The readings have been both historical as well as current. From these I have made a list of places that I would like to visit one day to experience the different cultural offerings and traditions. Locations where tea is more than just for drinking satisfaction but a way to make a connection.
The scenario reminiscent of the childhood watering holes frequented by adults of the day places such as:
The Barbershop: where men would come to get a shave, haircut and the latest news about what was happening in the neighborhood,
The Bodega: the local grocery store where people connecting with people to hear news from abroad and exchange ideas,
The Bar: the place where the regulars hung out to connect and converse over spirits and wit.
I live in a city where tea drinking is becoming the “chic” drinking alternative and with this formidable interest many new establishments are opening daily which include tea on the menu. Although this gives me a host of options, many of the offerings are not for the serious tea drinker.
Those of us who have been “searching tea” for some time have established solid relationships with many of the pioneers of tea in the city and are saddened when one closes.
One such pioneer has been my tea sanctuary for some years. I use the word sanctuary as it was the place I knew I could always go to relax and have that “special cup”.
What about this unpretentious tea shop delighted my fancy?
The place where, like in the television show “Cheers” everyone knew my name.
I remember one of my first visits, walking in SoHo amongst the hordes of sightseeing, mega shopping tourists, wanting to escape the mayhem I took a shortcut through Bloomingdales and found myself on a backstreet Crosby Street.
Like a oasis in a desert I rushed to the spot. As I opened the wooden framed glass door, which by the way, was always difficult for me as the frame, being old, always seemed to stick, needed an extra push. I did this hesitantly for fear the glass might become dislodged if I pushed too hard.
Upon entering I was greeted by a smile and welcome from the woman behind the counter who had been waiting on customers. I took the time to look around. The space very small, painted tan and green with what appeared to be an old copper plated ceiling. The paint on the walls displayed spots where time had peeled away layers exposing the rough wall underneath.
At the time, these utensils were only things I had seen at World Tea East displays or books, and teapots were my standard. There was a large photo of tea leaves on the wall. On the alternate wall there was a blackboard that listed the offerings of the day, I was both excited and in a quandary.
I was unfamiliar with many of the offerings and must have had a quizzical look on my face. The counter person took notice immediately and offered me a sampling of the tea she had just prepared for the previous customer, an oolong “Phoenix Eight Immortals” prepared in a gaiwan. She explained this was the fourth steeping and proceeded to tell me about the source of the tea.
Needless to say I was hooked.
She introduced herself and asked my name and we began to chat about tea. About a half hour and many cups of delicious tea later, she informed me that they had free tea tasting on Thursday evenings and more formal classes and tea dinners hosted by Sebastian the co-founder and tea connoisseur.
How funny, I had attended a presentation given by Sebastian a few years before and was somewhat put off as he seemed too much of a tea purist for my tastes, note at the time I was a tea novice and tea bags were still much of my repertoire.
For me this was the place where I enjoyed tea in its essence, learning so much along the way so much about the leaf, sampling some of the best the leaf has to offer. It is very rare, for me at least, to find a place where I could feel at home talking tea at any time. Most of the regulars who stopped by were also “tea lovers” which allowed me the opportunity to engage in conversations about the places I have never been, mesmerized by the recounting of amazing tea journeys. Discussions centered around tea estates, tea qualities, picking, brewing, drinking, cooking, new tea places, and on an on.
When visitors came to this city In Pursuit became the place where I would arrange to meet knowing the experience was unparalleled. A post about one such visit by Jen P. International Tea Moment.
I spent many hours here enveloped in tea.
I drank, I listened, I learned.
I knew, each time I gave the extra push on the wood framed glass door I would be transported to a much simpler world where time stopped, where the world’s pressures and worries were outside, where I could take a breath and treat myself to something truly special, with very special people.
Ana, Mary, Sebastian thank you for that.
To all the regulars, names too many to mention thank you for your insights and camaraderie over lovely cups of tea.
I will truly miss this special place and time.
it was more than just the tea.
You can still order the fine tea selections on-line at In Pursuit Of Tea