It always amazes me how closely related shops can survive in the same area, no less the same block. So when I found that Valen Dolcé was located right beside a Starbucks and opposite a Peet’s Coffee & Tea, I knew that it would be either a horrible experience or a dream come true. Thankfully, it was a little closer to the latter.
My boyfriend isn’t as big a tea lover as I am, so it was a little shocking that Groupon enticed him into purchasing a “tea-tasting and blending experience” at Valen Dolcé for 15 dollars. Hopefully, this is the start of something wonderful.
Valen Dolcé is foremost a patisserie specializing in French and Japanese cakes and pastries, but they also have over 70 organic teas to enjoy and take home. It’s a modest-sized shop with four tables that seat two to four people each. The patisserie also has a couple of tables outside next to their free samples stand. (Yes – free samples on the sidewalk.)
The deal was three different pots of tea, four macaroons, and a couple of take-home bags of tea. Our waitress quickly brought us a tray of teas to smell, and my boyfriend jumped for a fruity blend of blueberry, jasmine, and white goji blossom. It took longer for me to decide on the second pot, but I eventually went for the vanilla truffle and caramelized pear blend – which didn’t smell good to my boyfriend, but did smell good to me. The third was a compromise of banana dolce and guava ginger.
The tea was brought out almost instantaneously, and when I found out that we could substitute our macaroons for a cake, I couldn’t contain my joy. My boyfriend had his heart set on macaroons, so the waitress was nice enough to give him one anyway. I picked out a vanilla cake with crème brûlée and strawberry mousse.
The fruity tea was delicious, which was more than I could say for my first choice. Maybe I should have listened to my boyfriend’s nose, but I couldn’t help myself. I should have known, because I’m not that wild about vanilla.
Everything else was great, and the owner, Howard Chin, even came by to chat with us. He’s a pleasant man with a quick tongue who definitely knows his teas. Though the tea-tasting experience was very enjoyable, my boyfriend and I both agree – Chin himself was the highlight of Valen Dolcé.
If you’re ever walking down Montana in Santa Monica, don’t pass this place up. The only downside is there’s no bathroom, which is something it should definitely have if they’re pumping so much tea into your body.