Subtle Teas

dining hiddenpeakAncient tea traditions have survived for centuries without the help of the Internet or cell phones. Hidden Peak Teahouse, which has created a digital-free zone, aims to instill a reverence towards the nuances between these simple leaves and the people who care for them.

The teahouse makes its home in the spacious room where Rhythm Fusion once delighted us. Shiny, wide-plank wooden floors support an array of seating configurations, from cushioned Asian-influenced sofas to black lacquered chairs with mother-of-pearl inlays. The shop boasts a collection of unique tea brewing and drinking vessels, including translucent cups carved from multi-colored moss agate stones.

Hidden Peak’s delightfully lengthy tea menu is arranged by type of tea, such as white, oolong and black, with each section outlining differences in harvesting, growing, or aging. The simplest order is a bowl of the day’s Pu-erh blend ($.99).

Instead of a pot, we opted for the Gaiwan service in order to interact with the leaves. Our server brought a thermos, a decorative lidded bowl and a cup for each order. Two leaves and a bud, hand-rolled into balls, is named Jasmine Pearls ($5.25). Steeped in the bowl, he used its lid to strain the liquid into the cup. The floral aroma filled our noses. Aged Tibetan Brick Pu-erh ($5.50) had an earthy flavor, with a surprisingly soft feel on the tongue. We repeatedly steeped the leaves, noticing different essences with long and short brewing times. dining hidden

Unique snacks included Living Spicy Green Tostada ($3), a thin handmade cracker of greens with flax and sunflower seeds spread with sunflower seed pâté, and topped with sprouts and slices of green and yellow cherry tomatoes which was gluten-free, organic and vegan. Living Flax Crackers ($5) were served with spicy hummus. Sweet treats included a Dark Chocolate Peanut Butter Cup ($2) sweetened with agave. | KP

Hidden Peak Teahouse, 1541 Pacific Ave., Santa Cruz, 423-4200. Open Sunday through Wednesday 11 a.m. until 9 p.m., and Thursday through Saturday 11 a.m. until 10 p.m. Visit hiddenpeakteahouse.com.

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