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Eight Great Teahouses in the Pacific Northwest

01.21.09
Going out for tea in the Pacific Northwest no longer means choosing between a bubble-tea parlor, a British tea room, and an overpriced tea bag from a coffee chain. Modern teahouses offer dozens of teas in all styles, along with friendly counter service, loose-leaf teas to take home, and snacks beyond finger sandwiches. Here are eight of the best.
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Seattle

1. Remedy Teas

A tea café masquerading as a science lab, Remedy defines the modern style with sleek design, muted colors, and 150 tea selections lined up along the wall in test tubes for your sniffing pleasure. Many are flavored blends, but there’s a range of classic teas among them. Last time I was at Remedy, everybody seemed to be ordering the matcha lemonade: sweet, green, and refreshing. 345 15th Ave. E., Seattle (206-323-4832; remedyteas.com)

2. Miro Tea

Miro wins the contest for most varieties of tea on hand: well over 200 loose-leaf teas, herbals, and blends, all available hot or iced. The space is large, airy, and conducive to relaxation. And to eat: crêpes, including one made with tea-infused summer berries. 5405 Ballard Ave. NW, Seattle (206-782-6832; mirotea.blogspot.com)

3. Panama Hotel Tea & Coffee House

It may be housed in a 1910 hotel, but the Panama is truly a modern teahouse, with free wi-fi and a variety of black, green, oolong, and herbal teas. The Japanese teas are excellent, but also try the hand-tied Chinese Green Peony tea, which blossoms in your cup as it soaks up the water. The space, which opened as a teahouse in 2001, is tastefully updated with exposed brick and hardwood, and the overall effect is relaxing. Well, not entirely relaxing. Many coffee- and teahouses offer exhibits of local art, but the Panama is different: Its permanent exhibit, in photos and objects, is about Japanese internment. The photos depict Seattle’s Japantown before internment, and through a glass section of floor you'll see luggage packed and left in the hotel basement by families sent to the camps. Few returned to pick up the luggage. 605 1/2 S. Main St., Seattle (206-515-4000; panamahotelseattle.com/teahouse.htm)

Portland

4. Townshend’s

A bright but cozy hangout on hip NE Alberta, Townshend’s steeps its teas behind the counter and brings them to your table, eliminating the need for timers or confusion about when to pour the tea. If I were a college student in Portland, you’d find me here at all times. There’s a second location in the resort town of Bend, Oregon. 2223 NE Alberta St., Portland (503-445-6699; townshendstea.com)

5. Tao of Tea

Okay, this place isn’t modern. It feels positively ancient, befitting its location in the Portland Classical Chinese Garden’s Tower of Cosmic Reflections. But there’s nothing else like it in the Northwest. Except for a selection of herbals, this two-story teahouse offers only Chinese and Taiwanese teas. I enjoyed a tuocha pu-erh, a smoky brew served in a gaiwan, the Chinese teacup. Tao of Tea also has a list of vintage pu-erhs going back over a decade. Note that you must pay admission to the garden ($8.50) to visit the teahouse. 239 NW Everett St., Portland (503-224-8455; taooftea.com)

6. Tea Zone

Ever been lured off-menu at a tea shop? I have. “Are you into Japanese teas?” asked the guy at Tea Zone when I ordered a pot of sencha. Reaching below the counter, he produced a deep-steamed green tea from Kagoshima, Japan, that cost me an extra buck and produced an incomparably green cup. 510 NW 11th Ave., Portland (503-221-2130; teazone.com)

Vancouver

7. Muzi

An ultramodern white-on-white cafe with an especially strong selection of Japanese teas and a focus on blended drinks. Drinking matcha? You can choose thin (usucha) or thick (koicha), each whipped by hand in a traditional matcha bowl. Go for the thick: It’s a lavishly green and frothy cup. 870 W. Cordova St., Vancouver (604-689-3188; muzitea.com)

8. Steeps

The gimmick at this pan-Asian-styled shop: All teas are served in a French press, but you choose your own teacup from atop a credenza. British? Moroccan? Chinese? Japanese? Up to you. 895 W. Broadway, Vancouver (778-371-8343; steepstea.com)

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