New York City boasts one of the broadest selections of places to drink—or buy things to drink—in the entire world. Why's it so hard, then, to find a tea shop? While we watch a new generation of international tea-cafe chains move into the landscape, we thought it was also time to take stock of a few great spots in the city to pick up teas of all kinds.
Bellocq Tea Atelier
Tea cafes can often feel like gift shops, but stepping into the far-flung Bellocq at the water's edge in Greenpoint, Brooklyn, feels more like opening a mysterious gift boite. The London-born tea blender has had this outpost for a handful of years, quietly open five days a week nestled among the increasingly upscale post-industrial East River shoreline. Look here for eye-catching flower-infused blends, a decent selection of green and oolong teas, and a specialty in black teas and gift sets. The presentation is striking, as is the welcoming atmosphere. And it's only a ferry ride from midtown.
Harney and Sons
The spacious Soho outpost of upstate tea importer and blender Harney and Sons creates just the right setting for those seeking a broad, cozy tea experience: a wide selection of teas in a large, museum-bookstore style room on Broome Street, with staff who'll gladly sample you that day's special tea and talk with you to lead you in the right direction. It's got a more mass-market feel than some places, but that also makes it approachable. The massive array of tins on the shelves include many varieties of black, green, white, oolong and herbal teas, including flavors, and a special line of Deeprak Chopra institute Ayurvedic teas! Sit down in the rear cafe for a more langorous tea enjoyment, with clotted cream and the whole nine yards.
Known in Japan for their well-presented, high quality selection of Japanese green teas, this Kyoto-based company keeps a hidden-away NYC outpost below vegan gem Kajitsu on East 39th. There's nowhere to sit and chat with your sencha, but the warm and expert staff will guide you through tasting anything you're curious about—within reason, we assume. The handsome counter offers a small, thoughtfully curated selection of wares, and you can also take a green tea to go (even though you won't want to leave) in one of their irresistible animal-themed cups. Priced from the very-very-fine to the completely doable, Ippodo is a wonderful go-to for anyone serious about their green tea.
Le Palais des Thés
Looking for a more continental tea experience? Parisian boutique tea seller Le Palais des Thés has extended its international empire to two NYC tea rooms: one in Soho and another on the Upper West Side. Look here for a variety of both affordable and rarer teas across all categories, as well as some unusual tea-hybrids like Earl Grey Oolong (a little bergamot goes a long way). The shops also offer guided education, such as classes in particular types of tea, or general tea-tasting. And there's a hearty selection of gift items as well, naturellement.
At last, someone has taken the name all teaophiles have secretly mumbled to themselves for generations: tea drunk. This Chinese tea nook is perfectly East Village simple: it's small and serious, with a limited selection of teas (focusing mostly on green, oolong, and white styles) and a deep offering of knowledge and exploration. The shop offers an intense program of tea education—in academic-style, 100 level to 300 level classes. Sit and enjoy your tea in the small and simple cafe, or get a membership that allows you to preorder reserve teas and enjoy a more curated tasting experience shipped to you on a monthly basis, and get tea drunk on the regular in the comfort of your own home.
This small tea shop in a Flushing mall is all about fine teas from Taiwan and China, with common styles like oolong and black alongside rare pu'ehrs and specialty aged teas (decades-old tea aged in a pomelo, anyone?). Prices can get high but they're fair for the quality, and if you're not sure what to ask for, the shop offers a dirt-cheap tea tasting that costs a mere $5 per tea, which goes for five steepings to show you how the tea develops in the pot. Selections change constantly, so call or visit the shop to ask the merchants what they're most excited about.
Fang Gourmet Tea: 135-25 Roosevelt Avenue, Flushing, NY, 11354 (map); 888-888-0216; fangtea.com
Bosie Tea Parlor
Bosie is more of a tea room and bakery than a tea shop, and there are few better places in Manhattan to drop in for a pastry (we recommend the Paris-Brest) and well-made pot of tea. But you can buy any of their teas over the counter, including a mellow Golden Monkey and a lively Blue Darjeeling. They pay attention to the details here, timing each pot's steeping individually and warming up chilled pastries on the counter before bringing them to you table, and that care extends to the tea selection and warm service.
Sun's Organic Tea Shop
There are plenty of places in Chinatown to buy tea, but if you're looking for an emphasis on quality over price and a tea seller who'll help you navigate the selection, head to Sun's Organic Tea Shop. The specialty here is an exhaustive supply of herbal teas and rare herbs and spices (oh hi, Grains of Paradise), but there's also an impressive amount of green, black, oolong, and white tea, priced by the ounce and very reasonably so. Though the tea quality can vary, owner Lorna Lai can steer you toward her favorites, including a deceptively complex tie guan yin and an exceptionally smooth mao feng.