Posted by: Kath Usitalo | February 9, 2012

Oh Say Can You Tea

In the traditionally coffee-loving U.S.A. tea drinking has come a long way since the days when the beverage-in-a-bag choice meant Lipton or Red Rose, hot or iced.

Green, black, white, oolong, jasmine, ginseng, pu’er, flavored… Grocery store shelves are now lined with colorful boxes of tea bags in caffeinated, decaf and herbal varieties, and articles tout the health benefits of teas. Tea shops have popped up in malls, loaded with loose teas and exotic looking pots and tea-making tools.

Goldfish are prevalent in Chinese culture

Although more accessible, the art of tea is still foreign to a java junkie like me.

But it’s a bit less intimidating after spending time at Goldfish Tea in beautiful downtown Royal Oak, a Detroit suburb-turned hot shopping and dining destination.

Goldfish Tea owners Jim and Janice Girling were committed coffee drinkers living in Beijing on assignment for Chrysler when they learned to love tea.

They switched beverage allegiances, immersed themselves in Chinese tea culture, and decided that when they returned to the U.S. they would share their passion and knowledge.

In 2007 they opened their warm and relaxing spot filled with art, furniture, decorative fixtures and accessories from China. They maintain contact with sources there for the beautiful and authentic serving sets, tea pots, utensils, trays and gaiwans, traditional Chinese tea cups, that they sell in the shop.

The tea, too, comes from China. Dozens of choices are served daily and are sold loose in sacks. The staff is well-versed in tea and eager to walk you through the options, whether you enjoy it in-house or to go. Or both. Sip your fill and then package up your leaves to take home to enjoy later—the server told me that most teas can stand a few steepings.

Choose from dozens of teas by the cup or pot

Plan ahead and you can take a seat (handcarved in China) at the tea bar for an hour-long tasting and a relaxed lesson on the types, ceremony and history of tea.

You’ll sample three teas and learn the nuances of each, from the proper water temperature and vessel for each to the effect steeping and re-steeping has on the flavor.

The tea tasting session is complimentary for two to six people and must be reserved by calling 248.541.5252. (There’s a $2 per person charge for groups larger than six.)

Calming decor features furnishings from China

When I stopped by the other afternoon some folks chatted over tea and sweet treats while others seemed contentedly settled in with their computers to enjoy the free Wi-Fi—it’s legit to linger when you pay for a pot that yields up to five cups of tea.

Prices depend on the type of tea and start at just over $3 for cups, $4-plus for a small pot and over $7 for a large pot.

You are free to refill at one of the three faucets that dispense hot water at temperatures suited to different teas (don’t worry, it’s all labeled).

Goldfish Tea is located on Fourth Street just west of Main. It is open every day and serves soups and sandwiches in addition to baked goods. And yes, you can order coffee, too. 



  1. I still like my Red Rose and Celestial Seasonings Red Zinger.

    • I stock up on Lipton for iced tea.
      I like Earl Grey and Constant Comment for flavor.

  2. I definitely want to check out this place. I’m a green tea drinker.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s


%d bloggers like this: