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Wednesday, August 27, 2008

Dragon Chinese Cuisine & Tea

Bor and Siew Sengpaseuth (Chen) opened their first Dragon Chinese Cuisine & Tea restaurant in San Diego in 1985. They now have two locations, one at 12075 Carmel Mountain Rd. and the other in Mission Valley at 2169 Fenton Parkway in the same strip center as IHOP and Oggi's Pizza and across from IKEA. Their restaurants serve traditional Chinese food, but of particular interest is their substantial offering of mostly Chinese teas.

Bor was born into a tea loving family, so he naturally brought his family traditions to their business venture. Their traditionally decorated store offers over 30 varieties of tea from Zhe Giang, Yun Nan, Gian Su, Shanghi, Foo Jian, and Hau Nan provinces.

They offer both loose and bagged teas, with an array of loose teas in plastic bags that can be opened to sample their aroma and examine their leaf quality before purchasing.

Notable "bests" among the loose teas include:

Yunan Tippy, a full-bodied black tea

Dragon Well Lungching, a more delicate green tea grown in the vicinity of an especially pure water well used only by the emperor. The teas grown in that area sometimes sell for up to $1,000 per pound. You can pick up this loose leaf tea that is grown in the same area and watered by the same well for just a few dollars (such a bargain!).

The best among the bagged teas include:

Royal Kuan Yin Tea, a delightfully complex Oolong tea that I had picked up from the Chens a few years ago and drank my way through 100 bags in no time while other teas still sat in my tea chest. It's truly a magnificent tea experience not to be missed.

If you like subtle teas (pun intended), try the Shoumei white tea.

If you need help with digestion and with cleansing the impurities from your body, the Yunna Bo Nay tea may just fit the bill.

The Chen's prices are very reasonable for the value of their teas. Loose teas sell for about $15-35 per pound. The bagged teas sell for $2.95 for 25 bags and $5.95 for 100 bags. Compare that to a 20-bag box of Tazo black tea at Vons that costs $5.24. You do the math, not to mention the quality. Unless you like Lipton that sells for $5.79 for 100 bags (now available for $2.49 with Von's card), I think the teas at Dragon Chinese Cuisine & Tea are an exceptional value for the quality and freshness that they offer. Their store also carries a number of reasonably priced tea pots and accessories.

For the best result in taste, Bor suggested that the full-bodied Oolong teas be brewed at 180 to 200 degrees for 3-5 minutes. The lighter greens should be brewed at 150 to 180 degrees, otherwise they "bruise" and their light flavor can become bitter. I've noticed many coffee houses use their espresso steamers to indiscriminately heat water for tea drinkers, usually making it far too hot for green teas.

On a personal note, Bor and Siew were among the many whose homes were destroyed by the San Diego wild fires last October. They were awakened at 4:30 a.m. and were forced to flee for their lives. They ended up at their store in Mission Valley at 5:30 in the morning, probably wondering how they were going to put their lives back together. But, as many small business owners are, they have an optimism that has carried them through as they've been putting their home life back together while maintaining their profitable businesses. They're wonderful people and I hope you take the time to have lunch or dinner at their restaurant, get some take-out, or let them cater your company affair. We should support our local business people, especially the ones affected by the fire tragedies. And of course, pick up some tea while you're there!

Their restaurant website is Their teas are not yet listed on their site, but I'm sure you can contact them at (619) 281-2198 if you would like to order one of the teas I've highlighted above until they get their teas listed on their website. You can also contact them by email at

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