New York-based T Salon’s founder and CEO Miriam Novalle does not look like a CEO. Walking about her new tea shop location at Melrose and La Brea in free-flowing earth toned clothing, she looks like the type of person who could be a distant relative – or the neighbor next door who is always willing to share a cup of sugar.
She’s rocking her newborn grandson in his stroller when I arrive at the sustainable tea café and market the day after Halloween. The shop is empty aside from a silent fellow reading (and sulking) at one of the cafe’s many tables, and I feel slightly self-conscious when Miriam strides over to welcome me with a broad smile. She’s so happy I’m there, and, despite my inability to be an anonymous browser/lurker, I am too.
I immediately begin gushing to her about how excited I am to have a tea shop/café in the neighborhood – I’ve grown weary of trekking out to Les Palais De Thes in Beverly Hills or Lupicia at the Century City mall to keep my loose-leaf tea supply well-stocked. She grins as I continue my tirade, nodding along as though she is totally following all the gibberish I’m spouting out of my mouth. When I’m finally finished, she gently asks me what kind of tea I like so she can help me pick out something from T Salon’s 300 unique tea blends.
“I love green tea.” I say.
She gives me a knowing smile and leads me past the wellness teas, the red tea and the black tea to the shelves that house the shop’s extensive green varieties.
While I stand there making googly faces at her precious grandson, who she is babysitting for the day, Miriam climbs onto a stool and selects a couple tea blends for me to smell. One is the Rafia – a green sencha tea blended with lemongrass, oranges, and pineapple, the other is the Japanese Berry that has been infused with pieces of strawberry.
“Green tea with strawberry is my favorite blend,” I say as I breathe in the intoxicating scent.
She asserts her approval of my tea preferences and then finds me a canister of the Japanese Berry ($13.50).
“If you bring this canister back, you’ll get 10% off your next purchase,” she informs me. It is yet another indication of the T Salon’s commitment to creating an environment-friendly space. The lighting in the shop is made from recycled tea bags, the packaging is all recyclable, and the construction was done with sustainable bamboo. It’s impressive – even for LA where there is a Prius at every stop light.
As I approach the counter to pay for my tea, Miriam shows off the rest of the T Salon’s offerings – a full menu of healthy eats like salmon marinated in tea, quinoa with pomegranates and fresh fruit. It is slightly reminiscent of M Café de Chaya next door, but I am nevertheless impressed with the quality of food. I can see myself spending hours there on a future weekend afternoon – sipping some tea, nibbling on some quinoa and writing at one of the tables in the front of the shop.
I wave goodbye with a promise to be back soon. Maybe even before I run out of the delicious Japanese Sencha tea that I've been drinking every morning since my visit.
7111 Melrose Avenue
Los Angeles, CA 90046