Monday, October 25, 2010

Some More Tea!

Here are two recent cups of tea I really enjoyed:

This is a pumpkin spice iced chai from It's a Grind Coffehouse, located in Plainsboro, New Jersey. One of my hometown coffeshops, It's a Grind has always made a really exceptional chai. There is no reason it wouldn't be even better with pumpkin. This is a gift from the gods in all of their orange, pumpkinlicious glory!

This is a simple chinatown milk tea from my local bakery on Hester St. The proprietor makes the cup extremely quickly and for 80 cents, you can't do much better. The red tag reads "Hong Kong Style Red Tea", however it is definitely not Rooibos. This is a Hong Kong Black mixed with milk and sugar in the Chinese fashion. Quite a tasty morning treat!

The Adore, New York, NY

I've been going to The Adore (say tea in French) for quite some time now, so I'm surprised I haven't written anything yet on this gem of a tearoom hidden away on 13th street between University and 5th. This little hideaway is actually very unique. All over Japan, there are little French-style tearooms serving up pots of tea alongside French patisseries and savouries. Many of the french style baked goods and lunch dishes have a Japanese style twist, namely cuteness and perfect presentation. The Adore is one of these Japanese wonders, but here's the kicker, it's located in Greenwich Village. I love taking newbies over to The Adore, regaling them with the fact that we are going to a French tearoom, owned and operated in a Japanese style, located in New York City. There is something just oh-so-awesome about that multiculturalism.

The place itself is tiny, so I try to avoid extremely busy lunch hours. Some of my favorite hours are bright and early, just as the sun rises to take in their continental breakfast special, which includes a pot of tea, a croissant, and toasted baguette with butter and jam all for a very reasonable price. The room itself is adorable. The downstairs is a bakery display and take out counter where you can get your fruit tarts and scones or mini sandwiches with a cup of tea to go. Venture up the staircase (gracefully darting past the customers waiting for their downstairs orders) and you'll find yourself in a very rustic and homey environment. Wooden tables and chairs grace a lovely little space ending in a giant picture window that overlooks 13th st, however you'd never know you were in Manhattan looking out the window. There is a beautiful old tree that brushes up against the glass. Each table is adorned with a fresh flower and the menus are on delicate paper.

The tea menu is extensive. All of the teas are imported Mariage Freres brand, one of the highest quality teas in France, and in the world. I am never disappointed with this tea, and although I own a tin of MF Darjeeling, I try to save it for very special occasions as buying it comes at a high price. At The Adore however, four to six dollars. This price may seem relatively high, but this is a very fine tea and is worth each dollar. I of course usually order one of the two Assams. I enjoy both, but the Sankar is a maltier blend than the meleng. I have also tried most of the Ceylons, which are terrific and full of taste. The Marco Polo is one of Mariage Frere's most popular blends, and although I don't like fruity teas, I don't mind the burst of flavor that highlights this particular black blend. For the non tea drinkers, there is a wide variety of coffee options that always arrive at tables looking very appetizing. They are served in bowls, like in French cafes.

The food is also delicious! On a recent visit I enjoyed a light salad with fresh cucumbers, tomatoes, avocado, in a vinaigrette. My go to order is the croque madame (ham, cheese, and a sunnyside up egg) and I also love the ham and brie on baguette. The baguette at The Adore is simply amazing. One of the best in the city. You can order it on its own also, and it always comes toasted and hot. Crispy and full of that good bready flavor. Ah. Their soups are also all homemade and very good.

If you still have room for dessert, try their madeleines. They are oversized and generously priced. Their scones are sweet and crumbly, and if you are in a more indulgent mood, try something like cheesecake or a raspberry tart.

This is a great place to unwind, relax and bring a book. Enjoy your tea time and really reflect on your life. After all, that's part of what tea is about!

*The Adore is a cash-only establishment, so make sure you visit the ATM before coming.

A Cuppa in the Morning

Nothing like a nice cup of my favorite blend, Assam, to start you off in the morning. This is a first estate Assam that I was lucky enough to find at a little Syracuse breakfast joint, Funk N Waffles. The Assam was full-bodied and hearty with a really delicate and malty aftertaste. It paired very well with milk and sugar, and was certainly not an overly pretentious leaf. The restaurant has a nice selection of loose-leaf tea to go with your morning indulgence. If you are curious, I ordered a buckwheat waffle with chocolate chips and peanut butter. It was delicious!

