Harney & Sons SoHo in New York, New York
3/5
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slygirl rated this place
3/5
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This is a 3.5 star review. While I’m not fanatic about Harney and Sons’ teas, I do believe they are doing a “tea-rific” job of demystifying tea to the masses. I enjoyed reading Michael Harney’s “Guide to Tea” book and my work actually sells H&S teas. That being said, I do hope to find a tea that will really “wow” me enough to warrant a repeat purchase. This review is based solely on the Tea Lounge.

The Tea Lounge is located in the back of the SoHo shop and seats about 25 guests. The seating arrangements are more suited to parties of 2-4 guests, and solo sippers are encouraged to sit at the counter. This is a high volume area due to a variety of reasons:

1. The restroom is located in the back of the Tea Lounge, so guests of the Tea Lounge as well as paying and non-paying customers make their way back their to use the facilities. It’s a single toilet for both sexes. It was fairly clean when I used it myself, but I also lower my standards when it comes to restrooms in NYC restaurants. This is a clean, serviceable restroom, by NYC standards.

2. A sign instructs guests to wait to be seated, but half of the time, people view this sign as “TL;DR” and barge in to claim an empty table, only to be told by an employee that it’s not first-come, first-serve, and makes them vacate the table.

3. For guests who are waiting for a table, their name is written on a list. While they are waiting for their name to be called, they mill near the entrance of the Tea Lounge, creating bottleneck traffic. Rinse, rather, and repeat 1-3.

On top of this, they only have two employees running the lounge…for 25 guests. Now it could be that they normally schedule four employees, because we were seated there for nearly an hour and when we were ready to leave, two other employees came out to help bus tables and take orders. So it could be entirely possible that they were either on break or they were coming in for their shift.

When we arrived, there were three tables or 9 seats available, not including a couple of counter seats. I gave my name to one of the tea lounge employees and we waited about 10-15 minutes before he found us and we got seated. The tea menu, of course, took up multiple pages, while the food offerings was limited to a single page. For food offerings, it was divided into savory items, nuts, and sweet items. As tea is the main draw, the food accompanies the tea. Don’t expect to get a full meal at the Tea Lounge. But if you want a cup of tea and a snack, then this would be a good option.

Tea is offered in two sizes: small ($6) or large ($8) teapot, with a $1 surcharge for premium tea. If you want the staff to reserve your tea leaves for a second steeping, that will be an additional $3. (I think this price gouging is to discourage people from lingering longer than necessary.) The small teapot is supposed to serve one, but I was able to enjoy 4 large mugfuls of my tea, so I think a small pot is enough for two people, but most people tend to order a single teapot for themselves.

We ordered the vanilla scones, ham and guyere scones, and two small pots of tea. I wanted the Nahorhabi Full Leaf but it was unavailable, so I ordered “Hao Ya ‘B’”, which is a China black tea with some honey/molasses notes that I thought would pair well with our sweet and savory scones. My friend selected a Wenshan Baozhong oolong. The scones were small but not supersized, like the ones at Alice’s Tea Cup. They were flaky and buttery. The ham and guyere was a surprise standout. It had small cubes of ham that balanced well with the Guyere. If you enjoy cheddar biscuits, you’ll like this. You didn’t even need the mustard. The vanilla scones come with proper clotted cream and strawberry jam. Pro-tip: always spread the clotted cream first, as it allows its rich deliciousness to enter the nooks and crannies of the scone, plus it serves as a base for the jam.

While I thought my tea tasted a wee bit over steeped, I don’t have much to complain about the product. But as mentioned earlier, with two employees for 25 guests on a busy Sunday afternoon, service was slooow. A party of four was seated next to us and got up and left because no one came to take their order. As we it was our last day in NY before heading back to DC, I decided to take initiative and go up to the counter myself to close our bill, otherwise we would have been there for longer than an hour. Overall, I was glad we tried out the Tea Lounge, but I’m not anxious to experience it again the next time I visit NY.

