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27 January, 2006
Cha for Tea
Cha for Tea is a Taiwan import owned by the Ten Ren Tea Company, a renowned purveyor of the beverage since 1953. Their Long Beach branch is small but bright and comfortable; located in a shopping center, it's popular with students from nearby Cal State. The young staff is hip but friendly, always ready with a smile and endless samples of their tea and menu dishes.
The tea bar is famous for its green or black tea-based drinks that come in peach, mango, green apple and passion fruit flavors, among others, served in a variety of ways: iced and shaken martini style, plain iced with milk, iced and blended like a smoothie, hot with milk or plain hot.
Tonight we ordered the thai iced tea with boba, those ubiquitous, translucent "tapioca" pearls which are actually made of yam. Because they are made fresh on the premises every couple of hours, the pearls are chewy and tender, unlike the boba you get in other places. They're not supersweet either, the perfect contrast to the milky and already sweet thai tea. We also ordered the green apple iced tea, a sweet/tart drink that's the perfect summer thirst quencher.
As for the dinner menu selection, it's limited but delicious, each dish subtly infused with tea essence. That and the freshness of the ingredients is what makes Cha for Tea stand out from your regular Chinese fast food joint.
Take for example, their Cha Chicken with Noodle soup. The egg noodles are simmered in chicken broth spiked with tea. It is topped with fresh, tender but still crunchy carrots, celery, cabbage and cilantro; added on top of that is a heap of chopped, grilled chicken strips marinated in rice wine and sweet garlic sauce. The result is a savory, fragrant goodness that is the essence of comfort food.
We also ordered the steamed dumplings, pretty in a mini bamboo tray with a light but flavorful dumpling sauce. Also the calamari balls, spicy morsels on a stick that are crispy on the outside but tender and meaty on the inside.
The serving of chicken soup was so generous it was enough for two, and there was more than enough of the steamed dumplings that I had to bring home the rest. What's even better is the final tab: a whopping $24. For the quality and price, Cha for Tea is definitely a must.
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