Asha Tea House Supports Enjoying Life

Asha Tea House in Berkeley, California, photo courtesy of David Lau

“Asha” is Taiwanese for “someone who enjoys life,” and the Asha Tea House locations support this philosophy while offering a friendly and contemporary atmosphere. David and Diana Lau opened the first Asha Tea House in Berkeley, California, in 2012 and a second location in San Francisco in autumn of 2016. David and Diana were mechanical engineers who decided to change careers and share their passion for tea. “Our goal was to make tea more accessible for Americans and to create a tea-drinking culture,” said David.

Both Asha Tea House locations sell several kinds of loose leaf and specialty beverages, so each location appeals to a wide range of tea drinkers. The menus have an impressive array of fruit teas, Hong Kong milk teas, matcha drinks and tisanes, as well as traditional black, green and oolong teas. They also offer child-friendly drinks such as flavored milk and fruit-ade made from seasonal fruit. There is something for everyone. Pure teas cost $2.50, specialty drinks range from $4 to $5. Tea service ranges from $7 to $10.

Asha Tea House in San Francisco, California, photo courtesy of David Lau

Asha also sells teaware, including ceramic cups, tumblers and matcha bowls for enjoying tea in different formats and settings. Additionally, customers can buy brewers, steepers, infusers, pitchers, teapots and tools so people can become their own tea brewing experts at home.

The Laus source their teas from China, Japan, India and Taiwan. They make trips once or twice per year to visit growers and see how the teas are grown. The Laus buy either certified organic tea, or they buy tea from small growers. David believes it is important to know where the tea comes from and to source from growers who are passionate about tea and understand the importance of providing a safe product to customers. He said such growers are connected to their land as oftentimes it has been passed down through several generations.

David explained how location and conditions can affect the taste of a tea. For example, the Laus purchase an oolong tea from a second-generation farmer located in the Shan Lin Xi region of central Taiwan. The biodiverse tea garden is at a foggy, high elevation (4,593 feet) and has trees. “The lack of sunlight causes the tea plants to grow more slowly, resulting in a deeper, more complex flavor,” said David.

“We have a very simple mission,” said David, “A lot of our customers are new to tea and we’re trying to introduce them to different kinds of tea: green, black, oolong. At Asha, it’s all about allowing them to experience tea in what we believe to be the ideal teahouse environment. It is casual and communal and everybody is welcome.” The Laus are available to answer any questions about the teas that customers may have. They made the setting at Asha welcoming, laid-back and fun for everyone — from college-aged people through retirees. “We’ve tried to make it as lighthearted as possible. Tea is a little intimidating. There are so many different kinds of tea. It’s amazing how one kind of plant can produce so many different kinds of tea,” said David.

Asha Tea House in San Francisco, California, photo courtesy of David Lau

The décor at both Asha locations is a combination of modernity and warmth, with clean lines and wood accents. The tea houses simultaneously exude sophistication and earthiness.

“It has been six years now, I don’t really remember what it was like to be in my previous career,” said David. “It has been a lot of work, but it has been enjoyable. We want to open more tea houses and spread the appreciation for tea.”