Taking Tea To The Next Level

There are very few places in Los Angeles where I feel comfortable (or safe) sitting in one place for 3 to 6 hours at a time. It needs to be slightly below room temperature, strong wifi, and a reasonable hipster-to-me ratio. Here is my favorite mecca of peace:

Bird Pick
10 S De Lacey Ave
Pasadena, CA 91105
Neighborhood: Pasadena, California

There’s so much that makes this place special, I feel slightly overwhelmed when writing about it. Let’s start with the drinks and then we can work up from there.

Something unique about Bird Pick is the fact that they are a distributer AND a teahouse; all in one. Don’t want to put on pants? ME EITHER. Then feel free to enjoy their wide variety of imported teas from the around the world from the comfort of your own home! Their online store is packed with only the highest quality tea imported from countries such as China, Japan, and Taiwan. Depending on your tastes, you buy anything from mini individual teabags to loose leaf tea cans. You can also find all your tea accessories on the same website so that cuts down on shipping costs, hassle, and human interactions.

My favorite in-house drink is the new Cucumber Mint drink for the summer season. If you’re a ‘milk-tea’ kind of person, they are also incredibly delicious because all of the ingredients are fresh and REAL; which, to be honest, is rare. Let me explain. In the Pasadena/Arcadia area, there are more teahouses than Starbucks on every corner. There’s a reason I feel so comfortable around Chinese culture (but actually). I’ve been surrounded by it my entire life! However, many of these teahouses compromise quality for quantity and use non-dairy creamer in most of their ‘milk tea’ concoctions, which seems criminal to me. If I’m shelling out $7 bucks for a tea latte, there better be milk in that cup. Just kidding, dairy freaks me out. BUT STILL! Your body is a temple; it’s the only one you got. Shouldn’t you know what goes in it?


For that reason, owner Lan Ong has made it a priority to keep everything at Bird Pick fresh, honest, and delectable. At the counter, you’ll be able to witness the staff crush, mix, and shake up your own custom tea order. For me, there’s a certain sense of confidence that comes with knowing what goes into my tea and into my body; which is why I continue to come back 4-3 times a week for my bi-daily fix.

Speaking of Lan, she was incredibly generous with her time and allowed me to interview her about the story behind all of her success.


Let’s talk business:

Tea has always been a part of Lan’s life. Her father was an expert in Chinese herbal medicine and passed down generations of knowledge about the healing powers of tea to Lan. But Lan wanted to take tea to the next level.

If you want to brew really great tea, you need to use really great ingredients.

In search for the perfect tea farm, Lan was able to establish and negotiate a variety of new relationships all over Asia. Once a year, she personally checks up on the small farms to insure that her product is the best it could possibly be-and remains that way.

Her advice: if you’re a woman in the Asian business market it’s important to be fearless and to ask for what you want. She told me quite frankly,

In China, every network and vendor meeting will probably be filled with men. But I defiled that stereotype. It’s 2013, women don’t need to be at home anymore. We need to be in the big meetings pursuing our dreams.

And that’s exactly what she’s been doing. Bird Pick’s décor has been designed and decorated (floor to ceiling) according to Lan’s vision. To me, what’s most impressive about this feat is that Lan has no formal art or design background. Instead, she went with her gut about how she wants Bird Pick to feel for the customer.

The ambiance is much like a forest. The tables and chairs mimic the soft branches of trees and the walls are covered from top to bottom in loose-leaf tea jars. The grainy floor reflects a rainbow of grey-like colors, depending on the light, and was hand stained by Lan. The walls are littered with pieces of hand-made art, advertisements for local businesses, and (of course) my business cards. Haha.


Another reason I love Bird Pick (and Lan) so much is because BP goes above and beyond to create an experience for their customers. In the past, BP has held artistic events such as a SpeakTEAsy… which is a 1920’s theme night with people dressed as the cast of The Great Gatsby. They’ve also hosted “PoeTea Night: A Night of Tea & Poetry” for local artists and people to connect and celebration expression.

Because that’s all anyone wants right? To be heard. And Understood.

I salute Lan. Wander onwards with your bad self.


— Lan will be throwing a Masquerade Ball at the Cravens Estate for the American Red Cross at the end of October! The benefit is raising money to support local emergency resources and will be a black and white event (+red). If you’d like any more information, fell free to shoot her a message here.


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