We had the good fortune of connecting with Samuel Wang and we’ve shared our conversation below.
Hi Samuel, can you walk us through the thought-process of starting your business?
We saw a missed opportunity for tea in Los Angeles. There were either boba shops or older tea shops that felt a bit intimidating. We wanted to serve tea for sure, but we wanted to do it our way: a place for customers to learn about tea and tea ceremonies in comfort and with ease. We also made sure we were located in a quieter area since tea is calming and relaxing, and it made no sense to be right next to a busy street and busy sidewalk. We ended up in Chinatown, which we thought was perfect for what we wanted to accomplish.
Alright, so let’s move onto what keeps you busy professionally?
Before Steep, I was in design, where I worked on products and interior. I was able to use those skills when I designed the space for Steep. We kept it modern and minimal, using wood furnitures to warm up the space. Many customers thought we were a coffee shop, but that’s what we wanted, a modern take on traditional tea room. This really helped us set ourselves apart from other tea rooms in Los Angeles. I ended up using many midcentury modern pieces that drew inspirations from the Ming Dynasty in China. This allowed us to keep the space looking modern but still able to connect to our history of design. Every design decision we had at Steep had a reason and we really thought it helped us tell our brand and story to our customers.
Let’s say your best friend was visiting the area and you wanted to show them the best time ever. Where would you take them? Give us a little itinerary – say it was a week long trip, where would you eat, drink, visit, hang out, etc.
Instead breaking things down day by day, I would break thing down by area/regions. SGV Visit – Huntington Library, Old Town Pasadena, San Gabriel Mission Eat & Drink – Mian, Chengdu Taste, Half & Half, Huge Tree Pastry, Din Tai Fung, Lan Noodle, TK92 Korean BBQ, Newport Seafood Restaurant, Savoy Kitchen and this is just off the top of my head. Downtown Visit – Chinatown, Arts District, Little Tokyo, Eat & Drink – Steep (of course), Hachioji Ramen, Pearl River Deli, Pho 87, Chinese Friends, Oriel, Wurstkuche, Death & Co, Thunderbolt, General Lee’s, Bavel, and much much more. There are so many more regions and places to go, but I can’t remember that many at the moment. There are many more places in Culver City, Koreatown, West LA, Silver Lake, Echo Park, and more.
The Shoutout series is all about recognizing that our success and where we are in life is at least somewhat thanks to the efforts, support, mentorship, love and encouragement of others. So is there someone that you want to dedicate your shoutout to?
Alvaro Cardenas at Wine Stop is definitely the mentor that showed me what was possible. Although there might be differences in wine and tea, it is his vision that helped me shape Steep LA. Through him, I understood what was the most important part of my business and where we could stand out among all the tea rooms in Los Angeles.