Arts & Leisure

Can’t “leaf” this tea hot spot alone

THE 7 LEAVES CAFE in Garden Grove. Could it be the “Starbucks of Tea”? (OC Tribune photo).

By Jim and Marilyn Tortolano

In the same small strip mall where a Starbucks flamed out a few years ago and closed, there’s a tea and coffee shop packed with customers and trailing a line of patient patrons out the door. It’s 7Leaves Café and it’s shaking up the world of warm and cold sipping drinks.

The location we visited was at Euclid Street and Trask Avenue in Garden Grove, but 7Leaves has nine locations, with eight of them in Orange County, including one in Huntington Beach and one right on the Garden Grove-Westminster border.

It all started in 2010, when a group of friends decided to tour Asia to learn the secrets of brewing really good tea. They opened their first store in 2012 and have been expanding ever since. Their success has been such that 7Leaves has been called the potential “Starbucks of Tea.”

In our visit, we saw a bright, open and airy store with a large seating area occupied with a nearly full house of customers sipping tea, eating bakery goodies and using the free Wi-fi on their iPads and other electronic devices. There’s even a “community printer” so students can print out their homework, an operation funded by donations.

Marilyn tried the refreshing and tangy strawberry hibiscus tea and pronounced it “A+.” Jim ordered a strawberry croissant and found it just about perfect with a tenderly flaky crust and sliced fresh strawberries ­– instead of some kind of fruit puree – inside. Another home run.

We both enjoyed the House Special Coffee, a Vietnamese brew with a slightly nutty flavor. But although there is a

MARILYN enjoying a cup of excellent strawberry hibiscus tea at 7Leaves Cafe in Garden Grove (OC Tribune photo).

distinctly Southeast Asian lean to the teas and coffees – and the clientele – don’t but put off by that if you don’t happen to have that heritage. Anyone with a palette for well-prepared food and drink will find plenty to like here.

In addition to the drinks, there are the croissants and macarons – a delicate French pastry. The help is bright and friendly and will give you samples of any drink before you commit to a big cup-full.

Maybe you’ve driven past one of these places and wondered what all the commotion was, with people queuing up for tea. Stop in and you will satisfy your curiosity for something really special.

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