Let me describe my move from Pasadena to Monterey Park in terms of my restaurant experience. Pasadena is a burgeoning microcosm of Los Angeles that is constantly diversifying its offerings, basically by the week. Gaining a foothold in LA almost certainly belies an opening in Pasadena very soon (looking at you, Mendocino Farms, Midori Matcha, even Canter’s Deli?!). But if Pasadena is Google, widening its product offerings faster than you can say Picasa, Monterey Park is more Apple, saying with a half-shrug, “We’ll do the iPhone, we’ll do it well, and you’ll buy it.” Monterey Park does a few iPhones, actually: it does dim sum. It does hot pot. Perhaps most importantly for my insatiable sweet tooth, it does boba. So when I say Jin Tea Shop feels like a reimagining, I hope you take me at my word.
Just a block south of Old Town Pasadena, Jin Tea Shop is one of the rare tea places I could honestly describe as elegant. Also one of the smallest I’ve been to, it’s located between Color Me Mine and hot pot staple Boiling Point’s concept location. This area has gone through quite a few restaurant changes in the past year: Bachi Burger, Guppy House, and Blockhead’s have given way to Ichi-Gyo-Ichi, Beer & Claw, and Milkie & Snowie (my guess is that they should’ve been called Block & Head’s to have had a chance in 2018). Jin Tea Shop is perfectly at home among these new establishments despite now being around for a few years.
Inside, you’ll find six high-definition close-ups of various teas on one wall, a television on another wall extolling the virtues of them, and the flooring which would look equally fitting as a backsplash in any modern home. In fact, the focus on growth and freshness is reminiscent of the famous Osulloc Tea Museum in Jeju. That Jin emanates these qualities in the space of a typical college dorm room is truly admirable.
Food: All is fair and just with the world when you see that the drinks here are absolutely gorgeous. The bottles are sleek, not to mention as recognizable as the old Half & Half superwide cups, enemy of the everyday cupholder (albeit more economical than Jin, admittedly). Shown here are two popular specialty drinks: Butterfly Pea Flower Lemonade (left, $6) and Love Potion ($6.25) which features a tantalizing orange color from the passion fruit. I favored the lemonade, which mixed better with the herbal butterfly pea flower tea in my opinion, instead of the stronger tang of passion fruit. While the taste is not as distinctive as the colorful gradients and hues, the drinks are light and well-balanced. If your nearby boba options are starting to blend together, if an overly sweetened almond milk tea feels too standard for you, Jin is a refreshing change of pace.
Appreciation: Finding out that butterfly pea flower tea changes color depending on pH. Honestly, nothing makes me happier knowing that cool science made these beautiful drinks possible.