In some notable ways, SoCal tea operations COMEBUYTEA and Café Maji are different from other tea entities.

Founded in 2002 and being yet another Taiwan tea chain, COMEBUYTEA recognized the tremendous importance of conducting thorough market research prior to launching its first store in America. Instead of vying for attention and entangling themselves in San Gabriel Valley’s muddled bubble tea scene, the franchises base-camped at Orange County’s mainstream shopping plazas last year. 99% of the Yelp photos appear the same, which is also the shot I snapped while enjoying a cup of warm Oriental Beauty at the Huntington Beach location early March. The tall cylinder loose tea leaf dispensers on the wall were so ostentatious that I barely noticed the TEAPRESSO machine responsible for brewing my tea. It is not the same TEAPRESSO mentioned in T Ching’s 2009 post How The Teapresso Steeps An Incredible Cup Of Tea and 2014 post By-the-cup Commercial Brewers – Here They Come!, is it? COMEBUYTEA’s compact, streamlined TEAPRESSO is shaped like a sewing machine and seems a more recent invention. Confusion could have been avoided if its creator had not given it a banal name like “TEAPRESSO.” (Awkward “COMEBUYTEA” in all capital letters is equally uninspiring.)

The glass dispensers sensitive to light exposure are not the most ideal containers for tea storage, but they furnish COMEBUYTEA a striking décor and a unique identity. Baristas perform all tasks facing the customers. Cold beverages are not poured from a pitcher; no microwave is used to heat any cuppa. There is no back-kitchen, thus no concealment of ingredients, apparatus, and activities. Many tea businesses fulfill these basic criteria. COMEBUYTEA attains differentiation by implementing “what you see is what you get” via innovative presentation. Its operators should consider venturing outside of OC after COVID-19 is subdued.

Café Maji, a Korean fusion tea room, is located in Artesia – a city bordering Los Angeles County and Orange County. During weekends, patrons of all ages and ethnicities convene; lading the spacious space with an aura and energy that is uniquely SoCal. The Saturday I was there, three elderly ladies conversed and laughed heartily, while at the adjacent table two Asian teenagers — busy reading — were having a silent bible study session. Some customers lingered for a short fifteen minutes. Others probably planned to stay the entire day and covered their tables with paperwork, books, laptops, multiple tea cups, etc. For me, venues like Café Maji can only be a space for socialization and relaxation, not for midterm studies or business proposal preparation.

All Café Maji’s servers were attentive without being obsequious. I favored the pot of hot tea considerably more than the plate of bulgogi quesadilla. Before leaving I used the wrong verb “mix” instead of “blend” to inquire how the tea was prepared. The server left — probably to discuss with the proprietor — and came back with not only the tea’s full name but also the website through which I could re-order the tea. We all have encountered business owners giving only ambiguous information on their “top secret” operations. Café Maji’s candor was quite refreshing and enabled me to enjoy fruity Happy Tea by Art of Tea at home.

My friend Jane who recently relocated from West Los Angeles to Orange County introduced me to both COMEBUYTEA and Café Maji. I look forward to more tea tasting sessions in SoCal’s other regions.

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