December 05, 2019

Tea Shops in Greenwich Village, NYC

Thinking about the tea scene in New York reminds me of Frank Sinatra’s “New York, New York” song. Every type of tea is represented in NYC. Every type of tea has made it here. The NYC tea scene has something for every type of tea drinker. This walking tour of tea shops in the Greenwich Village neighborhood of Manhattan highlights the diversity within the major categories of tea and the breadth of tea cultures.

Image: Tea and Sympathy c/o Oh, How Civilized

Tea & Sympathy
108 Greenwich Avenue

Our walk starts with British tea culture at Tea & Sympathy on Greenwich Avenue whose logo is “All Things British.” Tea and Sympathy is a grocer and a restaurant. You can purchase British groceries and teas in the market. The adjoining restaurant serves afternoon tea and British breakfast, lunch, dinner, and dessert staples. Reservations are accepted for Monday through Friday. Walk-ins are welcome on Saturday and Sunday. The restaurant is cosy so expect to sit close to your companions and other guests.

Te Company
163 West 10th Street

Tucked into the triangular micro-neighborhood south of the Jefferson Market Library is Te Company, a tearoom owned by wife and husband Elena & Fred. Only pure full leaf oolongs from Taiwan are served here; 22 pure teas to be exact. The shop also sells "bespoke blends." A limited but incredibly delicious menu is offered. If it's on the menu, I highly recommend the tortilla de patata. The famous pineapple linzer cookie can be purchased on the website. I've enjoyed many tea sessions here with family and friends.

McNulty’s Tea & Coffee
109 Christopher Street

Moving further west and back in time is McNulty’s Tea & Coffee. Our previous stop, Te Company, opened in 2015. McNulty’s was founded in 1895! It’s hard to imagine tea and coffee co-existing well in the same space, but McNulty's is known for both. The shop was awarded Best of New York in the Tea Shop category in 2012 by the NY Daily News.

275 Bleecker Street

DAVIDsTEA differs in a couple of ways from the teashops we have seen so far. It is an international chain. The company was founded in Canada. The décor is contemporary bright and white. Unlike Te Company for example the focus is on blended teas. The brand is known for its seasonal teas and accessories. One of my favorite infuser mugs is from DAVIDsTEA. The mug is heat sensitive; the exterior color changes in response to hot water.

Luv Tea
37A Bedford Street

Luv Tea is tucked on Bedford between 6th Avenue and Carmine Street. I have only been to the tea shop once or twice. I should go more often. The tea shop is on a route I take regularly and its specialty is Taiwanese oolong, which is one of my favorite types of tea.

Sullivan Street Tea & Spice
208 Sullivan Street

Tea and spice and everything nice is what you'll get at Sullivan Street Tea & Spice. Walking into the shop is like a dose of aromatherapy. The owners describe the store as “a new shop with old world charm.” I imagine there were many more shops like this in 19th century New York City. You can order hot tea to go, buy tea, spices, and herbs in bulk, or join the monthly tea club. When I want to warm up between errands in the neighborhood, I stop in and order a cup of tea. Lately, I have been sampling my way through their black tea catalogue. I appreciate that I can purchase an ounce of tea to start then commit to a larger quantity. Also, it's good for the local economy to support local businesses.

Bosie Tea Parlor
506 LaGuardia Place

Bosie Tea Parlor moved from Morton Street to LaGuardia Place this year. Bosie Tea Parlor's new location is larger and more sophisticated. You can drink your tea at the bar or opt for more space at one of the tables. Bosie carries teas from l'Âge de Thé. You can purchase tea online and pick up in the shop. I haven't visited the new space--read my review of afternoon tea at the former location--but I'm happy Bosie stayed in the neighborhood. It's great to have an affordable afternoon tea spot downtown.

Can't get enough tea? Stretch this Greenwich Village tea walk with T Shop at 247 Elizabeth Street and Harney & Sons  SoHo at 433 Broome Street. T Shop owner, Theresa Wong, shared her favorite tea ware on this blog. Break on through the east side with three popular East Village tea spots: Setsugekka Matcha Teahouse, Tea Drunk, which I reviewed in 2013 , and 29B Teahouse.

