I grew up with tea, and ventured into coffee during college, when I moved to NYC. And then last year, in the midst of the city’s coffee revolution, I found myself shunning it all for tea, hot and iced. I could drink tea all day long with no worries about the caffeine effect and it was easy to prepare at home. It was something I could drink with grandmother on visits to Hawai’i, her big tea pot stored in a bamboo basket. Whereas coffee made me jittery, tea was soothing…simultaneously comforting and luxurious. It started with oolong and darjeeling my parents mailed from their travels to China. And then our trip to Paris involved just as many tea salon as it did patisseries. I whittled away days inside the castles of Dammann Frères, Kusmi, Le Palais des Thés, and the queen of them all, Mariage Frères.
When we returned to NYC, I cleared out half our kitchen cabinets. This part, I told Monsieur P, will be for tea only. So much fun! We filled it up with tea and tea pots and tea cups. For awhile I concerned that I was more interested in having all this tea stuff, than I was actually into the art of drinking tea. No worries. I eventually phased coffee out of my life, though Monsieur P drinks both. On occasion I find the scent of coffee unappealing, a notion that would seem crazy just a year ago. I will however, always love tiramisu and coffee ice cream.
After we returned from Paris, all these tea shops in NYC open, literally out of nowhere. There was In Pursuit of Tea in the old Matcha Box pop-up on Crosby Street. It’s a tiny space with a selection of teas on a daily basis. You can have tea by the cup or purchase their loose leaf teas in this space. Don’t miss the collection of tea sweets baked by French Culinary Institute’s chef-instructor, Melanie Franks. We just signed up for a Tea Dinner they’re hosting at In Pursuit of Tea next Monday. I’m not sure if openings are still available, but it sounds like a fun experience. $60 a person for a 5-course dinner…it will be a surprise dinner for Monsieur P!
Around the corner on Broome Street, Harney & Sons opened in a long, narrow space. Here the walls are lined with tea, all the way up to the ceilings, just like it was in Paris. Beautiful. You can taste any of their teas and then make your way to the fine tea salon in the back. Tea by the pot. Scones! Savory tea snacks. Of course, tea-flavored ice cream. There is The Tea Set in the West Village, The Tea & Honey Store in Grand Central, and don’t forget Kusmi which opened near Bloomingdale’s last summer. A little birdie also told me that both Mariage Frères and Le Palais des Thés are shopping for retail locations in NYC. Exciting indeed.
The best part? It’s only the tip of the iceberg. This doesn’t even begin to touch on the numerous places for afternoon tea in the city. Which is why I started writing a bi-monthly Afternoon Tea column over at Serious Eats. We’ve been to Podunk and Crosby Street Hotel in the last month, and there will be many more to come!
Till then ^-^