn't know it yet, the salty oat cookie sold at Teaism is one of the great triumphs of baking. I've been able to mock up a reasonable facsimile at home, but there's nothing like the original, eaten out of wax paper on Connecticut Avenue with a ginger-lime tea. Sublime taste pleasure.

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Once a month, after my Sunday stint at DCCK, my group goes for brunch at Teaism. Unfortunately, after almost two years, I'm a creature of habit: french toast or scrambled eggs with the smoked chicken sausage. I had planned -- really I had -- to try one of the bento boxes but none were on display; I couldn't decide between the salmon or chicken boxes. Happily, the french toast was a reliable fallback.

You've convinced me: it'll be a bento box this month!

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I wish you could buy the tea cured salmon they serve with the eggs. I like smoked salmon just fine but don't really ever crave it. The stuff at teaism is the exception. I do the same as you do with the french toast, I go in with intentions to order something else but when I finally get to the register and it is my turn to order I always panic and blurt out "Cilantro eggs and salmon". There is more texture, a little chewiness bordering on toughness, than the often soft/mushy smoked varieties I get at other places and in stores and I really like that. I don't get the tea flavors though. But I always eat it with the eggs and any subtle tea flavor is probably crushed by the heavy dose of cilantro. Either way I would definitely keep the stuff in the house if it was available retail.

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Nothing about my tuna bento box was extraordinary, but everything was Good. Soft sweet potato in peanut sauce. Crisp cooked broccoli in thickened ponzu. Warm rice, seared tuna were just fine. Delicate cold mint tea.

Thanks, Teaism.

I'll second that. Years ago when I was working in Penn Quarter, Teaism was my most frequent stop for lunch and the bento box was always satisfying and a good price. I always used to LOVE the sweet potato but it came slathered in a light miso--I'm a touch disappointed that they switched to peanut sauce but I'm sure it's still good.

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I always used to LOVE the sweet potato but it came slathered in a light miso--I'm a touch disappointed that they switched to peanut sauce but I'm sure it's still good.

Hold that disappointment--you may be right about the miso. On first glance, before tasting, I think my brain just decided it was peanut, and it locked in as peanut. (My brain does that.)

In any case, it was darn tasty.

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Salted-Oat Cookie.

Penn Quarter location bakes five sheets each morning.

I recently read an article comparing these to Baltimore Black-and-Whites. Please. Berger's black-and-whites come across to me as nothing more than Entenmann's mass-produced, powdery-confectionary, faux-frosted sugar bombs baked in the deepest industrial ovens from fully-leavened, simple-carbohydrate, cavity-laden Blancheville; these salted-oat cookies, on the other hand, are great!

Cheers,

Rocks.

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Until recently I was a very frequent visitor to the Penn Q location. Unfortunately with the lunchtime crowds came some inconsistency. My favorite was the salmon bento box, but I gave it up because on more than a few occasions I got frozen (or very cold) edamame, salmon that seemed less than fresh, and soppy wilted cucumber-ginger salad.

I solved the problem by sticking to the hot dishes, which were invariably good (if not extraordinary, as someone else pointed out), and worth the extra wait. The veggie burger in particular -- spicy mustard, focaccia-like bread, asian slaw -- is excellent.

I also miss my once a week morning treat of ginger scones.

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Despite passing by Teaism locations at various times over the years, I have not stopped in until today. This is the><closest I have ever felt to achieving Zen-ness in a long while, with my Salmon Ochazuke, Salted-Oat cookie and its calming atmosphere. I can't believe how long the line was for the Penn Q lunch crowd, though. The salted-oat cookie recreation will definitely be my next baking project...

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The veggie burger in particular -- spicy mustard, focaccia-like bread, asian slaw -- is excellent.

I was looking forward to a recent dinner at the Penn Quarter location since I hadn't been there in months, but I was extremely disappointed to find that the (formerly) excellent veggie burger on the menu seems to have been replaced with a food-service company pre-formed "organic veggie burger"-slash-hockey puck. No taste whatsover and no identifiable vegetable, grain or protein - just some sort of chewy meat substitute. The previous incarnation was clearly housemade, with rice and vegetables. It is also now served with a boring salad (greens, a couple of grape tomatoes) instead of the slaw. At least the bread was still ok. ;)

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I was very excited (maybe a little too excited) to see a sign for Teaism in the space opposite the Old Town Trader Joe's location. A little googling found that there are plans for a fast-casual restaurant and some retail sales of tea-related items. I think this is a great addition to the area and am happy to see a space that has sat empty for 2+ years being filled by a local business.

Can't wait for it to open!

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Apparently Teaism opened in the past week or so. Checking out the website & menus, they don't have their liquor license yet but have applied for it. From 4:00 until the kitchen closes, they've got a bar menu already, about 8 choices running in the $6-$10 range -- tuna with avocado, chicken yakitori, etc. I'll probably try it out for lunch in the next week or so.

