Under the river, and through the woods to search for great tea, I go!
I have traveled far and near by bus and car and plane alike, often snagging a window seat where I can curl up with a classic work of fiction or historical study of culture. Taking recommendations from a variety of sources, I stop in and have multiple pots of tea at the most fantastic and fascinating teahouses that I can find. For me, great tea has no pricetag.
Below, I have compiled a list of amazing teas from each of these venues and have included others I have tasted along the way. Since tea is based on personal taste, I have included all the teas I have tasted so that you can visit one (or more!) of these teahouses and try them out for yourself.
ALICE'S TEACUP - NEW YORK, NY (http://alicesteacup.com/)
With three New York City locations, Alice's Teacup is my favorite spot to catch up with my fashion-loving art historian best friend, Karina. Sharing the considerably large portion in the Grilled Veggie Sandwich with pesto and fries, and perhaps trying the vegan soup du jour, we share three pots of tea between the two of us as we photograph to our hearts' content. From our experience, the "3 Cup Pot" is more than enough.
- Energitea - Green tea. My personal favorite. The name says it all.
- Trafalgar Square - Black tea. My substitution for a peppermint mocha. a little taste of heaven with soy milk.
- Vitalitea - Green Tea.
- Alice's Tea - Green Tea / Black Tea Blend. Wake up and smell the roses!
- Apple Cinnamon Black Tea - strrrrongggg smell of cinnamon... and wow! The taste is so subtle and unexpectedly apple! Beautiful blend!
- Lover's Cup -
- Phoenix Dessert Blend - very very very subtle
- Chocolate Chai - with soy milk... you can smell the light cinnamon aroma... warmth of chocolate and milk mixing... chai is subtle. Not bad, but not great. Trafalgar Square is better.
- Tranquil Tummy Tea - hint of tingly peppermint aftertaste, mellow overall... not particularly aromatic.
INSANITEA - MONTCLAIR, NJ (http://www.insaniteallc.com/)
Montclair is filled with tiny bistros, interesting craft shops, movie theaters, music venues, and hip places to hang out and socialize. Coffee drinkers have found their home down the road at Cafe Eclectic, but tea drinkers can find themselves snuggled up with a book or having an intimate conversation in a comfy loft-apartment style teahouse right on the strip. Order up a bottomless pot of tea (more hot water's free!) in one of their many fun and funky teapots and bring your own cup (or grab one of theirs) with mismatching saucer to take in the at-home bohemian vibe of this place. Baked goods change weekly.
- Georgia Peach: Tastes just like a gummi peach ring.
- Bohemian Raspberry: Tried this one as a bubble tea. Excellent... especially when the tapioca soaks up the raspberry flavor. You feel like living in a loft while wearing a floral shirt.
- Granny's Green Apple: Tried this one as a bubble tea. a mixture of granny smith apple and sweet caramel undertones. not a bad bubble tea, but not my favorite either. will have to try it hot.
- Cinnamon Sibu: Green Tea with cinnamon and rose.
- Bourbon St. Vanilla: Rooibus Tea with cinnamon and vanilla.
- Chai Green Tea:
TEALUXE (HARVARD) - CAMBRIDGE, MA (http://tealuxe.com/)
This little spot nestled into the bustling community of Harvard Square is a rare find indeed! A tiny bar near the window looking out at the stores and busy street, a few tables beside them, and a quaint little cubby of four tables in the back beside the spiral staircase made for the perfect place to spend an afternoon reading and enjoying several pots of their fabulous teas. Hot water refills are free and the employees are friendly and knowledgeable... they even gave me a to-go cup for my pot of tea when I had to head off to yoga. Tons of teas to choose from, a lot of innovative blends and ideas for serving them. Try the Chaider next time you're enjoying the changing fall leaves!
