My New York City tea adventures
This year I celebrated my birthday in New York City with my husband and my in-laws. My mom-in-law’s birthday is the day before mine and this year she celebrated a big birthday, so we decided to get together halfway in the middle (they live in Europe) to party in style. I had not been in NYC in 4 years and back then “tea tourism” was not as high on my list of priorities as it is now. After a long weekend of celebrations and sightseeing, I carved out some time for tea-related things. NYC has a high concentration of tea spots, so it was not easy to prioritize. Luckily, I had sent out a message to my NYC tea friends and fellow tea bloggers and I was looking forward to meeting them in person and to their tea recommendations.
While sightseeing with my family, I had already stopped at 3 tea places. First, Ippodo, the famous matcha brand from Kyoto, Japan. Thanks to its proximity to Grand Central Station, the Chrysler Building, the New York Public Library and Bryant Park, it was an easy detour on our way from one attraction to the other. It’s a to-go counter, downstairs from a Japanese restaurant and the space is traditionally decorated. We got hot usucha matcha and I treated myself to a tin of their matcha (I got their Sayaka-no-mukashi).
Nalata Nalata. My beloved black kyusu teapot comes from here. It’s a curated Japanese design and housewares store and exhibition space in the East Village. I bought a small handkerchief with a little black neko (cat) stitched on one side. Their minimalist aesthetics and bonsai are exquisite.
At Chelsea Market, I stopped at Chalait for an iced matcha latte with house-made almond cashew milk, which I enjoyed while strolling along the High Line, an elevated rail line turned into a public park on Manhattan’s West Side.
On Monday, it was finally time to explore the NYC tea scene further. First up, Cha An Tea House in the East Village, where I got together with Jo Johnson and Sara Shacket for lunch. Jo Johnson is a tea blender and consultant (A Gift of Tea) and co-founder of the Tea Bloggers Roundtable. Sara is a tea sommelier-in-training and tea blogger (Tea Happiness). Needless to say, being a huge fan of both, I was super excited to finally meet them in person. Cha An is a Japanese tea house serving tea, food, desserts and cocktails. I got a pot of Uji Kabusecha and bowl of tuna tataki over rice. I really liked the intimate atmosphere there. After lunch, Sara had to go back to work (I’m glad I’ll see her again soon at World Tea Expo in June) and Jo decided to take me on an impromptu tea tour of Manhattan.
I was literally like a kid in a candy store, visiting the tea places I’ve been dreaming about after drooling over their tea pictures on Instagram and blogs. You should have seen me!
On our way to Tea Drunk, Jo and I stumbled upon Setsugekka, a recently opened Japanese tea house with a tatami mat covered area and a small bar area. They focus on matcha and we decided to try their koicha (thick matcha). I got to pick the chawan (tea bowl), which I found such a special touch! It was my first koicha ever (matcha is whisked with a small amount of water to create a thick paste) and it was exquisite. That set the bar really high for any future koicha I will have.
Next stop was Tea Drunk. Suddenly, I realized I had been there before! Tea Drunk is right next door to a cupcake bakery I had been to during my previous visit 4 years ago. How on earth had I missed it? We sat down for a few steeps of Dan Cong at one of the tables and I got to pick our tea pet. I chose the cabbage that changes color when you pour hot water on top of it.
A short Uber ride later, we were ready for T Shop, a lovely tea house hidden behind a psychic parlor. Theresa, the owner, was very generous and shared with us a delicious Dan Cong from her personal collection. The blue gaiwan she brewed our tea in was the most beautiful piece of tea ware I’ve seen in a while and impossibly thin and light (that gaiwan stole my heart, can you tell?). The snail tea pet is handmade by Jo (how cute is it?).
Before my dinner engagement, we managed to squeeze in two more quick stops, Harney and Sons (Soho location) and Miansai (I mentioned this store in a previous blog post, they have a location in Venice LA).
Fellow tea blogger Nicole Martin (Tea For Me Please) and I had arranged to meet at 29b Tea House at around dinner time and I invited Jo to join us. Nicole has been a huge point of reference for me since I started my tea blogging journey and I’m so grateful I got to meet her in person. At 29b Tea House I tried their delicious Korean green tea (Sejak), vegetarian dumplings and hojicha creme brulee.
Last but not least, on my last day in NYC, I visited Té Company in Greenwich Village and got together with Gabrielle Jammal, tea sommelier at the Baccarat hotel (whom I had met before in San Francisco a few months ago) and fellow tea blogger Georgia of the blog Notes on Tea. These ladies are such an inspiration and I was over the moon that we could spend some time together sharing our favorite beverage.
Naturally, I ordered the Pineapple linzer cookie and aged Tristar ‘05 oolong, which turned out to be an excellent pairing. And now I know why everybody is hooked on the Pineapple linzers!! That’s because they are buttery and sweet and zesty and spicy and highly addictive. Such a charming experience!
So little time and so much to explore, but I think I did pretty well ;-)
Have you ever been to NYC? What's your favorite tea place there?
Disclaimer: I was not paid to mention or review businesses, products or services. This is my honest opinion.