Lan Ong, owner of Bird Pick Tea & Herb, is a third-generation tea connoisseur and an admitted tea purist. Her goal is to bring China’s tea culture to the mainstream—to turn tea novices into aficionados.
In pursuit of that goal, she displays massive glass jars full of teas and herbs imported from estates in China, Taiwan, India and Japan; she only brews loose-leaf tea to preserve its integrity; and once a week she and her employees boil down organic cane sugar to make their own simple syrup. At the tea bar that occupies one end of the shop, they serve a myriad of tea and herb concoctions, traditional and innovative, hot or cold.
We were proffered a Tropical Sunrise that was lovely to behold and smooth and soothing as it slid down our sore throat. The white tea sat on the bottom with the simple syrup, the home-brewed hibiscus tea sat as a vibrant red on the top with a slice of lemon, orange and a sprig of mint. Next time, we might ask for a bit less sweetener, but the flavor was refreshing.
Set on the bar was a glass “madeline” pot (made of special cooking glass) that held one of the many blossoming teas. Floral Crown is made with green tea, chrysanthemum, jasmine and globe aramanth (the small rosettes are individually crafted). When placed in the pot and filled with boiled water, a bouquet of tea leaves and flowers blooms right before your eyes.
Bird Pick is open and inviting, light and creative; Lan’s grandfather’s passion is tea and teapots, which are prominently and respectfully displayed throughout. The store has such an extensive inventory of herbs, teas, teapots and accessories that a visit to the bar might be necessary just to take a break and re-energize for more exploring.
As you enter and exit you encounter none other than the meditative Lu Yu (733-804) who wrote The Classic of Tea, the first definitive work on cultivating, making and drinking tea. Lan Ong’s passion for tea, her focus on homemade and home-brewed ingredients, her desire to spread her knowledge of tea and China’s tea culture, and the tasty and varied drinks offered make us believe Lu Yu would break his calm demeanor and beam with pride.
Note: Bird Pick got its name from a legend that Lan’s grandfather passed on which told of an ancient practice of cultivating the finest tea leaves by watching and studying as “extraordinary birds with acute senses” picked the best leaves for their own nourishment.
Bird Pick Teas & Herbs
10 S. De Lacey St., Old Pasadena
Mon.-Thurs. 11 a.m. – 9 p.m., Fri.-Sat. 10:30 a.m. – 10 p.m.; Sun. 11 a.m. – 7 p.m.