- #119 Pumpkin Spice Chai: Excited by the idea of pumpkin spice, but hesitant due to the inclusion of "Chai" in the title, I ordered this anyway. They add milk, so I chose soy (naturally) and eagerly waited for it to steep. The first cup smelled and tasted similar to the tea version of a hotel swimming pool, but after steeping a little longer and having a few more cups, it began to grow on me. If you decide to try it, give it a chance to steep a little while longer than recommended, you'll be fine.
- #152 Decaf Green Mango: Featured as a bubble tea with soy milk as the specialTEA of the day, I grabbed one of these for the long bus ride back to New York. I highly recommend this.
- #169 Vanilla Green: Let's just say... this is the tea equivalent to licking the spoon from the cupcake batter. I went all the way to Boston and came home with 500 grams of this heavenly blend. Best decision ever. Definitely give it a try. First or second steeping, still great. Add chocolate soy milk and give it a whole new life! Subtle and elegant. Excellent, excellent tea.
- #179 Pear & Green Tea: The girl behind the desk discouraged it, I ordered it anyway because I was curious. Strange flavor, awkwardly light, kind of a taste you can feel over your head in the crown. Needless to say, the girl behind the desk was right... but try it if you so desire. It was too sweet for my taste... far too sweet.
- Chaider: Tru Que Chai tea steeped in Apple Cider... pretty good, but not too much chai flavor... which is just fine with me. It takes a certain person to like chai tea.
- "POP" Tea: All I can say is... I DO NOT like drinking popcorn.
UPSTAIRS ON THE SQUARE - CAMBRIDGE, MA
Quirky, cute, elegant and fun. The upstairs has more of an Alice's tea party feel than much of Alice's Tea Cup... very pink, lots of gold colors, beautiful windows, funky mirrors. The whimsical downstairs has animal prints, purples, gold, and creativity galore. They let me explore the other rooms a little and check out the crazy room I'd love to have my wedding in! Visually stunning and oh so playful, the downstairs features a lovenote chandelier and another featuring lightbulbs with wings. It's the room of my dreams!
- Champagne Oolong - Subtle flavor, light tea.
Founded in 1969, Celestial Seasonings has grown to be one of the largest specialty tea manufacturers in North America. Originally picked in the Rocky Mountains, its all-natural ingredients are now harvested from 35 different countries around the world, ensuring that that the most authentic ingredients are used in their teas for a healthy, flavorful experience in each cup. The cafe is covered in tea-inspired artwork and whimsical teapots and accessories, offering seats and a variety of free teas to choose from and taste as guests wait for their tours to begin.
- Dragon Fruit Melon (Antioxidant Max Green Tea) - I think perhaps I let it steep too long because the flavor was a bit sharp and overwhelming. It sure smelled good, though! Perhaps it was the "potent green tea extract" advertised on the box that I was tasting? This was the first tea that I tried and am disappointed that I didn't give it a second shot. Next time, my friends... next time.
- Honey Vanilla White Chai - This is the tea that I ended up taking home. It's warm spiced, full-bodied scent and color is inviting and cozy. It has a light, but full taste with a subtle vanilla flavor that is most pleasant to the taste buds and the chai is not overwhelming or overpowering. If you see a box of this at your local grocery store, pick it up and give it a fair shot. It's excellent as is, no honey, milk, or agave necessary.
- Cinnamon Apple Spice (Herbal Tea) - This tea really was not what I was expecting. With the sweet smell of cherries, this tea had the potential to be the Shirley Temple of teas and tasted just like juice with a hint of cinnamon aftertaste. I am not sure how this translated to cherries since they were going for a "juicy apple" taste with the recipe. Really wild and a delightful trick for the taste buds, but I could never drink more than cup of it if that. Definitely worth trying out, though, if you can get your hands on it.
- Peach Blossom (Green Tea) - Beautiful peach aroma with a subtle peach taste that is very pleasant and calming. Mixed with white tea "for a smooth taste."
