By: Derek Nelson
Photos by: Megan Rooney
It’s difficult to deny that our lives as Georgetown students typically range from slightly hectic to overwhelmed with insurmountable, anxiety-inducing stress. During these most taxing periods, a proper frame of mind becomes elusive— it can be difficult to imagine a time when we feel totally relaxed and free from the shackles of our commitments. Yet Hoyas have developed many ways to deal with demanding schedules while preventing potential panic attacks: some read or play video games, while others watch Netflix or walk down to CorePower for a relaxing session of yoga. Me? I drink tea.
To clarify, this isn’t just any tea, nor is it really the beverage itself that ushers tranquility into my life when entropy seems to dominate my existence. It is instead the little tearoom nestled between Onward Reserve and Filomena on Wisconsin Avenue that provides this relaxation— Georgetown’s single best-kept secret, Ching Ching Cha.
When you arrive at Ching Ching Cha, you enter into a little hallway, which opens into a surprisingly spacious room with vaulted ceilings and skylights that provide the main source of illumination during the day. Relatively plain white walls accented with wooden trim highlight simple rosewood tables, each holding a terra cotta teapot. Slow, peaceful music fills the room. On one end stands a raised platform featuring a sign that requests guests remove shoes, and upon it sit low wooden tables with soft red cushions serving as seats. Teaware and East Asian cultural products line the entrance wall and sit prominently in the middle of the store, all for sale, and the back wall is covered in large steel containers holding the myriad of teas.
Entering this space feels almost like crossing into an alternate reality; you lose sight of city surroundings and the hustle and bustle of streets outside, and fall into a soothing world where your only obligation is to relax. If they’re available, I recommend trying the platform tables where you sit on cushions, and going when slightly hungry, but not starving, as the food can be expensive. You can choose from any of numerous teas— oolong, white, green, and black are all available, in addition to some herbal blends, artisan tea blossoms, and even iced tea. Each flavor comes with its own tray and a small, unique pot, which you fill with water from the larger teapot on a flame in the center of the table. Since every tea has different customs and proper ways of steeping, your (very friendly) server will instruct you on how to prepare your variety. Teas will typically run you anywhere from six to twenty dollars, depending on type. This might seem expensive, but the tea leaves can be re-steeped eight to ten times in one session, allowing you to constantly have a beverage while you relax and talk with others at your table.
As a restaurant in addition to a tearoom, Ching Ching Cha offers tasty food options, including “Tea Meals”– bento box-esque plates that include a main dish, vegetables, jasmine rice, and soup. I typically forgo this for an a-la-carte option; my go-to is the cold Yunnan Noodles (a delicious vegetarian dish with mushrooms, zucchini, spiced tofu, and tomatoes), dumplings (chicken or vegetable over Mongolian lamb), egg drop tomato soup, and a side of rice. When the meal is over, get an order of mochi to split with your table.
It is difficult to find a place in Georgetown that better allows you to escape from your stress than Ching Ching Cha. While not a cheap experience, going can provide you the peace of mind necessary to tackle the rest of your week, and the serene setting and cultural elements make it a great place to impress a date on your first, second, or even fiftieth time going out. It’s an ideal spot to take a deep breath, relax, and drink some delicious tea.
DEREK NELSON is a junior in the SFS, studying Science, Technology, and International Affairs, with a certificate in International Development. In his spare time, he enjoys attending hip-hop concerts, criticizing classmates’ outfits, and helping local entrepreneurs through campus-based nonprofit, HMFI.