Monday, October 11, 2010

Tea with an Accent, Yardley, Pennsylvania

The Teatime Setting

You know when you walk into a tea room and something just feels completely right? I had that feeling this past weekend. I went back to New Jersey to spend some time with my mother. I have been wanting to try Tea with an Accent in nearby Yardley, PA for some time now, and we decided Saturday would be a perfect day. Oh, and it was a perfect day by the way. Did anyone else notice how beautiful this weather has been? Anyway, we booked a 12 PM seating for afternoon tea service and from the moment we stepped in the door, everything was beyond perfect.

Sugar Cubes Over Sugar Packets Any Day!

Shari Titterton, owner and tea connoisseur, a native of England, greeted us with a warm smile and showed us to our seats. Shari is as passionate a tea lover as any of us and it shows. Her warm and gentle nature, joined with her knowledge and expertise has helped her to create a top-rate tea room in a pocket of Pennsylvania. The room is painted in soft hues and fine China and tea-related pieces adorn the walls and mantle-place. It feels like you are sitting in your English mother or grandmother's drawing room. I loved it from the start.

Setting the Table for Tea

At our tables, wine glasses of ice water were waiting. The table was preset with Royal Albert China, my cup being a particularly gorgeous design. The teapot napkin holders were absolutely enchanting and I was slowly falling in love with the silverware. My mother and I chatted about the lovely atmosphere and the pleasantries of the day. In no time at all, Shari rang a bell and tea service began! Shari explained the two types of teas that would be served that day during tea-time, Lily's Delight and a Lemon Rooibos. After a brief introduction the piping hot tea came out!

What a Cup!

There is something SO special about Tea with an Accent that I think you would be hard-pressed to find at most tea parlors in this country: Instead of ordering your afternoon tea off of a menu and receiving a personal tea pot at your table (they do have an extensive tea menu that you can select off of during lunch seatings!), Tea with an Accent pairs their scrumptious food with an initial tea and a dessert tea. White-gloved tea mistresses gracefully glide across the floor with large Royal Albert teapots, making sure your cup is always filled. I love this because it reminds me of an earlier time, when in London tearooms, servers would come up to your table with large silver teapots offering "India or China" teas. Also, despite not knowing the other diners, this way of serving gives off a community atmosphere. Everyone is drinking the same tea from the same pot and enjoying the same treats together in this wonderful little space. Something about that just warms my heart.

My First Cup of the Afternoon

The teas were phenomenal. My mother and I could not stop talking about them the whole afternoon. The first serving was of the house blend, Lily's Delight. This is a black tea blended with vanilla and bergamot. I've certainly tasted similar blends before, but in my experience either the black tea is too strong or the vanilla/bergamot flavor too powerful. This blend was perfect. Light, crisp, and I could taste the notes of vanilla and bergamot meeting the black tea without a dictatorship of any of the taste elements. I am a professed milk and sugar tea drinker, but not only did I not need milk for this tea, I also didn't even need any sugar! It was just that good. My mother and I both enjoyed this thoroughly. The Lemon Rooibos was also fabulous. I have to say, I really don't like lemon or citrusy flavors, but this I did not mind at all! It was light, crisp, refreshing and paired so perfectly with the sweets. So on to the food!

I Added Milk Initially. Then I Drank it Black!

Iconic for All Afternoon Teas

The service started out with a cheesy vegetable soup served in a very nice gold and pink laced bowl. The soup was excellent and despite wanting to save room for the three tiers to follow, I couldn't resist finishing every drop. After the bowls were cleared, our magnificent three-tiered server arrived with all the necessaries for a splendid afternoon tea. We continued the savoury course and began from the top of the server with sandwiches. All the perfect teatime amenities, we enjoyed cucumber, turkey, chicken salad, and mini quiches. I always appreciate a finely cut cucumber and this was no exception. Perfectly sliced to form a finger sandwich worth remembering.

Great Soup


Tea was changed over as we began to tuck in to the scones course. Shari brightly explained the large extras bowl, a place where we could dump our first brew if we had any extra so our cups were ready to receive the rooibos, steaming hot. At this time, I also had the pleasure to begin chatting with Shari about tea and her experiences working at Tea with an Accent and traveling and trying other tearooms. She had so much to say and I was so glad to talk to her. A kindred tea spirit! She made me and my mother feel so welcome, and I felt as though I was talking to an old friend, not someone I had just met.

