An East meets West, Tradition meets Modern tea story. Amy Truong and Lani Gobaleza of PARU tea in San Diego, CA, are modern tea blenders and merchants putting their unique stamp on the tea world.
At PARU tea, they feature a variety of teas from Asia, showing that teas from Southeast Asia are just as flavorsome as their Japanese and Chinese counterparts. They also have lovely tisanes (herbal teas) and create unique blends featuring childhood memories and modern tastes.
From a cold brew pop-up to a full-fledged store - with a second coming soon - we’re excited to share the tea journey and stories of Amy and Lani of PARU tea.
I love how at Paru Tea you beautifully blend teas and different tea cultures. How did Paru Tea start? What inspired you to open your own tea shop?
Amy: Thank you so much for appreciating that cultural balance. We like to think that cultural balance is at the heart of what we do. Personally, I always knew that I wanted to have my own business. My grandfather was an entrepreneur and conducted business in Vietnam, France, and Japan. I’ve also had a lifelong appreciation for tea—I don’t really drink coffee or alcohol—so it just made sense.
After working in different industries, I started PARU as a cold brew tea pop-up. We always knew we wanted to open up a storefront to showcase teas and hold events for people to have access to specialty teas and meet like-minded folks. It was the local community here in San Diego who gave us the confidence to do this sooner than planned.
What’s the role that you see tea play in culture?
Lani: Our company is based in San Diego, where tea culture seems to be on the rise. However, it’s a slow movement, which is nice because tea is often about taking your time. Most of the tea enthusiasts we meet are just starting out or have developed an affinity for tea on their own and are now seeking community.
Over the past few years, we’ve seen patrons ask more specific questions and share their own tea recipes with us. This is exactly what we were hoping to see: folks developing not just a curiosity for tea but a relationship with it.
As Asian Americans, tea is a simple way to reconnect with our Asian roots and honor the long and evolving histories of tea and herb-producing countries.
How do you make your favorite cup of tea?
Amy: I like brewing it in a gaiwan. It showcases the flavors of tea the best, especially when it comes to oolong teas. It’s also very meditative for me, to focus on the act of pouring tea and tasting it in small cups. I also can’t finish a whole mug of tea, so discovering how to brew with a gaiwan years ago was the best thing that has happened to me!
Lani: I add two teaspoons of matcha to a chawan, about a quarter cup of heated water, and whisk until it gets nice and frothy. I’ve also been drinking a lot of single-origin green teas, like sencha and gyokuro, prepared in a kyusu or mini glass teapot.
Any tips for anyone interested in entering the world of tea and loose leaf tea? Or someone who wants to up their brew?
Amy: It’s easier than you think! Once you brew loose leaf tea, you won’t go back. You can even start brewing loose leaf tea in your own tea bags (please use biodegradable ones if you have access to them), and it’ll make a world of difference. As you grow more comfortable with loose leaf tea, you can really get into different teaware and see what fits your style the best.
Lani: I have a deep love for teaware, and I wish more people entered the tea world this way. I think it can teach you a lot about tea. I would suggest finding a brewing vessel- like a chawan (tea bowl) for matcha, gaiwan for oolong or dark teas, kyusu for green teas, or even a mini glass teapot so that you get a higher tea to water ratio. It will depend on the type(s) of tea that you’re interested in exploring.
You don’t need to invest in expensive tools at the start. As Amy mentioned, it’s important to get comfortable first, then you’ll find your way and develop a ritual that feels right for you. For example, I prepare ceremonial matcha in the morning and drink a rooibos and verbena blend at night. To make those two teas, I need a chawan and a glass teapot, respectively. In between, I’ll draw out an oolong in a gaiwan for as long as I can (oolong teas are great for multiple steeps using the same leaves).
The different tools help me really focus on the teas and tisanes I’ve chosen, and it becomes an experience, even if I’m brewing solo.
What is the story (or stories) that you want to tell through the teas you create at Paru Tea and with your business?
It was important to us both that Southeast Asian countries such as Vietnam and Thailand were represented in our collection because we both come from Southeast Asian backgrounds. Some folks tend to regard the teas that come from these places as a little less authentic, bootleg or backups at best, but that really isn’t true.
We felt the same about tea blends. Our tea blends mean something to us, and they often mean something to the people who are drawn to them… or maybe they just really like the taste, which is nice. Not everything has to be complicated.
If you’re in the San Diego area, you can head into their shop to check out their teas in person in Point Loma (now open) and La Jolla (coming this fall). But, you can also access their amazing collection of teas, tea sets, and other accessories, online at paruteabar.com. Make sure to follow them on social @paruteabar on Facebook, Twitter, Pinterest, and Instagram.
This holiday season, shop small if you are able! You’ll be surprised at the treasures you’ll find and the connections you make.