I have been looking for great tea for many many years in Manhattan. One tea shop on Madison had great tea, but they didn't prepare the tea. So far, I only have two "go to" tea places that properly prepare tea. I went to a tea shop in Soho that is quite popular and ordered Matcha. Way too much water, didn't heat the cup, wrong amount of tea. "But we took a course in this". Here are the ones that make good tea:
MANDARIN TEA ROOM: This is great. It's a private tea room-a "speakeasy" of tea, if you will. Here you can expect the proprietor, Tim Hsu to serve you tea in traditional "gongfu" style. He heats the pot appropriately, adds a good volume of high quality Chinese tea at the correct temperature-not too hot if it's green tea-hotter if it's an oolong. His teas are sourced directly from the tea masters and farmers of China. Otehr tea shops generally source most of their teas from agents in China. When they do go to the farm, unless they have an incredible sensitivity to the culture and an amazing palate, they can be sold low quality that they are told is high quality. That is actually the vast majority of so-called high quality tea in America. Low quality that is believed to be high quality. Tim is Chinese from Hong Kong with family from Fujian and Shanghai. He knows the culture and the language and has been "steeped" in tea culture his entire life and it shows in his teas which are unmatched in the city. He has even developed some teas that are uniquely made for his clientele. There is not food-just tea. There isn't 200 different teas-just a few. And don't expect herbal teas. This is all about tea-straight tea. Tea culture is about drinking just a few teas; not hundreds. And don't expect teas from other tea countries such as Japan or India. Tim sticks to the tea he knows. Try the jin ju mei-probably the priciest tea out of China these days, the the guanin or if you want to, try his pu-erh teas. He is one of the very serious collectors of the famed pu erh tea.
KAIJITSU: This is really more of a food place-an incredible vegan kaiseki restaurant based on zen monastic food; they have a michelin star as well. They have some great senchas. At the end of the meal you get a great matcha prepared in the urasenke way traditionally. Not by some 20 something who took a 2 hour course. Matcha is sweet rather than overly bitter meaning it's great quality rather than the standard stuff you get in NY.
I haven't been there in a while, but HANGAWI used to have some great Korean teas.
Any that I am missing?
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