For Patrick and Victoria Lam, mixing authentic teas and beverages is a way to share their upbringing with many who have barely scratched the surface of tea culture. Drinking bubble tea is an experience for most, with bright colors swimming in flavor and unique tastes that have yet to be replicated. However, the sibling co-creators opened Tea Street with a different spin and passion for conjoining deep family traditions with modern tastes. And they have done just that, with the help of their Vietnamese and Chinese heritage.
“Tea has always been a part of our childhood. Not in this form necessarily, but our parents would drink tea like it was water. I have no context of what caffeine actually means. I would drink tea like water, too,” reflected Victoria. Although Patrick and Victoria grew up locally, their parents were both born in Vietnam but were heavily involved in Chinese culture. This way of life translated into their childhood. The two frequently visited Chinese medicinal tea stores, which, combined with tea culture from their childhood, drew inspiration to use these herbs in a more contemporary context.
The two would visit major cities in California and New York in search of a shop that used Chinese and Vietnamese tea practices in a modern way. “I studied abroad in Shanghai, and Patrick went to Taiwan a lot. And we had lots of tea, so we yearned for that here but did not have it,” Victoria explained. “So, we said, ‘We should just bring it here.'” Tea Street, and the siblings, found a new home on Mississippi Avenue in 2018.
Its journey to bring authentic techniques to the tea world has already come to fruition, and its Taro Slush is a standout of genuine flavor. When the cold, frozen slush touches your tastebuds, its texture is a shocking yet oddly satisfying grainy feel, coupled with taro’s delicious taste. “We actually cook our own taro. Taro is a root vegetable; it’s very labor intensive. But I think the quality of it comes out because you’re tasting something really different,” Patrick explained. The duo’s effort to create with the utmost effort and quality in mind is apparent—and this is only the beginning.
Its Kumquat Green Tea is a formulation of inspiration, an example of taking rarely used ingredients and making something beautiful out of them. “A lot of what we do is extract the flavors from the natural fruit or the vegetable itself to make a tea out of it. We’ll essentially soak it so all the flavors come out, add a little sugar, and then we’ll get a syrup from it and make a tea,” Victoria said. The final product is a refreshing sip with a slightly sweet and tart taste, perfect for the summer days ahead. But the Lemon Sweat is the most symbolic of their upbringing, made with pickled lemons dating back to their grandfather. “This is something you won’t commonly find at other boba shops because it’s from traditional Chinese or Vietnamese medicine. It’s also something that is very time intensive,” Victoria stated. This sweet and salty lemonade is a delicious and sustainable alternative to the norm.
For those who visit tea shops for classic milk teas, the Lams have created a generous selection with different infusions. You can never go wrong with its Tea Street Milk Tea, a classic, milky beverage with a smooth mouthfeel. The Jasmine Green Milk Tea envelops the essence of florals, beautifully downplayed by the herbaceous green tea flavor. But for those with a sweet tooth, go for the Caramel Milk Tea, which tastes like a refreshing dessert. All its milk teas are made with lactose-free ingredients, allowing all to indulge.
Although the two opened Tea Street with the mission to serve drinks from their childhood, they discovered an even greater calling—to create a community. “I think Victoria and I both believe a lot in community building. When we were both in college, we were involved in a lot of Asian organizations, and that kind of got a spark in me. In anything I do, I want to have a sense of community and support,” Patrick said.
Erupting strong out of the pandemic and Mile High Asian Food Week, Tea Street’s support is evident and growing due to the intense and delicious flavors that the two create, guided by a passion for sharing culture with all.
Tea Street is located at 4090 E Mississippi Ave., Denver. It is closed on Tuesday, open Monday, Wednesday, Thursday and Sunday, 12 to 8 p.m. and Friday and Saturday, 12 to 9 p.m.
All photography by Jas Kitterman.