Photos by Becca Stine
The Yellow Mountain Tea House, a Chinese tea house and restaurant, sits nestled amongst the quaint restaurants and boutiques on West Colorado Avenue. Six years ago, the owner, Tanya Baros, married an American man and moved from the Gan Su province in China to the United States. Two years later, she opened the Yellow Mountain Tea House with the intention of educating locals about Chinese medicinal tea practices. Kassandra, one of the two servers at the tea house, said Baros “wants people to learn about their own bodies and how to help and heal themselves.” Their website reads, “Our intention is to offer you quality tea, and inform you of the Chinese research to its health benefits. We are not doctors and do not make any health claims ourselves.”
Customers get the full tea experience. Upon entereing, you are instructed to select a variety of tea from the shelf and bring it to your seat. There are two seating options: raised straw platforms with quaint cushions, where customers are asked to take off their shoes before sitting, and small square tables in the more dimly lit section of the teahouse surrounded by hanging red thread and lanterns. However, it may be a while before you sit down, given the vast selection of teas to explore.
The Yellow Mountain Tea House has approximately 300 different types of tea, from oolongs to herbals to floral teas. Baros was influenced by her grandfather, a doctor who creates all of the herbal tea blends in the shop. Big Mason jars of tea are displayed in an organized manner on three separate shelves at either end of the restaurant. One shelf displays the herbal blends that consist of beautiful bright flowers, roots, and seeds mixed together in a fusion of color and texture. Many of these teas are associated with healing. They might detoxify the lungs, calm the bowels, mediate heart rate, and quell anxiety, depression, or insomnia, among other things. Jars of beautiful dried budding flowers sit upon the second shelf. The third shelf houses the oolong and black teas, which look most like standard bagged tea.
Once you have chosen your tea, you are asked to sit at your table of choice and await a server who will prepare the tea in front of you. Kassandra, has been exploring tea culture since 2012. She pairs the preparation of tea with an explanation of its properties and specific steeping instructions. Sophomore Nico Predock said, “As my first time at any tea house, seeing the aesthetic layout and the hundreds of different types of tea was amazing and felt super authentic.”
As the server washes tiny tea cups with small wooden clamps and prepares each tea with care, a chef cooks homemade dumplings mere feet away to supplement the tea drinking experience. In addition to selecting a tea, you are asked your preference of dumpling. There are about 10 different options including veggie, chicken, pork, and xiaolongbao, a delicious soup dumpling. They are accompanied by your choice of spicy or mild dipping sauce. According to Kassandra, the most popular dumplings are the chicken and the xiaolongbao, while the most popular tea is the stress relief blend, “for obvious reasons,” she said. Like the teacups and quaint glass teapots, the dumpling portions are small. The Yellow Mountain Tea House experience focuses on taste rather than quantity.