For three years, I haven’t quite known what to do with Healdsburg’s Taste of Tea. A combination restaurant, tea house, spa and retail location on North Street between a winery tasting room and the Raven Theater, it kind of defied explanation.
First off you don’t (as I mistakenly thought), eat tea sandwiches while getting a green tea foot soak. As much as that sounds amazing, it’s not a thing. You can, however, drink a tea and sake cocktail while eating an authentic bento box in the cafe. You can drink tea while getting a foot soak in the spa room. You can simply eat from their expanded menu — from miso soup and wakame salads to pork ramen, curry noodles and donburi — and schedule a one-hour tea exploration session with a tea docent afterward.
Basically, the combinations are endless. Just make sure to get a foot soak in there somewhere.
The reason Taste of Tea has come back on my radar is the authentic Japanese comfort food created by owner and executive chef Nozomu (Nez) Tokugawa. The Classic Bento ($18) includes meticulously prepared offerings of pickled sea vegetables, miso soup, small bites of sashimi and chicken katsu, all served in a lacquered bento box that looks and feels like a small gift rather than a simple lunch. Specials like the katsu changeup, but teriyaki beef and chicken as well as fried tofu are always on the menu.
One of Nez’s signatures is Miso Ramen ($14) made with vegan kombu broth — a traditional ramen base. Topped with bbq pork, a shoyu-marinated egg, bamboo shoots, and nori, it’s a bowl of warmth and deeply satisfying flavor. Noodle and rice bowls include yakitori, donburi, and sweet Japanese curry. Though not always available, ochazuke (a grilled rice ball served with green tea and pickled plum) is a simple Japanese rustic soup that uses tea in place of broth, worth checking out. For dessert, ginger rice pudding with candied ginger and fruit ($5) is a sweet way to finish, perfect with your last sips of tea.
With one of the most extensive loose leaf tea menus in the region — there are at least 80 — prepare to spend some time perusing the choices. Tea flights ($15) include three 8-ounce pots if you can’t quite decide or want to taste with a friend. Japanese Matcha is served straight ($5), or can be jazzed up with vanilla syrup, coconut milk or even turned into a sort of Bloody Mary mixed with tomato juice, cilantro sugar and celery ($7).
Beer and sake are available, but we were especially excited about the Marteani drinks ($7), alcohol-free cocktails that blend flavored teas with mint, cranberry, mango and other ingredients for a refreshing alternative.
Overall: Taste of Tea isn’t your typical teahouse, but a one-stop relaxation spot to fill up and wind down.
Taste of Tea, 109 North St., Healdsburg, 707-431-1995, thetasteoftea.com. Open Friday through Tuesday from11a.m. to 8p.m., Monday and Tuesday to 6p.m., closed Wednesday and Thursday.