September 30, 2019

Camellia Sinensis Flower

Image: Camellia sinensis flower by Reji Jacob

I am not a trained botanist but I am very interested in botany. I spend a lot of time looking at the flowers of trees. As a tea drinker based in the northeastern U.S., and one who hasn't traveled to see tea gardens or farms, I have not seen the Camellia sinensis flower IRL. Thankfully, I can access images of the flower on the internet.

Image: Various types of tea leaves by Damitr

Camellia sinensis is an evergreen plant. The plant is categorized as a shrub or small tree, though it's listed as a shrub in the Kew database. All true tea is produced from the leaves of C. sinensis, its varieties and cultivars.

Image: Camellis sinensis tea blossom in Hangzhou by Kuebi

Image: Camellia sinensis fruit on Maui by Forest and Kim Starr

The flower of the tea plant, not to be confused with blooming teas, is a perfect flower having both stamen (male reproductive parts) and pistil (female reproductive part).  The tea flower has many stamens surrounding a single pistil. If fertilization is successful, the ovary will develop into a fruit. The tea fruit is a capsule, botanically, meaning it is dry, not fleshy, and opens along a seam to release its seed(s).

The processed leaves of Camellia sinensis is one way that humans can consume this plant. I found several references to tea seed oil, made by cold pressing the seeds of species within the Camellia genus including C. sinensis. Are you familiar with tea seed oil? While you can't eat the flowers, they are scented. I would enjoy cut flowers of C. sinensis. I might try my hand at growing a tea plant for the flowers!

June 30, 2019

Shincha Tea, Japan's First Flush Tea

Teas classified as "first flush" are those made from the buds and leaves plucked at the beginning of spring. The stress of winter weather contributes to high concentrations of flavor compounds in the new spring shoots. The most well-known first flush tea is Darjeeling First Flush, typically harvested between mid and late March. Other first flush or first harvest teas include Pre-Qing Ming Dragonwell and Silver Needle from China and the spring harvests of gaoshan teas in Taiwan.

What is shincha?

Shincha aka ichibancha is the first flush tea made from Sencha cultivars. Sencha is the most commonly produced green tea in Japan. Sencha accounts for 63.4% to 80% of Japan's total tea production. Most of the Sencha harvested in Japan is grown in Shizuoka. The typical harvest period for Sencha is late April to mid May.

How are sencha and shincha made?

Although Shincha is made from Sencha cultivars, their production processes are different. Sencha is made by sorting and blending different batches of aracha or raw tea. The aracha process includes steaming, rolling, and drying. To create aracha for Sencha, the leaves undergo different lengths of steaming.  Asamushi Sencha is steamed for 30-45 seconds while Fukamushi Sencha is steamed for one to two minutes. After the leaves undergo the full aracha process, they are sorted by size and then blended. Shincha undergoes less processing to maintain the entire spectrum of spring flavors.

Brewing sencha and shincha

Both types of Japanese green tea can be prepared using the same technique.
  1. Add 2 tbsp (10 g) of tea to your 7 oz (210 ml) kyusu or teapot.
  2. Pour 80 C water gently over the leaves in your kyusu.
  3. Steep the leaves for 60 sec (Sencha) or 40 sec (Shincha).
  4. Pour the tea into your drinking cup (do not leave any liquor in the kyusu).
  5. Infuse the leaves twice more (Ippodo Tea Co. recommends pouring the hot water over the leaves then immediately transferring the liquor to the cup).

How does Shincha taste?

Shincha hit many of my tongue's taste buds: sweet, salty, savory (umami). Thankfully, the tea exhibited no bitterness. The texture was lush. I noted vegetables and herbs in my cups of Shincha. If you haven't tried this type of tea, I recommend the Ippodo Tea Co. 2019 Shincha 2019.

Shincha Newly Harvested Sencha 2019 courtesy of Ippodo Tea Co.

April 30, 2019

The Scoop on Black Tea

While all black teas are made from the fully oxidized leaves of the Camellia sinensis plant, all black teas are not the same. There are many types of black tea. They look and taste different. If you read my Q&A with The Daily Tea you'd know that the first tea of my day is a black tea so I spend a lot of time thinking about this type of tea. Here I share my notes on black tea with you.

