5. Gunpowder Jack Black ($3) [CLOSED]
This high-tech teahouse in Silicon Beach streams video on four-panel screens of action sports like mountain biking. Their beverage menu is similarly renegade. Jack Black, which a server called “our answer to coffee,” consists of a “gunshot” pulled with a two-group Excelsior espresso machine. However, instead of beans, they brew guayusa (yerba matte’s cousin), roasted chicory, dried dandelion, rosemary and cacao shells. The drink’s simultaneously bitter and tangy. This is probably the kind of drink (and teahouse) that could only work near Venice Beach, and though I’m torn about the flavor, the fascination is undeniable.
6. Half & Half Tea House Osmanthus Oolong Milk Tea ($4.35): This popular chain debuted in 2008 in San Gabriel and fanned out across the San Gabriel Valley. The Monterey Park branch features a purple front, mismatched chandeliers, small wood bench and counter. Drinks use no powders, and fruit syrups are actually made with real fruit, which is refreshing. Osmanthus Oolong Milk Tea is a soothing beverage with added floral quality.
7. LAMILL Coffee Masala Chai ($6): Beverage entrepreneur Craig Min also operates Sun Garden tea company out of Alhambra, so it should come as no surprise that LAMILL serves good Masala Chai. Staffers blend Assam tea with traditional Masala curry spices, milk and sugar. A barista will strain the beverage into a ceramic mug, then sprinkle a line of spice over the cup. Gritty chai remains at the bottom, as does lingering spice.
8. Las 7 Regiones Champurrado ($3): The pre-Columbian drink can be found at plenty of many Mexican restaurants in town, including Oaxacan strongholds like Guelaguetza and Las 7 Regiones, which Lidia Chavarria opened in L.A.’s Byzantine-Latino Quarter in 1996. Their Champurrado features a blend of atole blanco (mild cornmeal drink) and bittersweet Oaxacan chocolate that’s not too rich, since there’s no milk. The cup comes with dip-able pan de llama, a loaf of egg bread that’s kind of like Mexico’s version of challah, which arrives studded with sesame seeds.