While studying alternative medicine at The Ayurvedic Institute in New Mexico, Steve Schwartz discovered his passion for the alchemy of blending herbs and botanicals. In 2004, Schwartz founded Art of Tea, sourcing only highest-quality ingredients to create award-winning artisanal blends. Headquartered in Monterey Park, Art of Tea is now a leading purveyor of organic and specialty teas and has cultivated collaborations with prominent cultural institutions, chefs, and restaurants, including LACMA, The Getty, The Peninsula Hotels, and The Huntington. Recently, Schwartz released his first book, Art of Tea: A Journey of Ritual, Discovery, and Impact, which delves into his personal backstory and how he transformed the challenges of his upbringing into a life mission to create impact through tea. Here, the master blender spills the tea on his local favorites.
One of my favorite ways to unwind after work is to visit Sequoia Park. It’s a hidden park above our headquarters in Monterey Park that overlooks the Pasadena mountainside in one direction while facing the ocean on the other side. It’s an incredible vantage point that showcases the breadth of what this region has to offer.
While there are a few places that know how to sling tea very well, the Rose Garden Tea Room at The Huntington Library is a real treat. The feeling and combination of experiencing a perfectly brewed pot of tea in a beautiful setting is truly transformative. I love Copa Vida and Home Brewed Bar. For a quick pick-me-up, Copa Vida has wonderful pastries and well-thought-out craft iced teas on draft. Other favorite standbys include Houston’s and Sweetgreen.
I love the various Pasadena hiking trails and exploring the native plants that grow in the area. My favorite trail is Eaton Canyon Trail. It’s an opportunity to do some responsible foraging that can inspire new blends. I always look for wild California sage and wild fennel when it’s in season.
I can’t wait for the Enchanted Forest to open back up at Descanso Gardens. It’s such a unique and special place that showcases the creativity within Southern California, as well as the beauty of our giant oak and native horticulture.
One of my favorite shops is Lather in Old Pasadena—it is a great modern apothecary with products such as soaps, candles, and skin care intentionally made with natural ingredients and essential oils. Another favorite shop is Paper Source for staff and customer thank you cards.