You’ve enjoyed trendy wine bars. Now, take a seat at a soothing tea bar.
Puripan Tea Garden opened its doors a month ago at San Jose’s Santana Row. This cozy oasis sells 70 types of loose-leaf teas, the majority of them Korean. Although Koreans traditionally don’t drink black teas, the store has imported a range of black teas from India and China, as well.
If your experience with tea has been limited to the bagged variety, you are in for a treat here. Most run-of-the-mill tea bags contain more tea “dust” than actual leaves. Glass containers here display tea leaf samples that can be opened to experience their intoxicating fragrances.
Besides many types of green tea, Koreans have a tradition of brewing tea from grains such as corn and barley, as well as more unusual plants such as persimmon leaves. Store proprietor Ellen Kim explained that during Korea’s Chosun Dynasty (the 1300s), the tax on tea was so high that people resorted to brewing ”tea” with other ingredients.
Puripan, the largest fermentation company in Korea, also makes a popular “Tea in a Jar.” It is a fermented fruit tea. Ginger or fruit such as yuzu or papaya are layered with organic sugar and natural honey in large pottery jars. The contents are stirred every few days in a process similar to making kimchee. When the fruit tea is ready, just add 2 teaspoons or so to a cup of hot or cold water for a soothing elixir.
You can try the “Tea in a Jar” or any of the loose-leaf teas for free at the shop. Take a seat at the small bar, and your selection will be brewed to exact specifications so you can try it before buying. Free tea snacks, such as sesame cookies or homemade muffins made with tea infusions, can be enjoyed, too.
The loose-leaf tea ranges in price, depending upon the variety, from $3.99 for 2 ounces (enough for 40 cups) to $49.99 for 2 ounces.
Puripan Tea Garden is open 10 a.m. to 9 p.m. Monday through Saturday; and 11 a.m. to 7 p.m. on Sunday. It’s a good thing, too, because this is one bar where you won’t get tipsy, and you won’t want to leave.
Tomorrow: A more traditional Korean tea house.