How is black tea made?

To make black tea, the tea leaves must be completely oxidized. The typical process includes the following steps: plucking, withering, rolling, oxidation, drying, and sorting. Rolling breaks down the cells within the leaves and exposes them to oxygen which triggers the oxidation process. Oxidation times vary and the length of oxidation influences the aromatic profile of the tea. Once the leaves have been oxidized to meet the tea master's criteria, they are dried to stabilize the tea.

Where is black tea produced are the black tea producing countries?

This questions is not simply one of geography. It is also central to figuring out the different types of black tea. Since all (black) tea is produced from Camellia sinensis, theoretically, black tea can be produced wherever C. sinensis is grown. The top 10 tea producing countries are China, India, Kenya, Sri Lanka, Vietnam, Turkey, Indonesia, Myanmar, Iran, and Bangladesh. I'll focus on the black teas produced in China, India, and Sri Lanka. The variety among the countries is the result of many factors including processing, variety, harvest period or flush, and altitude.


When I think of Chinese black tea (or red tea/hong cha as this tea style is known in China), the following teas come to mind.
  • Keemun (Qimen) (Anhui) - a thinly twisted, tippy tea made from leaves with notes of fruit, smoke, and cocoa
  • Yunnan Black Tea aka Dian Hong - a twisted, golden tea made from buds only or a mix of leaves and buds with sweet, wood, and fruit notes
  • Jin Jun Mei (Fujian) - a very expensive bud only tea with floral, fruit, and chocolate notes
Lapsang Souchong is another Chinese black tea I like, and highly recommend this one. My other favorite is no longer available.


My favorite Indian black teas are from Assam and Darjeeling. Indian and other South Asian black teas are graded by the integrity of the tea leaves ranging from broken leaves which are used in tea bags to whole leaves (Broken Orange Pekoe to Golden Flowery Orange Pekoe) to whole leaves and buds (Tippy Golden Flowery Orange Pekoe to Super Fine Tippy Golden Flowery Orange Pekoe). In addition to grades, Darjeeling teas are also categorized by time of harvest or flush. First flush teas are made from an unopened leaf bud and two young open leaves. Second flush teas are made later in the season with a medium pluck of older leaves and leaf buds. Other harvests are the Monsoon and Autumnal flushes.
  • Assam - this type of black tea typically malty, fruity, and sweet; the highest quality Assam are bud only teas
  • Darjeeling, first flush - the loosely rolled leaves of this tea are not fully oxidized (so is it technically not a black tea?) yielding grassy (hay) and floral notes
  • Darjeeling, second flush - the defining flavor of this tea is muscatel


Like India, Sri Lanka also grades its black teas. Sri Lankan black teas are further distinguished by altitude similar to Taiwanese teas. In general, high grown teas are delicate while low grown teas are more robust in body and flavor.
  • Low grown teas (below 2000 feet) - Ruhuba and Sambaragamuwa
  • Mid altitude teas  (2000-4000 feet) - Kandy 
  • High grown teas (4000-6000 feet) - Nuwara Eliya, Dimbula, Uva, and Uda Passellawa

How do you drink black tea?

The most convenient way to drink black tea is to steep a tea bag in a cup. One tea bag to 6-8 ounces of boiling water. Tea bags vary in quality of the leaves and the bag itself. You can find non-plastic tea bags filled whole leaf tea. Go the extra mile and look for biodegradable tea bags. Better yet are compostable bags. You can move towards a zero waste tea life by composting your tea leaves and bags.

If you prefer to use loose leaf tea, you can prepare your black tea Western style (low leaf weight, high water volume, long steep time) or gongfu style (high leaf weight, low water volume, short steep time). Here are some general numbers.


One heaping teaspoon of tea (2 to 3 grams) to one cup of water (6-8 ounces or 250 ml) is a general rule of thumb. Steep for three to five minutes depending on the tea. I steep two teaspoons of loose leaf in 250 ml of boiling water for three minutes and 30 seconds.


A small steeping vessel for gongfu holds 200 ml or less of water. My smallest teapot holds 70 ml of water. To determine the amount of tea you need, use the one gram to 15 ml ratio. After rinsing your leaves, start with a short steep time then increase the infusion time to experience the evolution in flavor. You can use a gaiwan too. Read my guide to gong fu tea for step-by-step instructions.


