I hate people who are not serious about their meals. -- Oscar Wilde

Monday, March 21, 2011

Harney & Sons

Om Nomz Hero Note to Self: Tea Snobs are 10x better than coffee snobs

** Lagging a bit in entries because I was eating and trekking it up in Peru! First Entry later this week! Stay tuned!!**

I do not know much about tea or a crazy tea enthusiast. I drink both coffee and tea and for a short time in high school and college I did a double whammy and mixed them together with lots of sugar for the insane caffeine fix to get some of that late night studying done. I know enough that I can tell the difference between say a Darjeeling tea to a Chinese black tea and I do not like drinking weird Lipton tea. Although I do have a fondness for the old school Brisk lemon Ice Teas. Do they still make those? Those commercials were AWESOME.

Anyways, I thought I had a decent knowledge of tea but when I went to Harney & Sons, just walking into the place I immediately knew that stuff I knew about tea was amateur hour.  Harney & Sons is a renowned tea seller and blenders with their original shop in upstate New York and now their newly opened shop in Soho. Apparently, I have a quite a few friends that are tea enthusiasts and I decided to check this place out with them. The airy and bright space overwhelmed a person like me (ie. Simple minded) and the walls were lined with boxes and tins of tea. It was not what I was expecting at all. I had imaged it being a small, stuffy shop that was ran by the stereotypical Brit that had on a double breasted suit and had stories and tales of adventure from the Boer Wars. I mean, seriously, when you think tea, you either think Asian guy or British guy, and generally the British guy. The Brits take their Tea very, very seriously and the nerd I am, I find the Opium Wars the clear event that tells you, you do not get in between the Brits and their tea. The short version is:

Brits: Hey China, we want your tea and got a lot of opium, want to trade?

China: Opium, yo drugs are wack, na its ok.

Brits: WTF? No. you will trade your tea for our opium right MEOW!

China: Pissh, no, way, we don’t want youre opium, what are you going to do? Start a war?

Brits: Hells yea.

Basically, Britain started a war, forced the Chinese to take opium and smoke it, and Britain got their tea, such a classic Imperialism happily ever after ending.

Boxes o' teas

Back to the shop, there was no stuck up British people or Asian man with a Fu Manchu smoking a pipe. It was a very friendly staff that was very helpful. Immediately after I walked in, I was offered to taste some teas. I politely declined and went about the store looking the seemingly endless teas. I mean they even had the rolling ladder to get to some of the teas. I had to resist every urge to not jump on the ladder and swing into song and dance.

They had all the basic teas that you would find such as the green teas, black teas red teas and a surprising amount of teas from Asia. Being tea blenders, they had house blends such as a birthday one (apparently your birthday taste like hints of citrus) and Royal Blends such as the Tower of London as they describe it on their website, “Chinese black teas, stirred with pieces of dried stone fruit, then finished with oil of bergamot and honey flavor. This blend is reminiscent of Elizabethan preserves, flavorful and tempting.” Apparently that is what punishment and Anne Boelyn taste like. Stone fruit. Aside from their blends, they have an extensive collection of exotic teas ranging from the Chinese Silver needle white tea to the Kenyan Milima black tea. Many of these teas can be sampled at their newly opened tea lounge that is doing tea time, a la carte. 

its like a bookshelf for teas. Can I just like swing on the ladder plz?

I already stated my elementary knowledge of tea so me being me, I looked at the list of black teas and pick the one that looked the most interesting. I had a pot of the Indian Nimbu tea and I should have went all traditional and went with scones and clotted cream but I was in a sweet tooth mood and they had ice cream from SoCo Creamery, and was able to get a small tasting of their specially infused tea flavors of chai, earl grey and green tea.

I do not care that it is cold outside, anytime is a good time for ice cream. Served in 3 small cones and in a Japanese hand roll stand they were dainty and petite that would make any girl squeal on how cute it is. If I learn anything from life is that cuteness is inverse size ratio: the smaller something is, the cuter it is. It was enough to get a taste of each ice cream to get a proper taste and not overindulge on yourself, which I think is characteristic of drinking tea or tea time. The ice creams were full of flavor and were nice frozen morsels and were a good accompaniment to the tea.

They found another use for the Japanese Hand Roll Holders!

The tea had me scratching my head for a good while because they did not offer a description of the teas so I had to guess what the flavors of the teas were. What I learned is that teas are generally a lot more subtle and harder than say tasting coffees or chocolates. So basically, I sat there for the whole pot, not socializing with my friends reenacting Sideways in trying to figure out all the flavors of it and no, I did not do some weird pulling my ear or twirling my thumbs. I came up with citrus and vanilla and when I decided to stop being so proud, and asked one of the tea staff, I was half right, it was citrus with caramel. I chalk that up in the win column for me but regardless how dumb I looked trying to figure out the flavors of the tea, it was a pleasant experience. The tea was soothing especially on a wintery February and tea people are just nicer. Unlike coffee snobs, you do not get openly scorned if you put cream and sugar in your tea. 

 Cute teapot

Harney & Sons is a good place to go to if you are interested in teas and want to learn more about them. While I would not be planning trips and my itinerary around it, it is however a great place to stop in if you are in the area and browse. I see this a great holiday place to buy gifts for the mom and pop and maybe your boss. 

Harney & Sons
433 Broome St
 New York, NY 10013

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