These are True Scones!

The scones were of the autumnal variety, cinnamon chip. One of my favorite varieties! And they were perfect. Just the way a proper scone should be. Not excessively large (America, you are doing it incorrectly!), not overbearingly sweet, light, flaky and oh so good! I enjoyed the fresh whipped cream and strawberry preserves and ate my scones the Cornwall way, not the Devon way (for some fun, look up the difference)!

Fresh Cream and Jam

And on to the sweets! We were both feeling pretty full at this point, but some amazing variety awaited us. They were all phenomenal miniatures! There were earl-grey cookies, jam crumbles, lemon curd tartlets, petit-fours, and chocolate mousse tarts in a dark chocolate shell. The mousse cups were my mother's absolute favorite and although I loved them as well, my heart and soul were with the petit fours which were out of this world! My mother even let me have the second half of hers after she saw how much I enjoyed it. We couldn't finish it all, but luckily Shari brought us a little box to wrap everything else up in.

A Sweet Display

After tea, we headed on back to the shop, a great little post full of exceptional teas and teaware. My mother bought a small blue pastel tea cup and saucer set, and I purchased another piece of Royal Albert to add to my collection. Because Shari couldn't find the saucer at the time, she said she'd send it to me, and because of the inconvenience she threw in a free matching plate! A genuinely kind soul, indeed! We chatted more about tea, travels, and the world and I was so thoroughly impressed with Shari! She runs a quality business! I also picked up some White Christmas Tea because I don't have enough white teas at home, and I'm trying to get more into the white blends, particularly as the season gets cooler.

Tea with an Accent featured in Bucks County Living

I left the shop extremely happy. I've had many wonderful tea experiences in the past, but the little extras that make Tea with an Accent stand out make it that much better of a tea experience. Unfortunately, Tea with an Accent will be shutting its doors after this holiday season. But Shari will be selling all of her wonderful teas online, so you can always purchase Lily's Delight to delight your soul! If you can make it over, please do! I'll hopefully be attending a tea tasting next month, and a holiday tea in December! Enjoy your cuppa!

The Best Part of the Afternoon: Spending Quality Time with My Lovely Mother

-The Tea Gastronomer

Monday, October 4, 2010

Pumpkin Spice Chai from Starbucks

Okay, if you read my blog enough, you know that although I will always promote the high-end, good quality teas, there is a place in my heart for the lesser varieties...even if that means visiting Starbucks every now and then. Their matcha lattes are not bad, and I have always been a fan of their chai.

It's at this time of the year when I get super excited, because the pumpkin spice flavoring, a seasonal addition, is back at Starbucks locations across the city. On this brisk, rainy evening, before my 9 PM meeting, I stopped in at the Washington Square location for my autumnal favorite: a tall pumpkin spice chai tea latte. The complex flavors of Fall are all present: ginger, cardamom, nutmeg, cinnamon, clover, and of course pumpkin. These robust spices are combined with milk and tea for a robust combo that leaves a light tingle on your tongue. Although the cold is already getting to me, at least I have a nice hot beverage to quell those cold-day blues!


Saturday, October 2, 2010

Oolong Tea, Chinatown, NYC

I've been exploring my neighborhood more and more lately, and every Friday morning, I'm trying to try a new place for Chinese breakfast. This past Friday I went to Big Wing Wong on Mott Street for a hot bowl of shrimp congee and youtiao (fried cruellers).

One thing many of us take for granted when entering almost any Chinese establishment is the excess of tea streaming from a giant metal carafe into your cup, be it little Chinese bowl or regular water glass. In the morning, you will usually receive the latter. At Big Wing Wong for breakfast, I took time to reflect on the Chinese tea culture, and its centrality to life. The tea you will inevitably be given is a simple Oolong Cha, a tea not fully oxidized, falling somewhere between the categories of green and black. I have recently begun to appreciate a nice Oolong more and more.

At Big Wing Wong, my cup was always filled, with a very nice, light and refreshing Oolong. The flavor was crisp, but not overly powerful. And there is something so nice in looking around and seeing all the other patrons sipping on the same tea, from the same pot in their own little water glasses. Tea is everywhere and unites people, and this particular Friday morning, I was certainly reminded of that.

The Oolong selection from China is extensive and varied and easily available for purchase at any Chinese grocery in the neighborhood. Pick up your own box today...or have any meal at a restaurant in the area!