In a city that often seems dominated by tasteless spoonfuls of NesCafé instant coffee, tea lovers can find themselves lost and yearning for a wholesome sip of camellia sinensis. Authentic tea from China, Japan, and Taiwan can be hard to find when most cafés stick to low quality bagged Ceylon tea. Luckily, after a couple weeks of searching, several hidden gems have emerged. It turns out that Santiago has a few tea shops with thorough selections, as well as tea houses with unique, relaxing atmospheres.
La Tienda del Té (Photo: Ginger Wojcik)
First stop: Where to stock up on loose-leaf tea.
Milagritos is a wonderful hole-in-the-wall tea shop on Paseo Huérfanos near Cerro Santa Lucía. The one-room boxy storefront has shelves that line the high ceilings, all stocked with loose-leaf. Their selection is wide, with traditional greens such as Dragonwell, a few pu-erh teas, various blacks and a number of nice oolongs. Most of the fruity flavors and infusions are a little too embellished for this tea purist, but the shop’s variety makes it appeal to many. A personal favorite, which is also recommended online, is the Sencha Chai. It is a mix of traditional chai spices with Japanese green tea, a perfect blend of spicy and light. Milagritos also sells ground coffee and teaware such as tea infusers and stylish storage tins at reasonable prices.
Teaware at Whittard Chelsea 1886 (Photo: Anika Rice)
La Tienda del Té on Francisco Bilbao has a lot of bagged Chinese tea as well as a small selection of loose-leaf that they bag themselves. The imported bagged tea includes white tea, pu-erh tea, Keemun black tea, strawberry infusions, jasmine oolong, organic rooibos and various greens. The shop, however, seems to focus more on dried fruits, nuts, herbs, and spices, contrary to its name.
For a less local and more corporate tea-buying experience, the Costanera Center has a Whittard Chelsea 1886 shop. This British tea and coffee shop has a surprisingly large selection of tea. While some of the teas are traditional Chinese varieties like Dragonwell, the company takes liberties with others such as "Sweet Mate," "Milky Oolong" and "Crème Brulée." Otherwise, a wide selection of herbal infusions, novelty hot chocolate, and tea and coffeeware are available.
A place to sip: Tea houses and cafés with ample variety and relaxing atmospheres
La Tetería (Photo: Anika Rice)
La Tetería in Los Leones is the closest I’ve come to finding a traditional style tea house. Oriental shelves and tea tins line the walls and front windows. Customers are welcome to sit on the comfortable couches or at one of the various tables in this cozy café. La Tetería has black teas from pure harvests in India, China, Nepal and Sri Lanka. Green teas are available from Japan and China and two of them are even organic. Diverse aromatic infusions, oolongs like the classic Chinese Tie Kuan Yin, and a pure white tea round out this café’s comprehensive collection. On a warm afternoon, I recommend the Chai Rooibos iced tea.
Leerté (Photo: Julie Mercier)
Leerté in Bellas Artes brings its own unique twist to this list of tea places. It is a café and a bookstore with an unexpected extra focus: all of its books are written by Chilean authors and are independently published. They also have an ongoing book exchange on a table outside. Recently started by two young book-lovers, Leerté is the perfect place to sip tea (or coffee) while reading the newspaper or one of their Chilean books. Students would probably find it a relaxed study atmosphere. As for their tea, there’s a varied selection of Japanese greens, flavored blacks and even several pu-erhs.
Whether you want to find unique loose-leaf teas to brew at home or you just want to lounge in a comfortable tea house, these Santiago tea spots give the enthusiasts among us abundant tasting options.
Metro Bellas Artes
La Tienda del Té
Avenida Francisco Bilbao 2395
Buses 212, 104 from Metro Los Leones
Whittard Chelsea 1886
Costanera Center, 4th floor
Santa Magdalena 86
Metro Los Leones
Metro Bellas Artes