One of my favorite afternoon rituals is a cup of tea and a cookie (or biscuit, as Mr Kitchen would say). I always hit “the munchy hour” around 3-4pm, and a snack and beverage help me push to the end of the day.
I love tea because it’s not coffee. New York–land of “cwah-fee”, not “caw-fee”– can be so extreme: loud talking, fast moving, and in your face. A cup of tea feels like the anti-New York: calming, slow-paced and traditional. Some would even say a little twee, which I don’t mind. I mean, it’s called a “tea cosy”. How can anyone be cynical about that?!
We’ve had a recent invasion by Argo Tea in Manhattan. It’s arguably trying to be to tea what Starbucks is to coffee. I’m interested in how they’ve tried to inject a little modernity into a very old tradition, while avoiding the expected tweeness. Not a cosy in sight on those sleek glass shelves!
A nice step between modernity and little old lady is the cafe Podunk in the East Village. The sign says “An American Tea Room”, which about explains it all. There’s no tipping and no fuss, but there are cakes and crustless sandwiches. Get the bench by the window and order the Cream or Old Friends set. Not only does the proprietess make a mean cup of tea, but her scones are little towers of perfection. I still can’t figure out how she gets so many tender layers without the powdery taste of baking soda.
One last thought on tea: You know how everyone makes fun of the English for being obsessed with tea? Mr Kitchen is from the British Isles and consumes three to four cups a day without fail. It’s kind of amazing. He’s the only person I know who actually enjoys hot tea in hot weather. (According to him, iced tea is a terrible bastardization and mainly an American thing.)
I don’t care either way, as long as it’s a cup of tea.
E 5th St btw 2nd and 3rd Ave