By Terry Miller
Okay, so someone has opened yet another coffee and tea shop in Pasadena…big deal, you say, right?
Well broadly speaking, yes, it is a very big deal. At Copa Vida , the art of tea, coffee and conversation goes well above and beyond the known dominion of cafes and counter culture. Copa Vida propels one into a pungent alternate universe where coffee and tea experts transform not only how you drink and what but how you’ll feel about the rich history of the tea and coffee growers of the world plus you’ll learn what it really means to operate a fair and direct trade business.
Genuinely passionate about their business, Steve Chang and wife Elaina opened Copa Vida in the old red white and bluezz location at 70 South Raymond last week in Old Pasadena to immediate shining reviews from customers and friends who attended their grand opening. The idea: keep it simple and do it exceptionally well, be fair and honest.
Copa Vida tastefully remodeled the old red white and bluezz location into a sparse gathering place where you can enjoy solo coffee or sit with others for stimulating conversation. The mesosphere is light and full of aromas which are enchantingly distinctive and inspiring at the same time. They’ll invite you to sit in one of two rooms and experience diverse worlds of flavor. Educating the palate, as well as the mind.
Principally, Copa Vida is two separate cafes under the same historic roof in Old Pasadena. One is devoted to the fine art of tea, tea making and education plus steeping and appreciating the best teas from around the world. During our recent visit we were treated to a special tea ceremony in which customers get to sample three exceptional teas at various stages of heat and steeping while poured into a small vessel where you inhale the aroma. Not unlike the way you would experience a fine wine you then pour the tea into another vessel and repeat the aroma assessment with the first, now empty, vessel. Sounds complicated, but really its quite simple and a very pleasing way to experience tea and the company of others.
Out tea expert this day was Do Kim who was serving Red Blossom teas with a minimum steep time of 40 seconds prepared in a Gong Fu tea set.
Kim told guests that the tea experienced was picked from Lugu Mountain in Taiwan. An exceptional tea , rich in history and left me wondering why I ever put milk and sugar with my British teas.
A fine tea should require no sweetening but they do offer honey as well as other natural sweeteners if you so desire for your teas and coffee.
Lugu Township, located in Nantou County, just above Jhushan, has all of the qualities needed for growing tea including generous elevation (between 600 and 1,200 meters), a cool climate, fresh mountain spring water and fertile land.
Its specialty is Tung-Ting , also known as Dongding Oolong Tea, which is produced on and around Dongding Mountain. Although not the first place to plant tea in Taiwan, Lugu’s tea history does extend back some 150 years, to 1855, when a Lugu resident, Lin Feng-chi, traveled to China’s Fujian Province for the imperial civil service examination. When he returned, he brought the happy news of his success and 36 tea plants. Twelve of these adapted well to Lugu’s Dongding Mountain conditions, and so began the cultivation of Dongding Oolong, a prized tea that is exported all over the world.
The other room is devoted to the love of coffee in all its aromatic grandeur. From the traditional to the lesser known cold coffees, one can sense the care and love that has gone into their choices.
Chang along with his staff of eight is highly knowledgeable when it comes to tea and coffee origins, and all the intricacies therein. Copa Vida is a strong advocate of free and fair trade in this (and other) businesses.
As Chang puts it, “ I really love tea and coffee…” but he’s very careful about where he buys. That passion is evident in the creation of each and every drink prepared at Copa Vida.
Chang says the experiences either at the coffee or tea room is ‘gender neutral’ whereas in some enterprises tea ( or high tea) could be considered more of a feminine experience.
On a recent trip to Costa Rica and Rome, Chang and his wife fell in love with coffee again while experiencing some of the traditional methods of brewing craft teas and coffees along with ancient methods combined with modern technology to create what Chang says is the Copa Vida experience.
One of my strong recommendations has to be the Freddo: a very slow brewed craft coffee of exceptional quality and refreshing flavor, served cold. Actually, cold slowed drip brewed for 15 hours. Truly outstanding.
Direct Trade and a philosophy of passion for his customers’ enjoyment of coffee and tea, is Chang’s mantra. Chang also has plans to continue the music tradition red white and bluezz created over the years with live music on the weekends.
Copa Vida is located at 70 South Raymond on the corner of Green Street. Call (626) 213-3952 for more information or visit their website at copa-vida.com.