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J-Tea's new Oolong Bar rocks Eugene's tea world

If you're a fan of tea — scratch that — if you like tasty liquids, get yourself over to J-Tea's new Oolong Bar on 19th Avenue just south of the University of Oregon campus. It opened on May 20, and owner Josh Chamberlain says it's been thriving ever since. 

"Our first shop was meant to lead the industry and be a place where tea education and workshops take place," Chamberlain says, referring to J-Tea's Friendly Street location. "Here, we just want to make you an awesome cup of tea. It's more user-friendly and more of what I've experienced customers want."

J-Tea's first location on Friendly Street offers an educational tea-making experience, while this new location makes room for innovation and new tastes.

Even an entrenched coffee lover couldn't resist the choices on the Oolong Bar's menu. For hot days, the long list of iced teas promise thirst-quenching goodness. 

"Lemon Honey Green" ($5) is a favorite for cooling down, Chamberlain says, with Green Spring tea, lemon and honey. The "Starry Night" ($3) includes hibiscus, clove, lemongrass, orange peel, stevia, licorice and lavender in a caffeine-free herbal blend.

For caffeine addicts, Oolong Bar has you covered. Try "Iced Earl Grey Latte," with Earl Grey tea and organic milk over ice. 

Then there're the bubble drinks. I sampled a concoction of house-made peach compote and tapioca pearls with black tea, served in a mason jar. The first drink tasted like biting into a juicy peach — one sip provides a mouthful of sweet compote, punchy tea and chewy tapioca pearls.

The food menu is small, with only one item. But it's a pretty good item. Called Æbleskiver, the little round balls of dough are pancakes in disguise. Dutch in origin, they are especially tasty with housemade fruit compote drizzled over the top. Chamberlain says Oolong Bar's food menu will soon expand as they experiment with different offerings.

For cool days, hot drinks are available, including a Matcha latte and the eclectic-sounding "Fruity Pebbles" latte, with mango honeybush tea and steamed organic milk.

Chamberlain and manager Benjamin Wilkinson say they're excited about this new tea venture and hope people will drop by to check out the newest member of Eugene's growing tea culture. Chamberlain says with tea, it's all about blending flavors.

"I learned from the beer world that there's no point in blending two things unless the first thing and the second thing together create an even better thing," Chamberlain says.

And from this food writer's view, Chamberlain has created a pretty delicious thing.

Visit the Oolong Bar at 1607 E. 19th Avenue in Eugene. Learn more at jteainternational.com.