by Lorie Lewis Ham
If you are looking for a unique tea shop experience, you have to check out the L.T. Sue Co. Tea Room & Emporium located at No. 1 China Alley, in Hanford California’s China Alley Historic District. Not only is this place charming, but it offers over 100 different teas, good food and awesome coffee!
The L.T. Sue Co. Tea Room & Emporium opened March 1, 2012 and is Hanford’s first tea shop. In 2011, the National Trust for Historic Preservation named China Alley as One of America’s 11 Most Endangered Historic Places, and Arianne Wing and Steve Banister were inspired by this designation and decided to open a business that would serve as a catalyst for reviving China Alley. “Downtown Hanford has so much potential for creative entrepreneurs and we noticed that there were no tea shops in Hanford and decided that China Alley would be a great location,” shared Steve.
Steve and Arianne were born and raised in Hanford and have a tremendous fondness for what historic downtown has to offer. Arianne’s origins come from a multigenerational family restaurant that survived for 123 years in China Alley and Steve’s roots were cultivated from his father’s 50 plus years in downtown retail.
With a selection of over 100 brews that are sourced from reputable and diverse small farms around the world, they consider themselves purveyors of great tasting, fragrant and fresh teas, blends and tisanes, including their popular Downtown Blend. “We strive to provide you with unique, distinctive, and satisfying brews that are not only tasty, but benefit your body, mind, and soul,” said Steve.
Also available are unique sandwiches, salads and other creations made with fresh local ingredients, including their five-spice Imperial Chicken Salad, which their website states is a favorite among their regulars. They strive to offer culinary creations that go great with your favorite tea. You can check out their daily menu on their Facebook page.
Not being a big tea drinker, I can confidently state that their tea might just convert you. I had a flavored tea that was awesome. For those who prefer coffee, my daughter had what she stated was the best mocha Frappuccino she had ever tasted.
“We create our own blends on site in this notable Alley,” shared Steve. “We want the L.T. Sue Co. Tea Room & Emporium to serve as a business that will stimulate the revitalization of China Alley. Our success will hopefully provide the incentive for other businesses to open in the area.”
The Tea Room took their name from the L.T. Sue Herb Co. Store which is located at Number 15 China Alley. “Herbalists such as Lok Ting Sue were very popular before western medicine became popular,” continued Steve. “We thought that since teas have such great health benefits, this would be a great name. Plus 20% of our profits go towards restoration efforts of China Alley and currently we are contributing to the efforts of structurally stabilizing this herb store.”
Hanford resident Steve Rogers enjoys the sense of Hanford nostalgia that he shares with the owners. “Steve Banister and I like to trade historical images of the community. Eating food prepared by a member of the Wing family is as close as you can connect to days gone by. I enjoy the relaxing atmosphere. It’s a terrific place to unwind.”
The Tea Room not only gives back to the historical preservation of China Alley, but they also help preserve our planet with the green aspect of their business. “We compost all of our expended tea leaves and kitchen discards. All of our take out cups and containers are also compostable. We aim to help save China Alley for future generations; therefore, we feel it is appropriate to utilize our earth’s resources appropriately for future generations.”
The Tea Room is open Monday through Saturday from 10 a.m. to 6 p.m. with plans to extend their evening hours sometime in the near future.
All photos provided by Corey Ralston of Corey Ralston Photography.