Wednesday, August 15, 2012

Panama Hotel Tea & Coffee House

The Pacific Northwest is widely known for its abundance of coffee shops.  Here in Seattle, we like a nice cup of roasted enthusiasm to start our day.  In addition to the ubiquitous coffee shops, we are also blessed with a more than respectable variety of tea rooms and tea shops. Each tea room or shop has a story and a unique selection of teas to make a visit worthwhile.  If you're in the area, I hope you'll find time to stop by and try them out for yourself.

Last week, I visited the Panama Hotel Tea & Coffee House located on Main Street near 6th Avenue.  The Panama Hotel is a National Historic Landmark, built in 1910 by Japanese-American architect Sabro Ozasa.  It features the only remaining Japanese bath house in the United States and is the focus of the novel, Hotel on the Corner of Bitter and Sweet by Jamie Ford.  The owner's contact information can be found on the official website if you would like to schedule a tour.

Just to the left of the hotel entrance is the Tea & Coffee House.  If you're lucky, you'll see the friendly resident cat patrolling a large collection of Japanese dolls in a window display just to the left of the Tea House entrance.

The staff were friendly and helpful and I felt even more welcome when this Fuji Musume doll greeted me just inside the entrance.  Fuji Musume (Wisteria Maiden) was the first Kabuki dance I learned and seeing this made me very sentimental.  Well played, Panama Hotel.

The Panama Hotel has two connected tea rooms.  The first room features a tea and coffee bar and an impressive display of historical art and artifacts.  

The first room is connected to a second tea room with additional seating including a long, beautiful table with seating for large groups and a piano.

In addition to tea and coffee, a selection of pastries and panini sandwiches are available.  There is also an assortment of wagashi (Japanese sweets) from Tokara which is a pleasant surprise.  As a note for my fellow gluten-intolerant tea drinkers, this tea room do not offer gluten-free options with the exception of the wagashi.

On this hot and humid day, my first beverage was an iced Lychee Black Tea.  It was light and refreshing with a rose-like taste and a sweet finish.  Delicious!

My second drink was an iced Coconut Pouchong (Oolong).  The aroma of the leaves was divine though much lighter in the cup.  The coconut flavor was strong in the mouth, but not unpleasantly so and there was also a light floral note.  I suspect this would do better paired with a light, flaky pastry to counteract the oil-like aftertaste which may have been a result of the coconut flavoring.  This would be worth a second try served hot during the cool days of autumn.

607 South Main, Seattle, Washington 98104

10:00am to 9:00pm (Monday-Saturday)
9:00am to 9:00pm (Sunday)

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