Inside Oolongs Tea Bar, paper lanterns cast a dimly lit glow on creamy yellow walls, and the spicy scent of a freshly brewed pot of chai wafts from the counter. In this little sanctuary of Organic Ancient Moonlight Jade Green and Iron Goddess of Mercy Oolong, all of your wildest tea dreams will be fulfilled — for a price.
The Bar provides a variety of high-quality tea beverages: bubble teas, tea lattés, tea smoothies, tea sodas and iced teas. However, as the starting price for any beverage is around $3.80, it is unlikely that you will escape paying under four dollars for your tiny cup of heaven.
While there is a wide range of cafés where any student can spend their parents’ hard-earned cash on overpriced drinks, the selection at these places tends to be more than just a little homogenous. Sure, there’s the four-dollar skim mochacchino and the four-dollar and five-cent white chocolate-caramel-fudge-ribbon-macchiato, but there’s no variation between Koffee Too?, Ciao Bella, Atticus and Book Trader. Basically, these cafés provide the Starbucks drinks without the brand name. Oolongs Tea Bar can help you out when you want to drop a little cash and are sick of corporate homogeneity.
The frequenters of Oolongs Tea Bar are a mix of friendly students, families, yuppies and hippies. The students and families laugh and down their bubble teas; the yuppies and hippies congregate in groups of three or four at the back tables, playing with their dreadlocks, sipping their Organic Dragon Well Special green tea and showing off their knowledge of Rooibos infusions.
Oolongs Tea Bar prides itself on serving tea freshly brewed from the leaf, though paying more to put the higher-quality teas in your latte may result in something that tastes more like milk than anything else. Perhaps my palate is just not particularly sensitive; my tea consumption is generally limited to the occasional Earl Grey from a tea bag, a practice I am sure Oolong’s owner, Tammy Hacket, and baristas would shudder at.
Sometimes the tea snobbery is well-deserved: The traditional House Chai is delicious and aromatic, and the bubble teas and tea smoothies are light and refreshing. Oolongs Tea Bar embraces the idea of baristas’ discretion. That means both a lack of consistency on occasion — the bubble teas are too sweet — and room for experimentation in the menu. Recently, I was offered a cupful of Tammy Hacket’s latest concoction, a Matcha Mango smoothie. Though it looked like a cross between baby food and whatever the girl in “The Exorcist” spit out, the Matcha Mango’s flavor was subtle yet complicated, with the tartness and sweetness of the mango offsetting the slight bitterness of the matcha green tea.
For those not up to trying some of the more exotic flavors, Oolongs keeps a pot of coffee on hand, though tea is pointedly the beverage of choice. When one customer asked if the Tea Bar happened to serve hot chocolate, she was promptly greeted with a deep throaty laugh — as if Tammy were pondering who might drink hot chocolate, much less order it, in this day and age. However, she was also promptly rewarded with a free blended tea drink, emblematic of the interesting mix of condescension and generosity embodied by the Tea Bar employees.
Bottom Line: You certainly pay for this tea party, but you generally get your money’s worth.