Walking past Cha-Ma-Gu-Dao on Glenridge Avenue, I was immediately sucked in by the stark Zen beauty of the place. Cha-Ma-Gu-Dao, which opened two weeks ago, is part tea shop, art gallery, and oasis of tea culture.
Owner Robert Scott travelled the world while cultivating a passion for tea. Now, he brings Baristaville enough tea choices to last a lifetime. Listening to Scott describe teas – floral, full bodied, nutty, earthy – and discuss blends, growing regions and harvests – is like listening to a Napa valley winemaker.
Sit down for a pot ($4, and sold in bulk), but first look over the menu of 170 teas from all over the planet with names like Golden Nepal, All That Jazz, and Butter Truffle. Don’t be put-off by the vast choices – Manager Miu Eng will guide you through the blacks, greens, florals, flavored, Oolongs, whites, herbals, chais and more. Or you can start with a sniff test at the bar. "If you like the smell, you’ll like the taste," she says… We opted for a mild vanilla-kiwi flavored green tea. Mmmm…
The display case of exotic sounding gourmet sweets is tempting. We tasted tea cookies made with lemongrass-ginger, green tea, black currant and earl grey tea ($3/plate). Showing unusual restraint, we skipped the sinfully rich dark chocolate brownies with mandarin orange.
If you are into teapot collecting, there’s a lot of eye candy here. Many museum quality clay and iron teapots are on display (and for sale). The finest handcrafted pots are Yixing from China and Kyusu from Japan. You may want to think twice about serving tea from these showpieces…prices range up to $300.
Cha-Ma-Gu-Dao means Ancient Tea and Horse Trail, a trail linking southwest China to Tibet, also called the southern Silk Road. Each month, look for their tastings of up to six different teas ($12), discover the 5,000 year tradition of tea, and go home with a goodie bag of tea samples. On Saturday mornings, bring the kids to an hour long tea party ($4/kid) with pure fruit teas, cookies, music and a book reading. And that’s just the beginning…Scott promises more tea events in future months. Warm up and chill out at 212 Glenridge Avenue, Montclair. Call for dates and to reserve, 973-746-0975. — Annette Batson