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A $40,000 machine ... to brew tea?

Does it really take tea-brewing technology that costs the price of an Audi A5 to make the perfect pot? 

According to David Barenholtz of the American Tea Room in Beverly Hills, the answer is yes. Not only does Barenholtz say that the Bkon brewer -- a machine that costs $40,000 -- crafts tea to its optimal flavor extraction, but the whole process takes only 60 to 90 seconds.

Tricked-out tea making is not completely new to the local hot beverage scene. Last summer Copa Vida opened in Pasadena debuting its dream of serving "cup of life” coffee and tea service. At Copa Vida an Alpha Dominche coffee brewer sits across the counter from a Kees van der Westen Spirit espresso machine. The Copa Vida baristas use the temperature-controlled Alpha Dominche Steampunk for tea and brew up to four pots at a time.

The American Tea Room Barenholtz now has a test unit of the Bkon, with a patented process for extracting flavor that he first saw at the 2013 World Tea Expo in Las Vegas.

The Bkon brewer looks like a transparent French press cylinder meets an espresso machine suspended in a frame, with a touch screen pad on the side to set temperatures and brew times for specific teas. Store manager Jordan Huxley likes to refer to it as “the space tea machine.”

“It creates a reverse atmospheric pressure,” says Huxley. “It sucks out all of the oxygen and creates a vacuum. First we fill it up with our reverse osmosis water, which we have minerals added back into. That helps all of the pores in the tea leaves to fully open up and saturate. As the tea steeps, carbon dioxide is being pushed out of the tea as the water comes in. The oils, the aromatic compounds, the amino acids are all being fully extracted.”

“A number of teas are surprising in the Bkon,” Barenholtz says. “It makes even an everyday tea such as Earl Grey Shanghai even more impressive by bringing out subtle notes of bergamot and a little smokiness. The Sleeping Beauty is perhaps the most beautiful to watch as the colors of the roses, chamomile and berries are explosive.”

Barenholtz recently traveled to Morocco to source tea ware and herbs as well as spend a few days trekking in the Atlas Mountains. Having returned to Los Angeles, he says he will continue to fine-tune the Bkon brewing techniques as well as put into motion plans for renovating the American Tea Room into his dream tea lounge. Next up, look for collaborations with cocktails, ice cream and other tea-infused treats.

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