I often receive emails asking how to learn more about tea – where to start, take classes, read online, buy books? It’s a simple enough question with many answers, no one more right than the other. While I do think the best way to learn is by consistently drinking many teas, educating yourself though reading material (industry magazines, books, online) and making a point to visit tea shops and speak with people there, sometimes structure in the form of a class to kick start the learning experience can be helpful.
For a formal one-on-one class, The Mandarin’s Tea Room in Soho is a solid bet. The tea room is quietly tucked away on Howard Street, in one of those classic mixed-use loft buildings that stretch an entire city block. Tastings are by appointment only, $38 for an hour session. The price struck me as fairly steep at first…
…especially because In Pursuit of Tea just a block north offers free educational tastings Thursday afternoons between 4pm-6:30pm. And at Harney & Sons around the corner you can pick any tea to try and they also teach you a bit about that specific tea – brewing, tasting, paring notes. Definitely take advantage of all these free learning opportunities, it’s one of the many great things about living in the city.
This little patch of Soho is like the Tea Triangle!
However what you pay for at The Mandarin’s Tea Room is personalized service. That one hour is devoted to you alone, the tasting session tailored to your depth of knowledge and curiosities. Black, green, whites teas you name it. Bring friends if you rather not go alone – just keep in mind that it’s $38 per person and not per session. I recently visited with Charlene. We had such a good time tasting a variety of four teas (each with multiple steeps) that one hour quickly turned into two. Charlene knows significantly more about tea than I do, and our instructor made it work seamlessly so that Charlene could build on her knowledge while I wasn’t completely left in the dark. She prepared all the teas in the traditional style of a gongfu tea ceremony…how I would love to have one of these sets at home. Then we could have a real tea party ;)
The Mandarin’s Tea Room
21 Howard Street #201
New York, NY 10013