Restaurant Review: Lion Turtle Tea

The+Yi+Mei+Ren+%28left%29+and+Tie+Guan+Yin+%28right%29+teas+served+at+Lion+Turtle+Tea%0APhoto%3A+Lea+Mihok%2FRegister

The Yi Mei Ren (left) and Tie Guan Yin (right) teas served at Lion Turtle Tea Photo: Lea Mihok/Register

In early September, Lion Turtle Tea, a restaurant that specializes in “Vermont-focused” interpretations of East Asian food and loose-leaf tea opened its doors to the Burlington Community. 

I was intent on vetting this new addition to Burlington’s tea scene. I arrived at the shop, located at 135 Pearl Street, in the late afternoon, dragging a friend along with me for moral support. The storefront itself is unassuming, but a large sign above the window reads “Lion Turtle Tea”, in thin gold lettering.

Inside, Lion Turtle Tea has a slightly barren feel, one that might be attributed to its recent opening, or the effects of the pandemic. No matter the cause, it seems as if it has yet to fully come into its own in terms of ambiance. The cream-colored walls were sparse and the place was initially eerily silent, though after we sat, the staff turned on some soothing music. We settled in by the large front windows that gave us an expansive view of the comings and goings of Pearl Street.

Lion Turtle Tea’s handmade tea and food menus
Photo: Lea Mihok/Register

Two charmingly handmade menus adorned the wall: one for tea and another for food. The tea listings were broken into five categories: Green, Black, Oolong, Pu’er, and Tisanes. The undertones listed beneath each tea were surprisingly inventive, with flavors like snow pea, floral, and dandelion flowers. The prices, ranging from $4 to $4.50, were cheaper than you will get at Dobra, but still a bit steep for a student on a budget. As for food, the menu consisted of a Rice Bowl, Miso Soup, Spring Roll, Almond Cookie, and an assortment of dumplings. As a vegetarian, my food options were only slightly limited. One of the co-owners, Jace Jameson, worked the counter and was happy to answer all our questions about the menu.

After much deliberation, we decided on two teas: the Roasted Tie Guan Yin Oolong tea and the Yi Mei Ren black tea. We ordered Miso soup for $5.25 and an almond cookie for $3.25.

The tea arrived quickly. It was sweet-scented and piping hot, but after a short wait, it cooled to a safe temperature.

I first sampled the Roasted Tie Guan Yin which was listed as having undertones of toasted almond, caramel, and roasted asparagus. The tea was a light amber color and the taste was smooth. Although, the only undertone that an amateur tea-drinker like myself could discern was the asparagus, which tasted surprisingly good. Altogether it was palatable, but not an immediate standout.

In appearance, the Yi Mei Ren was predictably much darker. It was described as having undertones of plum, caramel, and green bean, all of which blended into a delectable concoction. Of the two, it was, in my opinion, superior and worth the extra $0.50.

Our food arrived in good time. Immediately, the size of the Miso Soup struck me. The steaming soup arrived in a wide bowl dappled with chunks of tofu and ribbons of seaweed. The flavor was decent, but the broth was so rich I would recommend ordering only if you have a big appetite or are planning on sharing.

The almond cookie was well-sized and adorned with thin cuts of almond. It had a delectable taste on its own, but one that was not overpowering. This made it a perfect candidate for tea dipping.

Lion Turtle Tea’s Miso Soup and Five Spice Almond Cookie
Photo: Lea Mihok/Register

Overall, the meal left me full and satisfied, but as someone who has trouble telling English Breakfast from Earl Grey, I felt a little out of my element when it came to judging the quality of the teas. That being said, I would recommend a trip to Lion Turtle Tea for anyone who can appreciate subtle undertones and knows the meaning of Tisanes, or someone who is looking to try something new and open to learning. There is no shortage of unique flavors to sample, and you can order food and drinks for at home or to go. They also offer frozen dumplings you can buy to cook at home and you can get any of their teas to make at home. It is a charming, promising, new place and I am looking forward to seeing it grow and establish a home in Burlington.

Lion Turtle Tea is located at 135 Pearl Street and open Tuesday-Saturday from 11-8pm. To learn more or place an online order visit: https://lionturtletea.com/