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Good Things to Enhance That Favorite Brew

<i> Culp is a Los Angeles free-lance writer. </i>

Tea, one of the world’s most popular beverages, can be a worthy alternative to coffee, soda or wine. Here is a sampling of 10 ideas to pique the interest of the tea lover and to intrigue others who have not yet been initiated to the pleasures of tea and the ceremonies that can surround it.

Tea Talk, 419 N. Larchmont Blvd., Suite 225, Los Angeles, Calif. 90004. Telephone (213) 871-6901. This quarterly newsletter is packed with party and entertainment ideas, names of unusual tea shops, recipes, anecdotes and historical tidbits about tea and locations of places that serve afternoon tea. Subscription price is $12.95. Sugar Free Fun Catering, 14126 Tiara St., Suite 103, Van Nuys. Telephone (818) 786-1919. This catering service can provide a Mad Hatter Tea Party for children. Owners Karen Kelly and Lucy Hug will bring antique clothes for the children to wear. And the table will be set with decorations and a real tea service, complete with china cups, tea sandwiches and sugar-free sweets. Additional entertainment for the children is available. And best of all, the hostess who serves the tea also cleans up afterward.

Britt House, 406 Maple St., San Diego. Telephone (619) 234-2926. This turn-of-the-century bed-and-breakfast inn takes pride in its full breakfast (for guests only) and afternoon tea (for guests and their visitors). Rates of $90-$110 per day for two include lodging, breakfast and tea.

Continental Shop, 407 Santa Monica Blvd., Santa Monica. Telephone (213) 393-2093. Established in 1948, this shop specializes in importing English teas, Scottish shortbreads and cakes and English biscuits and jams. Teapots and other accessories for serving tea are available. Open daily.

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Shamrock Imports, 7949 Laurel Canyon Blvd., North Hollywood. Telephone (818) 764-3935. Claiming to be the world’s most enthusiastic tea drinkers, the Irish prefer their blend strong and hearty. This shop caters to Irish tastes with a wide selection of Irish teas, biscuits, jams, soda breads, breakfast bacon, sausages and black and white puddings--all flown in from Ireland.

“Teas & Tisanes” by Jill Norman and Gwen Edmonds, Bantam Library of Culinary Arts; $5.95. There are a number of books about tea, but this one includes tisanes--beverages made from herbs or grains for health purposes. It covers everyday teas, unusual brews as well as foods that are flavored with tisane ingredients.

Tea Garden Herbal Emporium, 1344 W. Washington Blvd., Venice. Telephone (213) 450-0188. For centuries, herbal tonics have been used throughout the world. Herbalist Ron Teeguarden has more than 20 years experience and training in Oriental and native American herbs, many of which are used in teas that are believed to benefit health and beauty. Teeguarden and his wife, Cynthia, own and operate the emporium, which carries more than 100 varieties of Chinese herbs that they can blend into tonic teas.

English Tea Shop, A Crumpet Bakery, 511 Irving St., San Francisco, Calif. 94122. Telephone (415) 564-2255. If you’re yearning for a real English muffin to take with your tea, you can order your crumpets from this San Francisco shop. They ship all over the United States and guarantee that you can have them fresh with second-day-air UPS delivery.

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Ten Ren Tea, 811 N. Broadway, Los Angeles. Telephone (213) 626-3888. This shop in Chinatown carries a line of Taiwan teas and takes pride in its inventory of Oolong teas. Also available are both wild (very rare) an cultivated ginseng, and for a blend they offer their King’s tea, which is a special blend of ginseng and Oolong teas.

Japanese Cultural Center, 244 S. San Pedro St., Los Angeles. Telephone (213) 488-1090. Perhaps the most celebrated ceremony involving tea is chado, the way of tea, also known as the Japanese Tea Ceremony. Somi Mochizuki, a graduate of a tea ceremony school in Japan, gives classes in this meditative form of tea drinking. She teaches four classes each week. Telephone for a class schedule and other information.


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