New York City has a lot of… well everything. Its teashops are no exception. While tea hopping throughout NYC, I found some amazing neighborhood gems, a designers dream, and a few places that you would normally need a passport and a few thousand dollars to see. Let’s explore.
Admittedly, I expected the subdued lighting, Zen music, and pretentious patrons that I have grown accustomed to in my visits to teashops thus far but to my surprise, this tea retailer felt more like Willy Wonka’s secret tea factory.
As I entered the narrow storefront, my eyes were confronted with bright fluorescent lights beaming down on ultra-white walls lined with endless shelves of brightly colored packaging. Everything is branded, color coded, well explained and beautifully done. Moreover, a rotation of staff greeted me and offered to assist in anyway they could. Being the curious fella that I am, I asked about the store itself and was promptly given a detailed account about David and the multinational company and culture he created. The guy sounds pretty awesome.
Although the sweet smelling blends and fashionable tea accessories are not exactly ideal for tea purest, snobs and aficionados, David’s Tea is definitely fun and perfect for anyone beginning their voyage into the world of tea or buying a gift for a tea lover.
Physically underground and literally understated – with just a couple of tables for tea drinkers, Physical GraffiTea initially seemed like the tearoom version of a dive bar.
As I perused the laminated tea menu written on a white sheet of paper in an unassuming sans-serif font, I noticed an unusual attention to detail – especially in the herb blends section. After the customer ahead of me was sufficiently helped and working through her paradox of choices, a twenty-something hipster barista sauntered over to me and asked if I had any questions. I smiled and asked her about a lemon balm blend that was supposed to be good for a restful sleep. Her answer and vast knowledge about the other teas and herbs in the metallic canisters shelved behind her was simply delightful. She displayed not only a surface knowledge of the medicinal properties of each item but also, a personal experience with each. I was blown away. My inner amateur herbalist was thoroughly satisfied.
If you’ve ever wondered what high tea with the queen is like, the quaint and cozy Boise Tea Room is for you.
Due to the lack of a reservation and a thirty-minute wait, I was unable to sit down and enjoy the atmosphere as I had hoped. But, I was offered a to go menu and directed to a barista carefully scooping seemingly premium tea from a gold-platted canister. While waiting for my Ti Guan Yin tea to steep, I vicariously lived a life of luxury through the lucky diners being served macaroons and other delicate pastries on silver trays.
After a few moments had passed, I was given a non-descript white hot-beverage cup and sent on my way. Next time, I’ll watch a few episodes of Downton Abbey and make a reservation before going.
Supposedly renown for their revolutionary tea brewing process, Press Tea’s tea-spresso is undoubtedly an interesting take on tea. However, the tea drink is somewhat overshadowed by their delicious Paninis and pastries.
The cramped café was packed with what looked to be regulars from the neighborhood enjoying their vittles as they typed away on their MacBooks and conversed with friends. The cool and social vibe made me wish that this modern café and bistro was my local tea spot. A person could get a lot of writing done in a place like that.
An adorable oasis in the middle of Harlem, Serengeti’s warm and inviting environment was a great place to relax and smell the rose hips. Dark wooden furniture and shelves lined with apothecary bottles made me feel like was transported to a café in plains of Tanzania.
To the best of my knowledge, I did not see a menu nor was I offered one so, I ordered the tea of the day which was neatly written on a chalkboard leaning against an artfully inscribed wooden table. My ginger tea was served in a beautifully designed clear pot atop a tea light candle. I absorbed a little serenity with each sip while listening to the soothing sounds lightly filling the background.
Even though everything in Serengeti Tea and Spices gave off an old world essence, I was pleased to learn that they accepted debit and credit cards via a slider attached to an iPad Air. I definitely consider this to be a shining example of the best of both worlds.
by A.D. Wright, Author and Tea Junkie