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I stopped by the new Alexandria location last night for some carry out. They did a really nice job with the build-out. The space is big and open, with soft lighting and rich, red walls. My order was ready very quickly and was as good as I had hoped. The palak paneer had plenty of firm cubes of paneer, good flavor, and plenty of brown rice and raita. The shrimp udon was also very good, with 4 large shrimp and lots of noodles - a simple, but pleasant, dish. Generous portions; plenty to share - which I did.

There are a few items on the menu that were new to me, but I haven't been a Teaism in quite a while. The kelp noodles with spicy almond butter and the okonomiyaki (Japanese cabbage pancakes) both caught my eye.

There is a bar and cocktails are promised soon. For now, it looks like wine, beer, and sake are available. This will definitely be a regular spot on my rotation - I love their quasi-healthy offerings and relatively gentle pricing.

Oh yeah - the salty oat cookies are still delicious!

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Salted-Oat Cookie.

Penn Quarter location bakes five sheets each morning.

I recently read an article comparing these to Baltimore Black-and-Whites. Please. Berger's black-and-whites come across to me as nothing more than Entenmann's mass-produced, powdery-confectionary, faux-frosted sugar bombs baked in the deepest industrial ovens from fully-leavened, simple-carbohydrate, cavity-laden Blancheville; these salted-oat cookies, on the other hand, are great!

Cheers,

Rocks.

I forgot I wrote this. I have to say sometimes I even make myself laugh. :)

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The longer I live in the area, the more I think that Teaism is really one of the few "unique" aspects (food-related, cultural, otherwise) about DC. No, it's not the best food out there, but it's pretty good for the price and the service, especially if you know what to order (i.e. NOT the tempura!), and every branch is a great space to just hang out and socialize without having to go to a bar or a club. And now that I know there will be an end date to my time in the DC-area, I am feeling that Teaism (esp. the Penn Quarter location) is one of the few things that I will miss and cannot find elsewhere.

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The longer I live in the area, the more I think that Teaism is really one of the few "unique" aspects (food-related, cultural, otherwise) about DC. No, it's not the best food out there, but it's pretty good for the price and the service, especially if you know what to order (i.e. NOT the tempura!), and every branch is a great space to just hang out and socialize without having to go to a bar or a club. And now that I know there will be an end date to my time in the DC-area, I am feeling that Teaism (esp. the Penn Quarter location) is one of the few things that I will miss and cannot find elsewhere.

This captures it for me spot on. Sometimes Teasim can be a tad annoying (i.e., their "please remember, extra costs more" sign when they provide the same reduced thimbleful of maple syrup with orders of one or two huge slices of french toast...even when maple syrup prices are down). But, overall, the place is unique and, as you write, careful ordering yields food which is predictably decent. We've been going for 15 years, nearly since the first one opened. The ambiance indoors and out is cool in a good way. They even have a zen landscaper in Dupont.

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I've been back to the Alexandria location a couple times now, both to dine in and order carry out.

Since my first visit, I've tried:

  • kelp noodles with spicy almond butter - very fresh and crunchy. The noodles are clear but have quite a bit of crunch to them. This is a light, but satisfying dish.
  • seitan stir-fry - I was warned that this was for those who like bitter tastes. It definitely fit the bill, with kale, broccoli, walnuts, and balsamic vinegar all playing major roles. Another hearty without being heavy, healthy combination.
  • chicken bento box - though it's billed as lime and ginger marinated, I didn't find the chicken to have a lot of flavor, but the accompanying sauce made up for that. sweet potatoes and spicy cucumber salad rounded out the plate, along with a scoop of brown rice.

Dining companions on various outings have tried the salmon bento box, the VA grass-fed beef burger, and the Thai chicken curry - all were enjoyed. As I mentioned above, I think the value to price/portion is very good at Teaism. It's been a little slow in the new location, so I hope business will continue to pick up as the word spreads!

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Sunday mornings: park wherever I can, swing through the market for my eggs and pork bellies and whatever else catches my eye, then Teasim for the chicken sausage with naan and raita, plus a chai in a to-go cup. This, until just after this Christmas. Chai has always been too difficult for me to make at home. All of my kettles are electric kettles, then I rarely had milk on hand, and I'm terrible at pouring stuff out of pots- my sink gets half of whatever it is I was trying to make. It is sad. Much easier to just buy at Teaism.

But this christmas, Nick bought me the Chemex water kettle. I had no idea what I was going to do with it— I already have plenty of ways to boil water, and this is big and complicated and dangerous- I managed to burn myself with steam the first time I used it. But then I stumbled across my ancient mostly-full bag of chai from Teaism. I carefully dumped the tea in the kettle, let it boil for a few minutes, and then poured milk in. Et voila! Chai! It was very pretty, bubbling away in the glass kettle.

I've now had chai nearly every day since then. One kettle fills my large thermos, which I then haul to work and so I can have steaming chai all day long. I made the mistake of getting chai to go at teasim, though, the next sunday I was at the market. OMG so sweet. I'd never noticed it before, but now it's inescapable; the chai is too sweet. (And Teaism's chai is the least-sweet chai I've ever bought at a tea or coffee shop.) So now I have my sausage with water, and go home to make chai. I think Teaism is more than breaking even on this deal; I'm probably spending $5 a week on the dried tea, where I used to spend $3 for the tea in a to-go cup.

