Azu Restaurant in OjaiThis past October, Kulov’s Tea Bus Tour took us to Zhena’s Gypsy Tea in Ojai, California, to visit the headquarters and learn how to blend teas.

We started out at Royal/T in Culver City with a delicious brunch that included quiche, yogurt, fruit, and hot and iced teas.  I loved their Royal/T tea with milk.

Then it was off to Ojai on a luxury bus.  During our trip, we listened to music from India and some tea stories.

When we arrived in Ojai, we went straight to Azu Restaurant for a tea-infused lunch with Zhena’s teas.  The surprising menu – created especially for our group – included Pumpkin Timbale, infused with pumpkin spice tea and served with Ojai arugula, caramelized walnuts, and a pumpkin-spiced tea dressing.  But the showstopper was the Pacific Northwest Salmon, poached in blood orange tisane and served on Israeli couscous and veggies.  That was amazing!  Light, delicate, and delicious!  Dessert was a trio of tea-infused sorbets with warm, tea-infused shortbread.  And hot tea.

Zhena's Gypsy Tea headquartersAfter lunch, we made the short walk to Zhena’s headquarters, where we learned about organic, biodynamic teas and Fair Trade.  Zhena works directly with growers and tea gardens to ensure fair wages, better housing, healthcare, education, and no child labor.  Brava, Zhena!

Then it was hands-on time, blending our own tea.  We were each given a beautiful, eco-friendly tin for our blend, and a colorful aromatherapy tea chart, which you can find on gypsytea.com.  In one section of the room, there were bowls of teas, herbs, and oils for blending.

All manner of scents filled the room – woody, sweet, burnt, floral, fruity, and citrusy.  I blended Darjeeling tea, white tea, rose petals, gingko, and mint.  I love my tea blend!

tea-infused shortbreadAfter that fun experience, we were off to Barrel 33 for tea-infused cocktails.  Wow, what a grand finale!

I am grateful to Kulov for putting together this fun and educational tea experience that allowed me to make full use of all my senses.  Thanks also to Susan Hancock and the Royal/T staff, to Zhena and her staff, to the folks at Azu Restaurant and Barrel 33, and to the driver of our Santa Monica Bus for a smooth trip.

P.S. – Join me on November 20, 2010 from 11:00 AM to 1:30 PM for A Taste of Paris, a chocolate and tea class with Madame Chocolat in her chocolate factory and salon.  It’s a hands-on chocolate-making class.  And a Parisian lunch will be served.  To register, go to adultschool.burbankusd.org/onlinereg/.

All photos are courtesy Erika Cilengir.