Monday, November 15, 2010

The Tea Spot

I was meandering around the Washington Square Park area yesterday in the late afternoon when I came across a little place on 3rd and MacDougal called The Tea Spot. In the middle of the block between a tattoo shop and a dirty Irish pub was a little British-influenced oasis adorned with manicured shrubs and white iron garden benches. I looked at the time and discovered that it was, in fact, almost 4pm. Tea time. How apropos! I checked my bag to make sure I had a good book to keep me company and climbed the stairs in anticipation of a relaxing afternoon tea.

The interior of the shop was not at all what I would have expected from the manicured facade. It was homey, but a little more NYU than cultured European. A young hipster sat in the corner devouring a scone while bopping to earphones plugged into his laptop (which was quickly collecting the crumbs from his snack). A group of theatre majors (I can spot them from a mile away) were excitedly discussing the prospect of a young lady's getting a job that would allow her to work with "professional actors". And, oddly, a very well-dressed middle-aged couple was sipping wine in antique chairs beside a fireplace at the back of the room. I approached the counter where a smiling young man in a tight tee shirt was waiting for my order. I looked at the wall of teas and asked what kind I could likely not get anywhere else. He started a spouting off a list of exotic-sounding teas that included pumpkin cream, angel's kiss, mate fiesta, ginger peach apricot, turkish apple, and exotic dream. I counted at least eighty different varieties and ordered a pot of the most ridiculous sounding tea that was available: Tropical Cyclone. While the hunky coed assembled my pot of tea, I read the description of Tropical Cyclone. "Green sencha and assam blended with hibiscus, rose petals, blue mallow blossoms, sunflower petals, cornflower blossoms, english camomile, and mango/passion fruit/pineapple flavors". Um, so, I knew what about half of those ingredients were. Whatever. I knew how to drink tea and that was what counted. I ordered a slice of pecan pie for good measure and took my tray down a narrow set of stairs to find a table to myself.

The basement of The Tea Shop was even more interesting. On one side of the room was a fireplace flanked by antique gold mirrors that at one time would have been ostentatious, but were oddly appropriate in the hodgepodge of exposed brick and vintage accouterments. On the other side of the room was a small bar lined in wine glasses. I guessed that The Tea Spot became The Wine Spot somewhere after tea time. The diners were as divergent in the basement as the first floor and just as plentiful. The place was packed. I found the one empty table and settled in to taste my goodies. I must say that the tea was brilliant. It was delicately fruity and floral at the same time. I drank the whole pot. No milk, no sugar. It was that good. The pecan pie, while I could tell that it was not quite fresh, was sufficiently tasty even though it was served in a red checked paper receptacle a la french fries at the roller rink. The presentation of my tea, I realized, was representative of the place. My pot of rare imported tea happily shared a table with the veritable paper cup that held my pie while the wine sipping yuppies shared a table upstairs with the sketching pierced girl with the dreadlocks. And the end result was favorable. You've gotta love New York sometimes. I pulled out a Beth Henley play and poured another cup of tea. I could get used to this tea time stuff.

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