Teatotalling

about New York, NY, USA

There's plenty of tea in New York too, and you dont even have to climb over hills to get at it.

Lets start with the cutest - Alice Tea Cup; the name smells of baby showers and women sitting around knitting. That, in fact, is exactly what happens. This is the female equivalent of a steakhouse, the food equivalent of a chickflick, the last hideout for women in the age of sexual equality.

Well, nearly. It's true that the place is full of cutesy stuff and upper westside women who knit, but it's also a serious tea place with plenty of excellent tea choices. And by tea, I mean the whole tea service thing - perfectly brewed tea in teapots, double filtered water, food, tea scones and some serious clotted cream. Sit down, let out a slow breath and relax while menus of tea choices and sandwiches appear on the rough, solid-looking bench before you. Real tea pots and cups too. Its subterranean location at 73rd Street is nearly impossible to find the place so peace and quiet are assured while you spend your time trying to decide on how to pronounce "New Vithakananda". I strongly recommend the deal they have of unlimited sandwiches and tea for $30 - especially if you just happen to have a bunch of books to read.

My next destination is straight across town from upper west to lower east. To Teany at 90 Rivington. It is very LES; impossibly small and appropriately hip-cool down to torn jeans, tattooed clients and bald popstar owner. The place doesn't look much like tea room, but dig deeper and out wafts the aromas of New York's largest selection of teas. It's enough to fill the nice fat book the waitress will bring you, with names and descriptions of (they say) the ninety three kinds of tea on offer, from white to black, hot to cold, real to herbal, korean to sri lankan, completely plebian to simply outrageously obscure. And all this backed by appropriately healthy vegetarian tea sandwiches and small bites. The problem in Teany, if anything, is choice; I've tried about thirty of the ninety three teas and I still feel inadequate.

Moving back to midtown; at 34th and Park Avenue is the sleek zen Franchia teahouse. This one's quite firmly Asian; focused on Korean tea though there is a sprinkling of other regions. The place itself is a temple of calm, with beautiful tea service and ceramic strainers that I'm told are traditional Korean. The food is entirely vegetarian and average but the teas, though limited in range, are occassionally spectacular - specially the Korean Wild Green First Pick.

Still in Midtown, a little further north on 56th Street is the Swissotel Drake. I generally avoid hotel tea services because they represent a very different experience, but Fauchon is an exception. Its actually the New York branch of the famous Parisian gourmet store and confectioner. While the left of the store overflows with chocolates and pastries, the other side is dedicated to a complete English (or more to the mood - French) tea service. More traditional than most of the other places I've talked about, Fauchon focuses more on individual orchards, individual growings and a very stiff-upper-lip tea service with by far the best nibbles tray of the lot. The menu itself provides a handful of choices with detailed descriptions, but if you want to be snooty go ahead and ask for teas from their extensive retail collection and see where that gets you. To accompany it all, there's the full tea service with a large select of Fauchon's outstanding confectionaries. The mini macaroons alone are to die for, but please do not give your life up before sipping some second flush clonal tips. And for company, you will have multicultural Frenchwomen and Saville Row bankers along with very upscale prices.

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