Alice's Tea Cup, Chapter I in New York, New York
4/5
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slygirl rated this place
4/5
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It’s been quite a few years since I’ve had tea at Alice’s Tea Cup, so when we went to New York a few days ago, I made plans for my boyfriend and I to have breakfast there. It’s a short distance from Mandarin Oriental Hotel, so that made it very convenient for us. I warned my boyfriend beforehand to stock up on his estrogen before entering the premises as, this place is really girlie. I am serious. You may find yourself peeing glitter, and you know the only other place where that may occur is at Disney World. End public service announcement.

This is a charming tea room that is perfect for tea lovers, best friends looking to catch up, and for mothers and daughters. The theme, of course, is Alice in Wonderland. This location is the first Alice’s Tea Cup; they have since opened two other locations on the Upper East Side. The furniture is shabby chic, the tea cups are all mismatched and most likely acquired from a day of thrifting, the drinking glasses are preserve jars. Ambiance is cute and homey.

When you enter Alice’s, the main storefront is a little area that sells tea ware, loose leaf tea by the 2 ounces, fairy wings, glitter, and to-go food items such as cupcakes and scones. If you’ve come for table service, a hostess will seat you in the dining area. There aren’t many tables—I’m estimating it may seat 25-30 people. As this venue is very popular, I would recommend making reservations. Wait times on the weekend can be an hour or more. However, earlier meal times are not as popular and when we visited at nearly noon on a Wednesday, we were seated immediately. As mentioned earlier, this is a popular place for children, so keep that in mind if you are looking for a place to converse—you may have to speak with a raised voice.

Alice’s Tea Cup is famous for their scones. The flavors change daily. When we came here, the offerings included pumpkin, strawberry, lemon, cranberry cornmeal, peanut butter and chocolate, and one other flavor that I can’t recall. They are fairly generous in size. Two scones are $6, but if you order a pot of tea, then it’s $10. They offer soups, salads, and sandwiches, as well as a prix fixe tea menu. It’s very tempting to order the prix fixe but I am telling you, it is entirely too much food.

Here’s what I recommend: a pot of tea, which the server said is about 3 cups, can easily serve two people. Their tea list is fairly extensive, but you can’t go wrong with Alice’s Tea. If you are a chai person, you will be disappointed. It’s made with milk and honey but the spices are fairly weak.

If you are a party of two, order a pot of tea to share, 2 scones, and then a sandwich. This should be enough food, but if not, you can always order more. They also have the “light fare”, which is soup and half sandwich or salad for $13. This is more than enough food for one person without going overboard. When we dined here, we each ordered a pot of tea, a sandwich each, and an order of scones. There was enough tea left over for me to fill my aluminum water bottle and a scone for me to take home. The sandwiches were tasty. I recommend the curry chicken and the lapsang souchong smoked chicken.

For the two of us, the amount came to be under $45 before gratuity. Service was polite and prompt. There was a billing snafu where they overcharged us for our meal to the amount of $450 but after pointing it out to them, the charges were reversed and they apologized for the error. Other than that, I really enjoyed my lunch here and recommend that you stop on by if you’re ever in the city.

Capital Teas in Annapolis, Maryland
4/5
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4/5
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The Spice & Tea Exchange in Washington D.C., District Of Columbia
3/5
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slygirl rated this place
3/5
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It was a little bit weird stepping in here because I remembered this place used to sell yarn, and now it’s full of spices! Well, I definitely am a better cook than knitter, so I can’t say I miss Stitch DC. When I came in, the lone sales associate was filling bags at a counter, so I was left to my own devices. There are many large jars filled with spices and blends that you are more than welcome to open and smell. The price for the spices varied. For about $22, I purchased the Garam Masala, Popcorn Blend, Black Salt, and the Black Truffle Salt. I forgot to ask about the rewards card, so didn’t receive one at checkout.

