On a recent trip to New York City, I met a friend at a new tea bar called Té Company. The past few years, I have gone to Tea Drunk in East Village and have always been jealous that such a place exists in New York, but nothing even remotely close in Chicago. I had heard that there was now a place in New York that specialized in Taiwanese teas, I had to go! Taiwanese Oolongs are arguably my favorite type of tea, for a whole place to be devoted to that couldn’t be missed.
Straight off the plane from JFK, I went straight to Té Company. I had two friends meet me there so we could catch up. The shop is on a small street in Greenwich Village with no clear signs; the only marker of the shop is a silhouette of a teapot outside the door. We walked in and were warmly greeted by the owners Elena and Frederico. The shop was a small room with a tea bar, some shelves with beautiful clay teaware, and about 4 tables.
When we were given the menus, I was delighted to see that the teas were actually all Taiwanese Oolongs! No sweetened peach lemon drinks, no green tea lattes, just serious oolongs. Elena was proud that she actually travels to Taiwan to source tea for the shop herself. To me this shows that the teas are actually procured and meet the owner’s standards of something they would drink, rather than something that is just sold from another mass market wholesaler. The menu listed their names of the tea, the standard name of the tea, cultivar, information about the tea, and included levels of roasts and oxidation.
I had expected that each of us would order a pot of tea, and we would maybe get one or two infusions of tea, but on a whim I asked Elena if we could gongfu the tea. To my surprise and absolute delight, she said of course! She asked me if I wanted to brew in a clay pot or in a gaiwan and brought out a pitcher, bowl, and three cups. Lastly she brought a Bonavita Gooseneck Variable Temperature Kettle, and allowed me to brew tea for my friends.
We ordered three teas during our visit. We started with a five year aged dong ding that they call “Frozen Summit ’05 Vintage.” I decided to start with this tea as my friends expressed that they wanted a roasted tea and the tasting notes of ‘leather, earth, and fire’ appealed to them. I tend to prefer a few years of age on my roasted oolongs, so an 11 year oolong excited me as well. The tea was full bodied, roasty, and incredibly complex. My friends, who I don’t believe had ever even tried oolong, really enjoyed it! They said they wanted to try another tea, so we ordered a tea they call “honeyed evergreen.” This was a Charcoal Roasted Bug Bitten Alishan. I tend not to like greener teas, however the roast really brought a different dimension to this tea. The bug bites from the jassid also gave the tea a great honey like sweetness. This was a completely different tea than the first, where the first had dark heavy notes, this one had notes of stone fruits, figs, hay, and honey. We ordered one last tea. I saw a Taiwanese Black tea on the menu called “Petite Noir.” I have a soft spot for Taiwanese blacks, Sun Moon Lake is probably my favorite tea ever. This tea was similar to a Sun Moon Lake, but the leaves were much smaller and also jassid bitten. There is something special about these types of teas that bring out an incredible dark cherry and camphor note. It is a tea I love to share with non tea drinkers as it can really open their eyes to what a black tea can be. There is no bitterness or astringency, just a bouquet of fruit flavors hitting the palate.
One thing that really impressed me about Té company is that we were never rushed. Whenever the kettle was empty, Frederico was very quick to refill it. Not once were we rushed or did we feel pushed to leave. Elena and Fredrico came to our table to talk to us about tea and their travels to Taiwan and Portugal. Frederico is from Portugal, and moved to New York to pursue a culinary career. He still brings his love of cooking to Té Company by providing small bites of food. Several times per month, Té Company hosts a dinner and tea pairing that you must book online in advance. The one thing that is not to be missed is the Pineapple Linzer Cookie. Named by Saveur Magazine New York’s Best Cookie, the pineapple linzer is a pineapple cookie with a Japaense chile paste, coarse salt, and lime zest. The cookie was the perfect snack after consuming about 4 liters of tea between us. I’m normally not one for sweets, but this is a cookie that is not to be missed. The combination of sugar, acid from the pineapple and lime, and salt made for a very unique dessert!
We kept all of our teas on the table and steeped them out. We spent about 4 hours at the shop and not once were rushed to leave. It was the perfect setting to meet up with friends who I haven’t seen in a long time where we could catch up and talk. In the middle of the craziness of New York City, there is a great place called Té Company to meet quietly with friends and drink excellent tea all afternoon.