When I take the bus, I always sit on the right side, no matter which way I’m going, which can be bad when that side gets too sunny. But on Saturday it was a good choice. I was on my way back from Teance when I looked out the window, and on the right side of the street, I saw the sign: Asha Tea House – Soft Opening. The universe gathered its synergy, someone had just pulled the cord one tenth of a second earlier and the bus came to a stop two feet away from the tea house. I jumped off, fixed my composure, walked in.
The front bar has two menu pages, one for real teas and one for bubble teas. I like bubble teas, but I don’t know why they’re even called tea. Following the cashier’s instruction, I placed my order for a bowl of matcha, paid (they take American Express!), and walked around to the side bar to watch the guy whisk it up.
Now I just got back from Teance then, tummy full of matcha, oolong and puer, I wasn’t in the mood for adventure, on the bus I planned on going home and study, so I looked around and almost sat down in the corner where the soft pillows invited me, and that would have been the end of the story. But from habit, I pulled out the stool at the bar while asking if I could sit there. The bar is Asha’s first plus.
Also from habit, I didn’t stop with the matcha. I asked for an oolong. Say I’m spoiled by Teance, but watching the tea bartender handle my tea tells me how much they respect the customer and how often I should return. With David: warm the gaiwan and server? Checked. Rinse the oolong? Checked. Let the customer smell the tea fragrance? Checked. Position of the gaiwan lid after pouring the tea? Well, that’s a minor detail. All of this without extra cost and reservation, as it should be. Looking at David, who looks like a college student wearing the same black Asha T-shirt uniform as everyone else in the team, constantly checking the flow of customers and helping his co-workers with the orders, it’s hard to tell that he owns the business. The young, casual vibe is Asha’s second plus. But David’s tea professionalism is Asha’s third plus, for those who are interested in real teas.
Over a few chawans of this spring’s Shan Lin Xi, I learned that David’s vision for Asha includes late opening hours, tea events and of course, more tea aficionados. The Shan Lin Xi, a Taiwanese green oolong grown at 1600 meters above sea level, is light-hearted and sweet, just like this budding tea house in downtown Berkeley.
Address: Asha Tea House
2086 University Ave. (nearest cross-street: Shattuck)
Berkeley, CA 94704
PS: The fourth plus: Asha has WiFi. The fifth plus: reasonable, student-friendly cost. The sixth plus: Asha is in downtown Berkeley. The seventh plus: they have bubble tea. (Did I say I like bubble tea?…)