When Bianca Shah was young, she was amazed at her parents’ company, Chado Tea Room.
Hundreds of teas and accessories line the walls of the tearoom, where she worked making tea for customers.
“It’s a super family business,” says Shaha, who now works as its chief marketing officer. “We have more than 300 types of teas that we sell online and in our stores, which also have soup, sandwiches and salads to full afternoon teas.”
Chado Tea Room recently reopened all four of its LA locations—Pasadena, Torrance, Downtown LA and Hollywood—and is open from 11 a.m. to 5 p.m.
Through July 4, Chado is donating the proceeds of all in-store and online tea sales to the National Association of Minority Veterans, an organization dedicated to improving the lives of minority veteran communities across the United States by providing housing, counseling and employment programs.
While all tea sales will support the organization, Chado has also released two timely new summer tea blends in honor of July 4. Red, White & Blue Blend (available in-store) is a fragrant, herbal white tea with hibiscus, cornflower, rose hips, goji, lychee and cabernet flavor. Boston Tea Party (available in-store or online) is a blend of two light black teas: champagne Ceylon and Indian black tea.
Chado opened on West Third Street in 1990 as a small, almost quaint tearoom with few tables. In 1993, Reena Shah and her husband, Devan, acquired Chado. Six years later, Reena hired Tekeste (Tek) Mehreteab as cook. Mehreteab’s conscientious work, honesty and dedication to tea soon made him a manager, and in 2002 he became a partner with Devan and Reena in opening a second Chado location in Pasadena.
“My mom was born in the Fiji Islands and moved here when she was 2,” Shah says. “She was pretty much raised in LA. My dad immigrated from India in the late 1980s, and he was in New Jersey.
“He moved to LA once he married my mom. When he was in India, my dad worked for a tea broker. Tea was a lot further moving than America. He’s grown up on tea farms. When he moved to America, he decided we needed to have our own businesses. He brought over the first teas from south India.”
Devan, who died in 2016, is credited with bringing chai tea to the United States by the World Tea Academy.
“It was hugely flattering when they gave that to him,” Shah says. “Chai is a household item now.”
Mehreteab came to LA from Eritrea not knowing any English. But, Shah says, he’s come a long way—from cook, to server, to waiter, to manager to part owner.
“He’s one of the most educated men I know,” she says.
She says the pandemic is troubling to Chado Tea Room, which stayed open for takeout orders. Since reopening, all Chado’s tearooms have been reconfigured to offer comfortable social distancing between tables, hand sanitizer stations, and immediate sanitation systems upon the departure of each customer. Chado staff is well equipped with gloves and masks.
“Our online sales did jump a little bit,” she says about the pandemic. “We’ve just been waiting to open for months. If we had to go another couple of months, it would have been a different situation. We were closed on Mother’s Day, and that’s one of our busiest days.
“We got a lot of support from the community. We did a whole afternoon tea to go. It came with a two-tier rack that people could display. It’s a do-it-yourself kit for $175, and it came with tea for two, teapots, teacups, the rack and chocolate. We’re thinking about keeping it on hand.”
Each of the stores has a small selection of accessories, as well as English goodies like scones and cakes. Tastings are frequent to showcase new teas that have come in.
“We’re just looking forward to welcoming back our customers,” she says. “Rest assured, we’re taking proper precautions.”
• 79 N. Raymond Avenue, Pasadena
• 1303 El Prado Avenue, Torrance
• Inside the Japanese American National Museum,
369 E. First Street, Downtown Los Angeles
• 6801 Hollywood Boulevard, Suite 209, Hollywood
Its website is chadotearoom.com