I hate mentioning a tea I’m not sure you can get if you live outside the New York area, but this one is a winner and really reasonably priced. I’m generally not a big fan of Fairway and have never figured out what all those West Siders love about the store — the place is crowded, the customers are rude and pushy, and the help is non-existent. So when Fairway opened an East Side location, I was like “whatever.” (If you love Agata & Valentina, arguably the East Side’s most civilized store, you’re gonna hate Fairway, but Agata doesn’t have a tea department to speak of.)
So I’m checking out Fairway’s new East Side store, which is no more appealing to me than their other locations, when I spotted this organic Wuyi. It was bound to be horrible, I figured, since it was only like $1.60 an ounce and packaged in a clear plastic container that inspired very little confidence that the guys in the coffee and tea department knew anything about buying tea — storing or packaging it, either. But I bought it anyway and, much to my surprise, this stuff is really good.
It’s got this great oolong woody-roasty flavor, vaguely reminiscent of Japanese hojicha, but with a hint of peach or apricot. And despite how Fairway describes the taste on the packaging label, it’s not smoky at all, which in my opinion is actually a good thing. As the tea snobs like to say, this tea is patient, meaning you can steep it a shitload of times and still coax out some really good flavor. If you do a faux gong-fu method and use a couple of heaping tea spoons worth of tea per cup and a short steep of, say, just a minute, I’ve found I can get four great cups, each tasting slightly different, but just as good as the previous one. This oolong is on the darker side, closer to 70 percent oxidized, I’d say.
A nice tea and a pleasant surprise. And one reason perhaps to go to Fairway every now and then, even if the place is a friggin’ zoo.