“I think America has a weird perception of tea,” explains Chad Webber, owner of the new Racer Tea Bar in Redondo Beach. “Everyone is supposed to drink tea with their pinkies up and flowers all around.”
Tucked away on Catalina Avenue, the vibe at Racer Tea feels more like a speakeasy than a stuffy, raised-pinkie establishment. It’s motorcycles and rock ‘n’ roll, with a subtle nod to the classic ’50s diner. But before Chad turned Racer Tea into the brick-and-mortar it is today, he was operating his business on the go from his van.
Tea has been Chad’s beverage of choice for a long time. “Personally, I’m over coffee,” he notes. “It always just tastes the same.”
It wasn’t until he took a trip to Thailand and Vietnam that Chad really began to appreciate the taste of a good-quality, loose-leaf tea—and also its healing benefits. “English breakfast, for example, has natural fluoride in it. It helps stop bacteria in your mouth and helps prevent gum disease,” he notes. “The turmeric inside chai helps with inflammation. You have teas that help lower cholesterol, teas that help reduce stress, teas that provide more focus.”
And if you’re the type that relies on your morning caffeine fix, don’t worry. “Teas have caffeine,” Chad points out. “But it acts differently on our bodies. It’s a slower onset and a longer duration, so you don’t get that spike and then crash.”
In 2019, after spending two months in Asia, Chad came back to the States. But he couldn’t find the same kind of teas he had developed a taste for abroad—not until he stumbled upon a coffee shop in Branson, Missouri.
“I was working for a group called Bikers Against Drunk Drivers,” Chad says. “I was living in my van at the time, driving around the country. And there was this little coffee shop that sold this variety of London fogs—it’s an Earl Grey with steamed milk on top of it.”
It wasn’t long before Chad started making his own tea variations. “I went into the little tea and spice shop and started buying loose-leaf and making it in my van.” Initially, Chad was just making tea for himself. But he caught the attention of those around him, and eventually a friend suggested he start selling his blends.
Chad tried his luck at a nearby farmers market, and his teas were a hit. As his popularity grew, he started thinking, “OK, I’m in Missouri selling tea lattes made with oat milk that are vegan-friendly, and it’s working in Missouri? I’ve lived in L.A. before—I’ve got my hands on something.”
Chad, his van and his teas headed west, but with COVID-19 in full swing, the farmers market scene wasn’t an option. He posted up in Venice and Santa Monica and found success there. He paired up with a popular vegan food truck and piggybacked on their customers in Downtown Los Angeles.
But he was missing something—a sense of community—so he headed back to a familiar spot. “I used to live in Hermosa Beach,” Chad notes. “I needed return customers to build a community because there is power in numbers. The South Bay has that.”
He started offering “sunset and tea” at the Esplanade in Redondo Beach. “I’d show up, and we’d all share a cup of tea at sunset,” Chad says. “I kept telling people I was going to open a shop, and it generated a lot of buzz.”
When an opportunity to design his own space on Catalina Avenue presented itself, Chad got to work. “I pulled a lot of inspiration from speakeasies all around the world. I wanted to bring the rest of the world in here, so that way it feels like a little getaway.”
Locals pop in for a quick beverage or take a seat at the bar and chat awhile. You can order from a mouthwatering toast menu or nosh on an acai bowl. It’s a perfect addition to the neighborhood, and Chad got what he was looking for: a sense of community.