The Austin Chronicle

Restaurant Review

Reviewed by Kate Thornberry, June 22, 2012, Food

Zhi Tea

4607 Bolm, 888/944-4832
Monday-Friday, 10am-6pm; Saturday, 11am-4pm; Sunday, noon-5pm

Zhi Tea has offered a full-service tasting room at their Bolm Road headquarters ever since they began there in 2008. The tasting room is a quiet and contemplative space, and even though there's free wi-fi and comfortable seating, it has the air of a civilized tearoom rather then a raucous coffeehouse. A year ago they began offering scones and croissants ($2.50-3.50) from renowned baker Barrie Cullinan's Amity Bakery. Now they've taken the leap to offering a food menu of locally sourced items to complement their teas.

"At first, we had customers asking us for food pairings," says Zhi owner Jeffrey Lorien. "At the same time, we were doing a lot of local food events, and were tasting our teas alongside some of Austin's best local products. It was just a natural progression to offer these same items in our tasting room."

The Taste of Texas Platter ($8) was my favorite, featuring Pure Luck goat cheese, gluten-free crackers, tangerine sections, organic Texas pecans toasted in local honey, and organic sunflower sprouts (pictured right). It was both beautiful and filling. The Aegean Plate ($8) was a close second, consisting of a fantastic local hummus served with organic cucumber, celery sticks, red pepper spears, Texas Hill Country Olive Company olives, and pita triangles from Phoenicia bakery. The Rockstar AB and J ($5) features a toasted bagel from Rockstar Bagels, served with almond butter and New Canaan Farms preserves. The Dessert Tray ($14) consists of Texas Butter Pecan Brittle from the Chocolate Maker's Studio, a mendiant bar, dried cranberries, shortbread cookies, and a sesame BumbleBar.

At Zhi, the tea itself will always be the star attraction. Zhi carries close to a hundred varieties of the finest teas available worldwide: black teas, green teas, white teas, oolongs, herbal teas, and rooibos. The teas available at Zhi are so pristine and clear and deeply flavorful that once you try them, it's difficult, if not impossible, to go back to supermarket tea bags. Lorien has figured out several different ways to keep it affordable: A cup of tea, iced or hot, is $2.50; a 16-ounce pot is $3.50; a 24-ounce pot is $5.50; and a 45-ounce pot is $7.50. A 32-ounce carafe of iced tea is $4.50 and a 64-ounce pitcher is $7.50.

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