A tiny little tea shoppe from heaven... or well, Canada... with a very big selection. Teas for all types can be smelled, sampled, and purchased ranging from naughty dessert flavors to alcohol-free mixed-drink flavors to more traditional earl greys and creative oolongs. You can buy as little as a half ounce and as much as, well, as much as you would like. There's something like 109 varieties of flavor to choose from and if you order from their website they give you three free samples. You simply can't go wrong. The second I walked through their door I asked them if they were hiring... I'm not even joking. Visit there, order from there, do both. Hands down, best tea selection in NYC.
TEAVANA - (GSP) PARAMUS, NJ (http://www.teavana.com/)
A little corner tea boutique that I typically know better than to enter... basically because you can't leave with your arms empty or your wallet full. Excellent tea, beautiful teapots and accessories, but ungodly expensive. Good for taste testing, bad for those of us who can't say "No" to tea. Ask for a gift certificate, but expect to spend regardless. No joke.
- Citrus Lavender Sage - Herbal Tea, $10/2oz. Recommended with Jasmine Green or Oolong Tea. The name and the smell were enough to sell this one to me. Deliciously sweet once you steep it and works well when blended to cut the sweetness and enhance the other tea.
- Gyokuro Imperial Green Tea - Japanese Green Tea. Remember how I said there's no pricetag? Yeah, well... after asking for the minimum (2oz) and being told that I *MUST* keep it in a $6 airtight tin for it to last... let's just say I felt dirty. $20/2oz... but worth it if you are a tea fanatic and don't mind steeping it three times. It helps it last. Very strong, lots of caffeine, tastes much like a green tea frappuccino from Starbucks without all the fat. Too costly? Ask for a sample next time you're there and give it a try, at least. Worth the effort, but be prepared to spend.
SAINT'S ALP TEAHOUSE - WILLIAMSBURG, BROOKLYN
Little, cute, quaint with the homey feel of Dunkin' Donuts without the smell of coffee. Not particularly over-priced. Take-out or dine-in options. Opens at 6pm. Great place to kill time and enjoy a huge menu of teas and munchies while waiting for a yoga class... or other miscellaneous get-together.
- Green Tea w/Peach Bubble Tea - two words: absolutely fabulous. the perfect amount of fruity sweetness and tea. no milk. hot or cold option, I chose cold.
GOBO - (UPPER EAST SIDE) NEW YORK, NY
My first and favorite vegan restaurant. This place and I go back back way back to my undergraduate years of visiting the Met and writing analysis after analysis of whatever artwork I was studying at the time. Once upon an afternoon wandering down 3rd Avenue, I stumbled across this place and fell in love ever since... particularly with their Five-Spice Tofu Rolls with Mango Purée. I would suggest this restaurant to ANY first-time "vegan." Show up for lunch for larger portions and a less pricey menu.
- Taro Soy Green Tea w/Tapioca Bubble Tea - too delicious and creamy to adequately describe.
TEA MAGIC - (MORNINGSIDE HEIGHTS) NEW YORK, NY
Walked by this place a few times while visiting a friend over the years and finally stopped in. Cute, not too overpriced, and very delicious... particularly the bubble tea.
- Peach Green Tea - as bubble tea = excellent.
TEN REN - (CHINATOWN) NEW YORK, NY (http://www.tenren.com/)
Lovely little shop that sells tea and teapots to take home and a bit to drink as well.
- Jasmine Pearl - Subtle jasmine flavor, just enough caffeine.
ABSURDITEA! - PERSONAL BLENDS
Sometimes I like to mix and match teas from my personal collection of souvenirs from the amazing places I've discussed above. Check out these ways to bring your old favorites to new life!
- Rolling Wave: A blend of TenRen Jasmine Green Tea and Teavana Citrus Lavender Sage steeped for six minutes to calming perfection. The warming wave of citrus and sweet fruits stimulate the Sacral Chakra and wash away to a cooling, calming herbal third eye stimulator of mind-opening spices. Best served hot.