Don’t bother getting tea here. I stood there reading all the descriptions, and nearly every tea invoked a sense of deja vu. It was then I realized that I had several exact variations at home! It’s fair knowledge to most tea aficionados that a lot of tea companies buy from the same wholesaler. If you are looking for “unique” tea, then this isn’t the place.

Case in point:

  • S&TE’s Bombay Chai: Black tea leaves blended w/cinnamon, cardamom, orange, pepper, and cloves.
  • Mighty Leaf’s Bombay Chai: Black tea leaves with subtle hints of pepper, orange, cinnamon, cardamon, and clove complete this signature black chai tea.
  • S&TE’s Orange Dulce: Ceylon and China Black teas are blended with orange slices, jasmine blossoms, and other fruits to make this rich and refreshing tea.
  • Mighty Leaf’s Orange Dulce: Black tea with hints of orange, vanilla and jasmine blossoms
  • S&TE’s Pear Caramel: Washington state pears blended with Ceylon and China black tea are accented further with sweet caramel bits.
  • Mighty Leaf’s Pear Caramel Truffle: black tea is made from Ceylon and Chinese black teas blended with sweet pears, bits of caramel and chocolate cacao nibs for a decadent dessert tea.

Price Comparison
S&TE 1 oz Bombay Chai: $4.89
S&TE 4 oz Bombay Chai: $19.17
Mighty Leaf 4 oz Bombay Chai: $9.95
Mighty Leaf 100 foil pack: $49.50*

  • I actually bought this for half off during their sale and got 7% cashback via eBates. So if you like the tea here, get a sample and then go buy the exact thing from Mighty Leaf.

I will definitely return for the variety of salts that they offer, just not for the tea.

Zen Tara Tea in Bethesda, Maryland
4/5
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slygirl rated this place
4/5
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UPDATE: THIS SHOP IS NOW CLOSED :(

I’ve been meaning to stop by this little gem of a tea shop for a while now but didn’t find the time until today. They boast an impressive array of loose leaf teas (over 100 different kinds!), bubble tea, smoothies, as well as desserts, sandwiches, and sushi. For coffee addicts, they offer locally roasted Mayorga coffee. And since Honest Tea headquarters is located a few blocks away, they carry their products, too. This shop seats about maybe 25 people. The space is bright, open, with wooden furniture and stools. There is also a small room down the hall for tea tastings.

Free wi-fi is available (I’m using it right now). They don’t have a policy of how long you can use it, other than not to be an asshole and park yourself at a table when it’s busy.

Asides from loose leaf teas, they also sell tea pots and accessories. I see a lot of “ForLife” products, but also other brands that I haven’t encountered in Teaism or Teavana. I found the staff to be warm, friendly, and enthusiastic about tea. If you are a novice or need recommendations, don’t hesitate to ask! I’m looking forward to coming back in the near future1

Radiance Tea House & Books in New York, New York
5/5
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slygirl rated this place
5/5
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Radiance Tea House is my favorite tea house, bar none. When I go to New York, I absolutely, positively must make a stop—even if I just stuffed my face and you have to roll me here. Luckily, they are open late! The staff here are passionate about tea and are just phenomenal. The food, while pricey, is delicious. This is truly a gem in Midtown.

Roebling Tea Room in Brooklyn, New York
3/5
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slygirl rated this place
3/5
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I visited this place for brunch. It was a bit out of the way for us (we were staying in Midtown) but we were meeting some friends of mine. As it was, we were the first there at the appointed time of 10am on a Sunday. An hour later, my friends arrived. I do give props to the staff for letting me squat a table for nearly half an hour. Anyway, the tea. They have an extensive tea menu, with over 75 varieties of tea. If I lived in the neighborhood, it would be a good place to go in the mornings just to chill out with a big mug. I had the Black Velvet tea (ginseng, peppermint, licorice, and China black tea), which was a great morning blend. I believe they get their teas from serendipiTea.

