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This Customizable Tea Bar Makes Tea Less Intimidating

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Basanti Tea Bar teas (Photo courtesy of Basanti Tea Bar)
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There's a new and casual Mexico-based tea bar chain that's landed its first American flagship store in the heart of Beverly Hills.

The concept of Basanti Tea Bar, which opened last month and took over the Crumbs Cake storefront on Santa Monica Boulevard, is that they want to make tea more accessible to those who might feel intimidated by tea. Marcela Garcia, who co-owns the chain with her husband, says "basanti" means "spring" in Sanskrit, which is the time of the year when tea is first harvested. She tells LAist that there's an air of mystery when it comes to tea, something she thinks people don't explore enough because there's the stigma that it's a drink your grandmother hands to you.

So, to combat that, they're offering brewed teas from a selection of their over 50 varieties of mostly-organic loose leaves. They have rows of metal canisters at the counter full of teas that you can touch and smell, so you can get an idea of what you'd like to try. They have blended drinks with unique combinations and others that may seem familiar since they are similar to concoctions you might find at Starbucks and Asian tea shops. Patrons also get the chance to customize drinks any way they want it, so they get the chance to explore new combinations.

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The canisters at the "touch and feel" section at Basanti Tea Bar (Photo by Jean Trinh/LAist)
Garcia's named each of the teas to reflect their flavor profiles and personalities. Expect green teas to be called "emeralds" and black teas as "dragons." If you want yerba mates, fermented red, or white teas, they've got those, too. Each of the teas may be mixed with other herbs and fruit, or come in their pure, basic form. They get their teas from a supplier in Germany who sources their teas from all over the world—from China to Japan to Argentina. In the same vein as Teavana, you can purchase those loose tea leaves to take home with you with instructions on how to prepare them.

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Blue Moon tea at Basanti Tea Bar is white tea with cranberry pieces and rose petals (Photo by Jean Trinh/LAist)
Basanti Tea Bar is really into properly preparing these teas. They even have a fancy tea espresso machine that is programmed to brew each tea with different instructions. For example, if you order a yerba mate, the barista will press a button on the machine and it will brew the tea to the correct temperature it's meant to be brewed and steeps it to the perfect time.

Garcia encourages her customers to come in and ask the baristas questions about the teas and ask for suggestions. She's into the holistic properties of the leaves, so if you're feeling a little tired, stressed or full from a huge meal, Garcia wants folks to ask the baristas what they should drink to make them feel better.

If you're not feeling like drinking straight tea, they also have things like tea-based espressos, lattes, chai teas, and frappes. One of our favorites we tried was the Yogu Matcha drinks, which are blended with yogurt, matcha tea, and fruit. They're light and refreshing without being overly sweet. Another one to try is their Full Moon blend which uses their Blue Moon white tea blend (which has cranberries and rose petals) mixed with almond milk and almond flavoring. If you feel like getting a chocolate chip mocha-like drink, their Dragon Cookie is a blended one much like a frappuccino made with black tea and chocolate chip cookies.

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All these drinks are customizable as well. Garcia says you can feel free to ask the baristas what fruits are in season that they can blend in the drinks, or mix in a different tea. Like Jamba Juice, if you want an energy or protein boost, you can ask for those, too.

They are aware that there's still a huge a demand for coffee, so just know you can get some of that brewed there, too. It's their own branded organic coffee that is roasted by a local roaster with varieties from Brazil, Peru and France.

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The inside of Basanti Tea Bar (Photo courtesy of Basanti Tea Bar)
Basanti Tea Bar isn't a huge place, but there's room for a few guests to sit around tables and sip on teas. A statue of an elephant greets you at the door when you walk in and one side of the shop is like a little market for teas. They'll be growing their locations as well. In a couple of weeks, they expect to open up a kiosk at the Burbank Town Center.

Basanti Tea Bar is located at 9465 S. Santa Monica Blvd., Beverly Hills, (310) 248-4943. Hours are Monday - Friday from 7 a.m. to 10 p.m., and Saturday - Sunday from 8 a.m. to 10 p.m. Drinks range from $3.50 to $6.95. 50 to 100 mg bags of tea range from about $7 to $44, with most of them average $12 to $14. Bags of coffee range from $16 to $19.