**I want to start by saying that I am no expert in tea, nor am I at all a credible source of tea shop reviews. As stated earlier, I’m merely some Midwestern Asian-American with some weird compulsion to occasionally display her curated thoughts for the “world” to see.**
Recently I went to New York to visit friends, but my real reason for going was to visit tea shops. (Sorry friends).
I’ve been intentionally going on “vacations” to visit tea shops for the past year now. This endeavor, I’m first to admit, is truly as bougie as it sounds. Flying to another destination just to sit in one location for hours on end is a slightly unforgivable level of decadence. This exercise, though, has been incredibly enlightening in unofficially feeling out where tea commerce and appreciation is at in North America. Needless to say, I am excited for what the future holds.
In San Francisco I went to Song’s Tea & Ceramics, in Montreal I went to Camellia Sinensis Tea House, and in New York I went to Tea Drunk.
During my time in New York for a week I spent approximately 10-12 hours cumulatively over the course of three visits in a tea shop called Tea Drunk (123 E 7th St, New York, NY 10009). This shop’s namesake comes from the slightly intoxicated feeling one gets when one imbibes in too much tea - as such, I imbibed.
1st visit - 5 different types of tea.
2nd visit - 4 different types of tea.
3rd visit - 4 different types of tea. (I think.)
When you first walk into Tea Drunk there is the inevitably of feeling uncertain as you look upon the lists and lists of teas. The gentle reminder of your lack of knowledge slowly hums as you flip through the well used menu.
My first visit began after I had just had a sub-par bowl of ramen. I was the only customer in the shop, and with the full attention of the store manager’s service at hand decided to make an initial impression based off of medicinal needs - so I chose a longjing. (Links to wikipedia for your own growth in tea smarts.)
Then I had a red tea that was made by a monk. Named Chan Cha, this tea is made by a monk that the owner of the shop, Shunan Teng, met. It had a volunteer payment method where you could decide how much you would like to pay for tea. The amount paid would then go to support the monk’s tea making practice.
After that I got a Cliff Tea rougui, per the shop manager’s recommendation. I was also able to sample a green tea that a regular was drinking as well as the shop tea that was on rotation for anyone to try at the bar. This was a very different tea drinking experience from the ones I had in the past, more western, more micro-brewery like - but no less legitimate and precious.
The shop is not large, so when there is the right amount of people in the room it naturally lends itself to conversations with strangers. I learned in the span of a few hours where people were born and raised, where to find fresh made-to-order madeleines, and just how friendly New Yorkers actually are. It was as though the commonality of drinking this type of tea leveled the hesitation that comes with preconceptions and everyone became more willing to linger.
“I thought I knew something about tea”, is a common statement made by customers, the store manager told me. Despite my sympathy with this sentiment, Tea Drunk’s unassuming nature in presenting the drink and the character of the store keepers allowed me to return for several more eventful visits. “I thought I knew something about tea” is the best treasure that Tea Drunk provides to anyone bold enough to step through their doors.