Roebling seems to be ideal for breakfast and brunch, and fairly popular at that. I had the steel cut oats with fruit, expensive at $6.75. Back home in DC, Teaism serves steel cut oats with some fruit for $5 (for that price at Roebling, you get plain). I also ordered a side of bacon, cooked to perfection. The service was good and not too imposing. Would I return? Probably not… like I said, while easily accessible by subway, it is a bit out of the way if you are staying in Midtown. The feeling I get from this place is that it happens to be a restaurant with a large tea menu as an afterthought. Come here for brunch. Don’t come here if you are intent on having tea.

Snap in Washington, District of Columbia
2/5
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slygirl rated this place
2/5
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I used to work on Georgetown for nearly 3 years, and was working there when Snap opened. They specialize in crepes and bubble tea. This is a good place to go for a snack, but the bubble tea is not that great. It’s made from a powder that is sometimes not mixed well, and the bubbles are hit or miss. Sometimes they’re hard as rocks, sometimes they’re just smooshy.

The crepes are kind of expensive at $5+, depending on which kind you get. I like the nutella with banana, and the spicy chicken thai crepe. While I haven’t been there in quite some time, they used to offer other street foods, like Belgian frites and okonomiyaki (which was just okay and took a long time to prepare).

It is located in a rowhouse that is very very tight. It gets very hot in there and there is not much by way of central air. There is outdoor seating in the back in nicer weather. They are open late, which is a plus. The staff here is hit or miss—they often take a very long time to prepare the crepes, even though the crepe batter is precooked already!

If you are looking for tea, go a bit down the street to Baked & Wired, which has a good selection of tea and cupcakes.

Please note they accept credit cards ONLY. They do not accept cash due to “security reasons”.

Ching Ching Cha in Washington, District Of Columbia
4/5
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slygirl rated this place
4/5
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“Cha” is the Chinese word for tea, and “Ching Ching” is the owner of this serene tea house!

I have been to Ching Ching Cha a few times. This is a quiet getaway in the heart of Georgetown. The decor is what I would call “Chinese apothecary”—dark wooden furniture, with traditional Chinese motifs. It looks like a small place from the outside, but it’s quite spacious inside, with natural lighting and high ceilings. They have low tables (where you’re sitting on the ground) that can seat up to four people, or if you prefer sitting at a regular table, they have those, too. There is a burner at each table and when they bring your tea, they set the kettle on top of it so it remains warm during your visit. In the middle of the tea room they display a variety of tea ware and accessories.

They have a limited food menu, but the true beauty of this place is the tea. They offer nearly 70 varieties, hot and cold, with an emphasis on Chinese tea. The staff is very knowledgeable and will instruct you on how to properly prepare and enjoy the tea you order. I highly recommend ordering any of the oolong teas for a more unique experience.

I have had a few items from the food menu and here are my opinions on them:

  • Mongolian Dumpling: Set of 4, with lamb, cabbage, and garlic. A good starter to your meal.
  • Chicken Roll: Chicken prepared in a flaky puff pastry. Good, but something I can easily make at home, so I will not reorder it.
  • Bento Box Lunch: I started off with the tomato soup, which was delicate and delicious. For the bento, pick a main entree, and two vegetables. I selected mustard miso salmon and kale and Korean squash. I felt there was too much mustard on my salmon; other than that, it was pretty good.

Ching Ching Cha serves light fare, however. I do not recommend coming here if you are famished, as you will easily spend $20+ per person. They do accept credit cards, but I am not sure if there is a minimum order, as I have always spent more than $20 here.

Albeit on the expensive side, bear in mind that you are paying for the experience and ambiance. Don’t come here if you only have 30 minutes to spare for lunch, as the staff can be slow to prepare food. Come here on a lazy Sunday afternoon and forget about deadlines, errands, and feel the stress just melt away!

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