Portland may be deservedly famous for its coffee, but right along with that comes a vibrant -- if, perhaps, less jittery -- tea scene. The city is home to such tea mainstays as Stash, which will soon open a new tea house in Portland, and Tazo, which is now owned by Seattle's Starbucks. Portland continues to be full of excellent options well worth exploring -- from traditional greens and Earl Grey to kombucha to Vietnamese bubble tea.
Here are some of the best.
The original Tao of Tea, on SE Belmont Street, boasts the largest selection of tea in Portland and is continually rotating the varieties available. The shop takes its tea's presentations seriously -- for example, order a mate and you'll receive it in a bombilla gourd; Indian chai comes in traditional cups. A little-known secret about the Belmont location is the quite reasonable international food menu -- the Indian options are among the most popular, with the simple yet excellent dal (seasoned lentils) and rice leading the way.
The Tao of Tea's Tower of Cosmic Reflections is housed inside of Portland's Lan Su Chinese Garden in the heart of Chinatown, the Tao of Tea's Tower of Cosmic Reflections offers a serene, unique and amazing venue that houses an amazing array of teas from around the world. Complementary international snacks are also available, and special cultural and tea tasting events run year-round -- check the website for more information.
The original Townshend, opened in 2006 and located on NE Alberta Street, offers dozens of bins of loose leaf tea options to enjoy by the cup or pot and a mellow vibe, complete with plush chairs and couches suited for an extended stay. The shop has clearly struck a chord with tea enthusiasts, and Townshend's has since opened two additional Portland locations -- on SE Division Street and inside the Hollywood district's Whole Foods -- as well as in Bend, Oregon.
Each of the new venues offers Townshend's popular Brew Dr. Kombucha flavors on tap, while the original location has pre-bottled kombuchas available. If you're up for a treat, try Townshend's tea lattes (the roasted coconut mate latte is a personal fave) or get adventurous with a bubble tea, a.k.a. boba.
The Tea Zone, located on NW 11th Ave. in the Pearl District, is not your typical, subdued tea-sipping establishment. When there's not live music at the adjoining Camellia Lounge, there's often a lively vibe, and that's enhanced by the fact that cocktails are as -- or, depending on the hour, perhaps more -- prevalent than steeped leaves. That said, the live shows are often engaging, the happy hour drink and food specials (4 p.m. to 7 p.m. daily) are deals. The "tea-inspired" cocktails are unique and interesting, and there are several varieties of bubble tea. Also open for Sunday brunch.
Northwest 23rd is a place in need of good tea, and Tea Chai Te fills that void well. The huge array of loose leaf teas available includes an extensive assortment of organic options and over a dozen different chai blends. The upstairs covered balcony is a great perch for people watching as the bustle of NW 23rd passes below.
Tea Chai Te also added a new Sellwood venue on SE 13th in the fall of 2011. Both locations boast an ample bubble tea menu -- with hot and iced options -- as well as a rotation of soups by Souper Natural and treats by area bakeries.
Stash Tea is best known for its wide variety of bagged teas sold in super markets from coast to coast and internationally -- but the company began out of a Victorian house in Portland in the early '70s. Since 1993 Stash has been owned by the Japanese Yamamotoyama Tea Company. Over 250 bulk loose leaf teas, as well as bagged teas, are available at the Stash retail store just outside of Portland in Tigard, and plans are underway to open a new Stash retail store and tea bar on N. Mississippi Ave. in North Portland as well.
Blossoming Lotus is much more than a tea house -- the establishment is predominantly known for its vegan and raw food options.
While the tea selections might be limited by true tea house standards, we'd be remiss for not including Blossoming Lotus for its excellent chai and herbal iced tea. While there, you'll have a hard time resisting some amazing food to accompany your beverage.