If you have multiple black teas you can compare them using professional tasting sets. Read my guide to drinking Darjeeling tea for complete instructions on cupping teas.

What food pairs well with black tea?

My tea amigos and I set out to answer this question in our Tea Pairing 101 focused on black tea. The answer is finger sandwiches! My favorite tea and sandwich combination in the Black Tea and Finger Sandwich pairing challenge was Lapsang Souchong (Joseph Wesley) + Cheddar Cheese (Bosie Tea Parlor). A pairing of finger sandwiches and black tea makes sense when you consider that both are the backbone of afternoon tea.

This is not a comprehensive guide to black tea so I'd love to hear from you what I should include in version 2.0.

April 25, 2019

Zero Waste Lifestyle with Tea

Pickers on an organic tea plantation in Sri Lanka, photo by Dennis Keller

This post was sparked by a few events. One, April is Earth Month so I've been thinking more about reducing my impact on the environment and nature. Two, I attended a film screening with a moderated panel that included Lauren Singer of Trash is for Tossers fame. Me and my family don't live a zero waste lifestyle but as Lauren encourages, zero waste living "doesn't happen overnight". I am inspired by her to start with one action and in my case, given the amount of tea I drink, it makes sense to reduce the footprint of my tea habit.

Here's what I've been doing and would like to do to achieve a zero waste lifestyle with tea:


I jumped right into composting as soon as my building launched its composting program. Actually, I used to compost in my old building by saving and freezing my scraps then depositing them at a collection site in Union Square. When that became inconvenient, I stopped composting. I'm so happy my current building provides a convenient way to compost food scraps. I compost all my tea leaves.


You don't need to purchase anything to do this. You probably have a mason jar or water bottle or a tea thermos in your cupboard. Make tea at home and bring it with you. For safety purposes, I would let the tea cool before adding it your container and traveling with it, unless you have a tea thermos that's designed to hold boiling hot liquids. If you don't want to make your own tea or travel with it, or you get a craving for a cup of tea at work or otherwise away from home, travel with your own cup. Again, this could be a mason jar. You might want to outfit it with a heatproof sleeve and a drinking lid. A small tea thermos works too. If you want to invest in a to-go coffee cup, I've heard good things about KeepCup (disclaimer: I gifted one to a family member).

If you do none of these at the every least, say no to plastic straws when you order drinks.


Of course tea requires water. How on earth would you infuse the leaves otherwise?! But I limit the amount of water I use for non-steeping purposes. When I rinse my dry leaves, I barely cover them with hot water. When I ceremonially clean and warm my teaware, again I use much less water than is used in a tradtional gongfu cha ceremony or session.


I've been known to collect my prettier tea tins. Some of these tins are stored in a closet but some are actually repurposed in my home. I have also donated tins to a local nursery school to be used in a play kitchen. 


Ask your tea purveyors to use non-plastic packaging. If they can use compostable materials -- and you practice composting -- or recyclable materials accepted by your community's recycling program, even better. Re-use whatever packaging you can.


Unless you live in a tea-producing region, your tea is not produced locally. Most of the tea I have in my cupboard was shipped to me. Even my local purchases were shipped to my local tea shops. However, a benefit of buying locally is the reduction in the number of times the tea is shipped. Another, you could provide ask your local tea shop to fill your re-useable container with their tea. Save your tea tins or other re-useable tea packaging.


This is a big one, and honestly, I don't know how to tackle it. If I am truly committed to a zero waste lifestyle with tea and with low-impact living in general, I need to think about the source of the food, drink, and other items that enter my life. I should commit to only drinking tea whose production from seed to leaf aligns with my environmental and social ethics. I should commit to asking tea companies that provide teas for review for sourcing provenance information. I should commit to asking tea shops in which I buy my teas for sourcing information. I should commit to refusing to accept or buy teas that don't come with information about how and who grew and produced them. This will probably mean I will drink less tea by amount and from different regions and producers.

I'd love to hear from you about your low-impact approach to tea drinking. Share your ideas for a zero waste lifestyle with tea in the comments.
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