Certainly above average as many American tea establishments go, but still lacking in a few departments. I had a Ginger Limeade and a pot of Silver Needle. The quality of the silver needle was pretty ho-hum, but it was brewed properly and tasted fine. The staff was a little spazzed out and there was no wi-fi, which was a bit of a bummer.
The cafe/dining/tea room was relatively empty and waitstaff lacking, so we had to hunt down a waiter and asked to sit for tea and to see the list of teas.
Blown away by the sheer expense of almost every tea on the list, including obscure white teas that quickly ran upwards of 20-30 dollars and vintage puerhs that ran up to 300, I selected the cheapest puerh, a 1999 tuocha, not realizing that it would probably be one of the mini-tuos we saw in the showcase. The description for the tea did not differentiate between sheng or shou (they did for others), so I asked our waiter if the 1999 tuocha was a green, or sheng, puerh, like the 2003 entry listed below it. He said, “Yes, that’s a green tea.” I should have left then and there, either that, or I should have made it clear that I knew a thing or two about tea, because I think he took me for sap. Instead, I thought, “Well, this is a well-established tea venue, I’ll take his word that it’s a green sheng.” He, however, must have thought, “This guy must want some green tea.”
What came out was a pot of Japanese Gyokuro. At this point, I gave up and just let the experience be what it was going to be. The tea was okay, with too hot water and too little leaf. I quickly blew out the tea candle that had been placed beneath the tea pot. We sat and drank the mediocre gyokuro and discussed our plans for the day. Fortunately, he didn’t bill us the listed $26 for gyokuro and we paid our bill and left. I should have known better.
There was something alluring and enjoyable about the room and what I had heard about the place, but, honestly, it’s obviously just a place to suck the wealthy dry of free cash for what they must be perceiving as the finest in tea. On top of the brainless service was the fact that the dining room was filthy. There was food smeared into the carpet that looked liked vomit and half of the tables were cluttered with dirty dishes. I just don’t understand how such a supposedly prestigious establishment (and I’m extending this to the Park Hyatt) can run such an embarrassing operation.
Full blog post: http://tea.theskua.com/?p=445
I haven’t actually stopped into the tea shop itself, but attended an afternoon of events at the Sheraton around the corner. Everyone was very kind, helpful and welcoming. They poured lots of tea and answered a multitude of questions. Prices seemed a nip higher than average.
My fiancée paid for me to take a workshop here and I had a great time, enjoying all that Annie taught me and purchasing a pair of wide, beautiful hand-painted tea cups. Annie and her husband are wonderful hosts and have a great selection of teaware, as well as some fantastic tea.
While I enjoy Webster’s as a community cafe, place for lunch, used bookstore, and place to work, I don’t think it’s the greatest tea venue. They have a huge selection of teas, but I think many of these have been on the shelf for a long, long time. I’ve purchased some really stale teas here before. The other problem is the way they serve teas, which is one of two ways. To go, they fill a paper bag with the requested tea and use a stapler to close it up! In store, they use a small french press with a cup and saucer. Regardless of the tea, they always fill the press with super-heated water from the espresso machine, meaning that green teas always come out ragingly bitter. Also, the cup is too small for one to decant the entire press into the cup, meaning that some tea sits on the bottom of the french press, oversteeping. I think if they cut down on the tea selection to promote rotation and rethought their serving methods, this could be a better place for tea.
I can’t provide as eloquent a review as the last tea drinker, but I can second her notion that this place is excellent. It’s incredibly comfortable, warm, cozy, and inviting. The teas they offer are almost all sourced from SpecialTeas, which seem to be of respectable quality. Their tea service is enjoyable, arriving on a tea table, with a cup and saucer, a timer, and a ForLife tea pot, sized depending on whether you’re drinking for one or two. A cozy keeps the pot warm. There’s free WiFi and a relaxing atmosphere. I find it a tremendous place to work.