These tea houses reside in Sierra Madre, a three-square-mile city situated at the foot of Southern California’s San Gabriel Mountains. Many years ago I accidentally drove into town and was charmed by the human settlement’s affinity for the serene natural surroundings. The first sketch that came to mind was, of course, the tattered adjective “quaint.” The vicinity, peculiarly verdant, intimate, seemed a world apart from its buzzing neighbors and other pretentious SoCal establishments that attempt but fail to evoke nostalgia.
At T-Neer I had one of the best cups of tea I have ever had! Temperature made all the difference. It was another scorching summer afternoon; the tearoom’s operators appropriately chose not to blast its air conditioning at full tilt. Just when the heat was starting to perturb, my Ceylon tea arrived. The brew, soothingly aromatic and noticeably warmer and fresher than most other tea establishments’, invited thoughts of sipping tea al fresco at a Subcontinent hill station – an experience I should have acquired during my passage to India.
Last month, T-Neer’s proprietress prepared another excellent brew of high-grown Ceylon for me after noticing my vacillation in selecting a tea. Her journey, woven with memories of her family’s tea estate in Sri Lanka, focuses on her current venture of operating a tea sanctuary.
While on my way out of an office building a few months ago, I alerted a stranger on his way in, “Pitch dark. No electricity.” He paused, “You mean no power?” I must have committed another incoherent, faulty word use as an English-as-second-language speaker. While decorating a Rose Parade float two years ago, I asked a fellow volunteer and long-time Sierra Madre resident, “You live in Sierra Madre… The city with no development?” The gregarious lady appeared puzzled, then both of us came to the understanding that I meant “no undesirable development.” How many cities in the States that you know that have two tea houses? Perhaps it is this lack of undesirable development that enables Sierra Madre to have two lovely teahouses.
My next visit should coincide with Sierra Madre’s Wisteria Festival.