To a Brit, there is very little that can lift the spirits like a good cup of tea. Whether it’s drunk at 3 o’clock or 4 o’clock, made with tea bags or loose tea, prepared with the tea or milk poured first, a nice cuppa can warm your body and soul, boost your energy level and make you feel loved and comforted in a way that coffee just cannot. A couple of years ago our friend Krista decided to open up a café that specializes in excellent teas of all kinds, scones and other treats, as well as the usual coffee drinks found in an LA café. Despite all the permit nightmares, she and her husband Nick endeavored to realize her vision of a cozy neighborhood café in a neighborhood of Los Angeles that is lacking in such laptop- and family-friendly spaces. On Vermont Avenue, just across from LA City College, the Red Dragon Cafe (http://www.thereddragoncafe.com) is refreshingly not Starbucks, nor is it a traditional British caff. The walls were painted by local graffiti artists, very few of the chairs match and there’s a little “kid cave” space behind the couch where youngsters can play or read while their parents sip tea. Some evenings there’s live music, even open-mike events. Because it’s not in our neighborhood, we don’t manage to get there often, but today, we drove over there to give Krista a chair we no longer needed for our son Theo’s room. Because it looks nothing like the other chairs there, it fit right in.
It’s always heart-warming to talk to Nick and Krista. They are some of the most generous, kind-hearted people we know. They have a darling son a little younger than Theo, and an adorable daughter they adopted, and recently they have welcomed into their family a delightful teenage girl who needed a safer home than the one she was born into. And the café is more than just a business; it’s also a way of training and providing jobs for capable local young people. Although Nick has a hectic work schedule and Krista battles with an auto-immune condition, they are constantly giving to others. Whenever I spend time with them, I leave with lifted spirits, and I know it’s not just the tea. It’s because their efforts give me hope and faith in humanity and motivate me to push myself to a higher level as a person.