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Stopped in here for a quick lunch (Alexandria location) today and had a very pleasant Palak Paneer with brown rice and raita. It was spiced simply with cumin being predominant. To my palate, many Indian dishes taste muddied, rather than nuanced & complex, from the overuse of too many spices. So, this was a pleasant surprise to have such a clean flavor in addition to the spinach & cheese. The paneer was nicely chewy, the spinach tender and warm & stewy, the raita a nice cool tangy counterpoint to the rest of the dish. The rice was slightly underdone; not quite tender throughout the grains. For a little under $10, a quiet place to eat with some good people-watching, a worthwhile stop.

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There's been nary a peep about Restaurant Week around here.  Teaism is doing something a little different for Alexandria Restaurant Week (Jan 17-26) that I thought was worth sharing. They are doing a 100% vegan menu for two; $35 for 3 courses.  The menu looks very good, with three choices in each course. I had a good experience there during last winter's Restaurant Week and look forward to the same again this year.

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I'm sad to report that the thread title will soon need to be changed to "in three DC locations". The Old Town Teaism location is closing on Sunday, April 24.

They've been a great option to have in the Alexandria area, but unfortunately, business never seemed to reach the levels of their other locations.

On a happier note, Teaism is celebrating 20 years in business, which is quite an accomplishment these days. As the owners asked in their very sweet notice of the Old Town location's closing, please continue to support small businesses! It's getting harder and harder to be successful as a small, local business, especially when you're trying to do it the right way, which Teaism always seems to be doing.

And the okonomiyaki was delicious, as were the chicken udon noodle soup and the the salty oat cookie (not that that's a surprise).

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I always find that Teaism's food is good enough, but not quite good enough (if that makes sense).

The Okonomiyaki is a good example of this.  The first several bites are tasty, but soon it becomes too one-note.  The grilled vegetable kabob ends up being on the wrong side of charred, the potatoes, which are obviously pre-cooked, are the best part, the broccoli is fine, the onions are uneven, the radicchio moving toward blackened yet still weirdly raw, and the carrot, which is obviously not pre-cooked, ends up much too raw.

Okonomiyaki.JPG

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On 5/9/2017 at 6:12 PM, Tweaked said:

I always find that Teaism's food is good enough, but not quite good enough (if that makes sense).

The Okonomiyaki is a good example of this.  The first several bites are tasty, but soon it becomes too one-note.  The grilled vegetable kabob ends up being on the wrong side of charred, the potatoes, which are obviously pre-cooked, are the best part, the broccoli is fine, the onions are uneven, the radicchio moving toward blackened yet still weirdly raw, and the carrot, which is obviously not pre-cooked, ends up much too raw.

Okonomiyaki.JPG

At least your bowels will thank you.

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On 5/9/2017 at 6:12 PM, Tweaked said:

I always find that Teaism's food is good enough, but not quite good enough (if that makes sense).

The Okonomiyaki is a good example of this.  The first several bites are tasty, but soon it becomes too one-note.  The grilled vegetable kabob ends up being on the wrong side of charred, the potatoes, which are obviously pre-cooked, are the best part, the broccoli is fine, the onions are uneven, the radicchio moving toward blackened yet still weirdly raw, and the carrot, which is obviously not pre-cooked, ends up much too raw.

This sounds (and looks) like they need to train their cooks - if everything was cooked properly (and it sounds like nothing was), this seems like it could be a good dish.

Well, there's always the salted-oat cookies.

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here is the last of my meal reports from our trip to dc last month. we ate a quick lunch at the penn quarter teaism between smithsonian outings. the food was mostly just fine: not bad, not great, mostly just unremarkable (though i did like my chilled carrot soup a lot on that hot, humid day). $80'ish all-in for what we ate and drank (those juices are expensive!) felt like a bit much. but it was also a relief from the heavier eating we'd been doing every day. i'd recommend it for lunch to anyone at the smithsonians all day but i'd not be drawn to return in any other circumstances.

here is the link to my full review on my blog.

 

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Had lunch at the Teaism on 8th Street by the Navy Memorial today with a friend before checking out the holiday market. First, the market. I love it, but it is not as good this year. Too many import shacks and not enough local art stuff. But the mini doughnuts are still delicious.

Now, on to Teaism. So the menu is a lot shorter than it used to be. I had the Korean brisket sandwich and she had the brisket bento box. There was no warning that there is cilantro involved. I managed to pick most of it off. Why? WHY?

Otherwise it was good. Her tea was excellent, and she is a tea snob. No, I don't remember what kind. I had lassi, and it was tasty. She took home a bag of salty oat cookies. I didn't, because coconut is not my thing. (You know, this post really makes me sound picky, but I don't THINK that I am!)

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