New Spot for a Spot of Tea
Published: Thursday, February 23, 2012
Updated: Wednesday, February 22, 2012 20:02
Just a stone's throw from the intersection of M Street and Wisconsin Avenue, Chinese teashop Ching Ching Cha lies lost and nestled between the busy storefronts of preppy Rugby and melodramatic Italian staple Filomena. That's part of the appeal.
Step inside and you instantly feel far away. Ching Ching Cha is part shop, part tea house, so lining the walkway inside, you'll see bags and bags of loose-leaf teas — a selection unparalleled in the neighborhood. This makes the experience more authentic than getting your fix from a Teavana. They also have imported tea tins that have an ultra-tight seal to keep the leaves fresh, so you can bring a bit of Ching Ching Cha home with you.
Besides the tea leaves, they also sell authentic cast-iron kettles, hand-painted teacups and other kitschy (and expensive) accessories.
You can buy some tea and wares, but you should stay for the actual tea event. There are a few tables and a seating area where you can take your tea the traditional way — sitting down. You have to take your shoes off, so make sure to wear socks.
The menu features a combination of Chinese offerings, both sweet and savory in order to compliment their wide selection of gourmet teas. They have Mongolian style dumplings with lamb, chicken and vegetable, which shouldn't be missed. For sweets, they serve up lotus seed paste wrapped in a puff pastry, coconut tarts and almond cookies. They also have tea meal sets, which include soup, a vegetable dish and one of their house dishes, either chicken curry, miso salmon or steamed teriyaki tofu.
You can opt for either the meal or just a small dish depending on your appetite. If you do opt for small plates, definitely pick at least one savory option. Those types of dishes go better with tea than you'd imagine.
As far as the tea menu goes, it can't be done justice in a short review like this. They have a variety of teas, each with a written description and level of strength — green, black, white, oolong, herbal, artisan combinations and more. They all sounded wonderful. Plus, it's an added excuse to make return trips and try the ones you missed!
In addition to getting a tasty tea meal, guests really can savor the quiet and off-the-beaten-path feel of the place. My friend and I stayed for at least two hours just catching up, and the place was almost completely empty. You get a little bit of the serene, and you don't have to walk too far.
I'm a huge fan of traditional British cream tea with its golden scones, rich clotted cream and finger sandwiches (when I lived abroad in England, I went every single week to afternoon cream tea), but Ching Ching Cha's traditional Chinese tea is just as tasty and very refreshing. Lesson learned — just because there aren't scones doesn't mean you can't have tea time. So when you get sick of your frappuccinos and iced lattes, take a step off Wisconsin and get a taste of something a little more serene than coffee to-go.