Tea & Sympathy

Tea & Sympathy

I’ve admitted before that I enjoy a nice cup of coffee.  Actually, it’s hard for me to resist the smell of freshly brewed coffee in the morning, so I’ve always enjoyed going to various coffee shops and cafes around the globe.  In fact, one of my dream jobs was to own my own café with the name, “Café L’ezat,” which translates to “very tasty” in Farsi.  So I was pleased and surprised to find a variety of tea shops in New York City at which I could select from an assortment of delicious teas and enjoy either a proper afternoon tea or a “night cap” of herbal tea with a friend before heading off home to bed.  I’m fortunate to live in a city in which the idea of traditional tea seems to be a common interest.  I don’t think I could find as many options back home in Texas, especially in Austin.  

My first teashop in New York City had to be Tea & Sympathy.  I was only familiar with the Tea & Sympathy store, which sells our tea and just about every English product imaginable.  Everyone in the store appears to be British – and cheerful.  Tea & Sympathy seems as if it was lifted off some street in London and placed smack dab in the middle of West Village.  After hearing so much about the café next door, I decided to venture there on my own.  Little did I know that this place is a hot spot, where people actually wait outside in the cold for a table to open up.  The café is small and tight, with only about eight tables.  On the walls are pictures of the Queen and other English figures (the Prince and the Duchess, of course!) as well as a hodgepodge of other items.  The menu has everything from afternoon tea, which includes a three-tiered tray of assorted finger sandwiches, to an assortment of over 30 types of tea, to a full selection of breakfast, lunch, and dinner favorites, like Shepherd’s Pie.  I decided to go classic and simple and ordered a pot of the house Earl Grey and a scone.  Once I finished the tea and scarfed down the delicious scone, I felt the need to pay quickly and allow the cold folks outside the chance to experience Tea & Sympathy as well.  If you’re ever in New York City and want a true English afternoon tea, definitely make a stop at this West Village gem.

Alice's Tea Cup

Alice’s Tea Cup

Another spot in the city that I had heard about was Alice’s Tea Cup, which offers three locations.  I decided to try the shop on the Upper West Side with my new tea companion, Martîn.  While Tea & Sympathy is all things English, Alice’s Tea Cup is all things Alice in Wonderland.  There is definitely a much more relaxed feel in this café, probably due to the size.  There’s plenty of seating, perfect for having your own little tea party with friends.  The menu here is just as playful as the décor, offering three different afternoon teas – The Nibble (a lil’ hungry), The Mad Hatter (hungry), and The Jabberwocky (famished!).  Martîn and I came during the evening so I decided on a small lentil soup and two pots of tea.  Since Martîn prefers strong black teas, I selected Cameroon Fannings for him (supposedly grown in an African Volcano) and a light Darjeeling Earl Grey for myself.  My tea was good, but a bit too strong for my taste at that hour; my soup, however, was one of the best I’ve had around town.  Martîn really liked his selection and recommends the blend for anyone who enjoys a bold black tea.

Bosie Tea Shop

Bosie Tea Parlor

My latest tea shop discovery is Bosie Tea Parlor.  Unlike the other two tea shops, this one doesn’t really have a theme, but its cozy, simple style reminded me of a café in Paris.  Martîn joined me again, this time ordering the soup (French Onion), which he scarfed down while commenting, “It’s so good!”  Once again, I selected the teas and decided upon an Earl Grey blend, called Dorian Grey, for Martîn and a Hazelnut tea for myself.  Since it was also Martîn’s birthday, we treated ourselves to a chocolate dessert called, “The Chai.”  This dessert sealed the deal for making Bosie Tea Parlor our favorite spot.  Bosie Tea Parlor offered the best service, with experienced staff for providing recommendations, and an excellent selection of delicious teas.  The owner of the café even joined us for a chat and explained how he left his finance job to open Bosie Tea Parlor two years ago based on his passion for tea.  I am definitely returning here soon for their monthly tea-tasting events!

It’s nice to see how prevalent afternoon tea is here in New York City.  It’s also quite entertaining to see how the experience of tea time can be so different from one tea shop to next.  You can have high-energy and traditional English settings in one block and then escape to a European-style café in another.  The most enjoyable part is trying different blends and deciding what your next choice will be.