Toasting Tea in Soho and the Lower East Side

Right next to my love of family, friends, and adventure is my love for tea. I would venture to say that I haven’t gone a day without a cup of tea in probably ten years. You’ve probably heard of wine sommeliers? Did you know that there are also tea sommeliers? I think it will be my career in my next life. 😂

I love the idea of flavors, roasting, quality, tannins, acid, etc. that can be manipulated with a single leaf. I love the ritual of tea ceremonies from Japan to China to India to England and France. I love the history of tea, and I love that it was a source of rebellion and English taxation in the early stages of the United States.

Everywhere we go, I will scout out a place for tea. From San Francisco’s Vital Tea Leaf to France’s Kusmi Tea and Mariage Frere to Thailand’s milk teas to India’s Masala Chai to Singapore’s Orchid Oolongs to Vancouver’s Granville Island Tea – I will find tea to love in any destination.

Upon arriving in New York, it didn’t take me long to discover that I could find all of my old faithful French tea brands like Kusmi, Mariage Frères, and Ladurée. But, it did take me a little longer to discover the almost hidden enclaves of top-tier tea.

New York may have the highest tier tea selection in the world due to all of the different cultures bringing their best teas here. Ah, how I love a teapot of cultures!

Please note that this post does not include Bubble Tea or Boba shops. Although I also love a good Bubble Tea, I consider that a sweet drink/dessert. This post also doesn’t include High Tea at the Plaza or Pierre. Again, I love tea sandwiches and scones, but for this post, we’re geeking out about the highest quality teas available in New York City – not food – not silverware – not service – purely and simply all things TEA! 😉

Here’s how we enjoyed a WHOLE day of “tea”-totaling in New York City’s Lower East Side (LES) and Soho!

Tea Tasting in LES

  • Tea Drunk
    • In a cozy basement shop, you’ll find one of the most sophisticated tea tasting experiences in the world. Tea Drunk offers some of the oldest, rarest, and finest Chinese teas available. And, you can experience their flavors in a one-on-one setting with a tea master. If you are a true connoisseur, they also offer a tea club for monthly shipments of some of the most exciting and rare teas available. Tea tastings start at $70 for two people and include three pots (gong fu style) that can be re-steeped several times. Alternatively, they are serving to-go cups of tea from their extensive list for $8 per cup! They claim that although you don’t get technically “drunk,” the full Chinese tea experience can produce a feeling of euphoria, hence, getting “Tea Drunk!” Fun!
    • Side Note: If you love coffee, you’re in luck! There’s an amazing Puerto Rican Coffee shop next door to Tea Drunk called 787 Coffee Co. If you want to get “Coffee Drunk” also, check out the rum-infused coffee! It was smooth, naturally sweet, full of cinnamon flavor, and incredibly tasty! I’m not a huge coffee drinker, but I could have one of those everyday! Also – NO JITTERS! Win – Win!
  • 29B Teahouse
    • I loved the ambiance of 29B Teahouse. It’s a similar (VERY high-end) vibe, like Tea Drunk. However, 29B Teahouse focuses on teas from Japan, Korea, India, China and Taiwan, whereas Tea Drunk is focused purely on the very best Chinese teas. The flavors are VERY different between regions. I’m more familiar with Chinese tea from my experiences in San Francisco. The tasting that I enjoyed at 29B Teahouse was Japanese – from the Nara region. They were full of umami and reminded me of the sea. It was almost like the brininess of an oyster. Immensely complex and full-bodied, these teas reminded me that there is a tea flavor for every dish and for every palate. The other cool thing about 29B Teahouse is that they also serve flights of liquor from the various regions. So, if you have some friends who aren’t into tea, you can all explore the Asian flavors and various beverages through the teas and the Korean Soju, Japanese Whiskey, Sake, and Wine.
  • Other Shops That We Intend To Visit Soon
    • Janam Tea – High-End Indian Tea Selections! Yes, please!
    • Physical Graffitea – Located in the historic Physical Graffiti space, made famous by Led Zeppelin, they serve everything from Black to Green to Oolong to Herbal to Matcha in their cafe!
    • Setsugekka – All things Matcha – and supposedly the best in town!

Tea Tasting in SOHO

  • Harney & Sons
    • Did you know this massive tea company is based in New York? In fact, their flagship store is in the Hudson River Valley! Although I’m planning a trip to this tea mecca one day, I am lucky to have the SOHO shop so close! I’m sure you’ve seen their Hot Cinnamon and Earl Grey at your local Barnes and Noble, but not only are they branching into fine Asian teas, they are also starting a health line including CBD products! This company is massive and doing a lot of good work, but they stay small-focused and customer-friendly. I’ve even received personal notes from Michael Harney thanking me for being a loyal customer. Those personal touches are so nice – especially in these times when we want to support local and small businesses. This is a small business that is still local and has received worldwide success. Good for them! This store is like being in a candy store for tea lovers. It’s overwhelming! My favorite purchases so far have been the New England Breakfast Blend and the Smoke Tea!
  • T Shop
    • T Shop is another hidden Asian tea emporium. Don’t let it’s small size or speakeasy-style entrance deter you! These are amazing teas at amazing prices! I was able to find 4 ounces of 1998 Shou Puerh and 4 ounces of High Mountain Black Tea on sale for $40 combined! Score! They also offer high-end tea tastings and tea selections to-go!
  • Other Shops That We Intend To Visit Soon
    • Palais des Thes – Do you need Tea School in your life, like me? If so, join me at Palais des Thes in Soho – a complete tea course covering the history, the proper preparation, the styles, and the customs of all things TEA! This is a must-do on my NYC bucket list!

Other NYC Ideas…

Check out our previous posts for other NYC neighborhoods to check-out!

More coming each week!

And…it’s 2020…So, here’s my weekly reminder. 

Should I Come to New York in 2020?

If you are living outside the Northeast, the answer is still, sadly, no. For more on this, check out our other posts on 3 Months of New York CityRiding the Second WaveWandering and Wondering in NYC, and New York: Awakening from COVID-19 Slumber. Although the numbers are starting to climb again, New York still seems to be under control (at this point). The government is doing its best to make sure it stays below a certain percentage. With so many people living in such a close proximity, pandemics are especially lethal here. 

***UPDATE*** Starting on November 4th, the mandatory 14-day quarantine has ended! New York is moving to a test-based travel restriction. You have to show a negative COVID-19 test result from the past 72 hours upon arrival, then, three days after arrival (and quarantine), you have to receive another test here. If it’s negative, you’re good to go. If it’s positive, you must continue to quarantine. So, this means shorter quarantines (yay!), but two tests… Stay home if you can…If you can’t, you’ve been warned!

Wait this one out…New York will still be here when the dust settles.

As always, don’t forget to Toast The Moon to all of your international travels by visiting our store, and make sure to follow us on FacebookTwitter, and the ‘gram to catch all of our latest posts and adventures!

Stay in your region this year, stay safe, stay distant, and be like the NYC statues – wear your masks! We’ll see you on the other side.

Cheers,

Noah and Majhon

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