Still here, still alive: Steep LA
Hasselblad 500c - Portra 160
It can be difficult to find peace at home, especially when there are distractions that can occupy and add stress to your environment. The pandemic we’ve experienced this past year exacerbated this stress by forcing everyone to work in a confined space with little breathing room. It can be difficult to find a space outside of your home that has the safe spaces available for outdoor seating. As Los Angeles’ residents are getting their vaccinations, more spaces have been opening their doors and increasing their capacity to welcome those who want to find an environment they can recharge. One of the spaces I would love to introduce you to is a tearoom based in Chinatown, tucked inside of Mandarin Plaza called Steep LA and its co-owners, Sam and Lydia.
The concept behind Steep is to “slowdown from the fast life;” people are welcome to relax or to work in peace while sipping tea. During the pandemic, this shop has been my go-to spot to spend time outside of my home to work, unwind, and practice social distancing with friends along with other patrons who support the shop. I’ve considered this shop to be my 4th “home” in Los Angeles. It’s further away from the noise and chaos that stirs within downtown, and I believe it is one of the safest spaces in which the community of Chinatown can congregate.
While the pandemic has made it difficult for businesses to survive, Steep adapted and began to experiment with concepts they can present to Chinatown, the team put together small events for the community with the space that is available to them by hosting evening events such as “SAD,” a.k.a. Steep After Dark, featuring tea based mocktails and street food in the courtyard patio just outside of the tearoom. I had the opportunity to attend many of their events, and I can tell you that it gave me a small taste of normalcy, and I saw it bring joy to others who were looking to get out of the house. As we progress with vaccinations, and we slowly return to the fast pace world, Steep will always be the space for us to slow down and enjoy the rest of our day sipping tea and attend their events after dark.
While the concept behind your shop is to “slowdown from the fast life”, was it the opposite for your customers during the pandemic?
Through our observations, we believe the pandemic made a lot of people rethink their lifestyle and more people turn to slow living. Many have looked to tea as a channel to tune their inner self and spend more quality time alone during the pandemic. There was an uptick in virtual tea classes and many more discussions with customers who are interested in slow living through drinking tea.
In the early stage of the pandemic, we were limited to to-go only. Once we could offer al fresco dining, we turned the outdoor space into a serene tea garden. The goal is trying to mimic the indoor homey style in an outdoor setting. We want to create a patio space that is comfortable to hangout with no worries and in style.
As we return to normal, we are hoping to host more events as we had done prior to the pandemic. Not only more food related events, but also more creative events for the Asian community at large. Chinatown is a tightknit community after all, and we hope to be a positive addition.