By Emily G. Peters
Some believe reading tea leaves can reveal your future. For Au79 Teahouse owner Megan Lee, her career path has been clear since age 19: she was destined for the tea business.
Sharing ownership with her family, the Lees have opened successful Au79 teahouse storefronts in Arcadia, Pasadena and San Gabriel. Their name, Au79, reflects the standard they set for their products.
“We got our name Au79 from our top of the line ‘gold standard’ tea quality,” said Lee. “Hence, we found the name Au (gold) in the periodic table and 79, the element number for gold.”
The obsession with quality is a family trait. Although the first Au79 teahouse in Los Angeles opened almost twenty years ago, the Lee family history is steeped in tradition, marrying eastern ingredients with a west coast vibe.
“Tea is our family business, and has been for decades,” explained Lee, whose grandfather Su-Mu Lee is the founder of the internationally renowned Ten Ren’s Tea Company. “Ten Ren’s Tea is one of the largest and best-known tea manufacturers in the far east.”
Au79’s expansive tea menu is impressive, flooded with a variety of green, black, herbal, fruit and milk teas with plenty of toppings like boba and chia seeds. The kitchen cranks out a slew of Taiwanese bites, including crispy chicken with rice, brick toast and fragrant tea-seasoned eggs.
Of course, Lee has her favorites too—like their house oolong tea. Smooth and sweet, the beverage is infused with ginseng and osmanthus flower, a popular plant for both its flavor and Chinese medicinal uses. “This tea is only available at our stores,” she noted, “but for people new to boba, I would also recommend our jasmine green tea or jasmine milk green tea with boba. It is one of our top sellers.”
Now in three locations, the Lees have expanded their operations to accommodate the tastes and pace of adjoining neighborhoods. The original Au79 teahouse in Arcadia offers to-go style service, with a large outdoor patio and free Wi-Fi for worker bees and late-night study sessions. In San Gabriel, Au79 Tea Spirit supplies a larger, full-service establishment better suited to a leisurely tea time with pals. Their latest and smallest location, Au79 Tea Express, tailors to the fast-paced college population of Pasadena City College, located just across the street. All three teahouses are open seven days a week, opening early and closing late.
Though coffee tends to float to the surface as the trendiest caffeinated drink, Au79 Teahouse’s long success proves that tea culture clearly has a hold on L.A. With constant specials, giveaways, and buy-one-get-one deals to taste everything on the menu, these leaves are giving the beans a run for their money.
Au79 Teahouse is located at 815 W. Naomi Avenue, Suite G in Arcadia; Au79 Tea Express is located in Pasadena at 1671 E. Colorado Blvd and Au79 Tea Spirit at 1635 S. San Gabriel Blvd. Contact the team at www.au79teahouse.com and follow them on Facebook and Instagram @au79teahouse.