Sweet aromas lure one into this tiny coffee and tea shop on west 70th. Originally founded in 1976 across the street, the Sensuous Bean moved to its current location in 1990 and is now co-owned by partners in life and in business, Lucretia La Mora and Tom Wilson. "People follow their noses, " explained Tom of the cafe's success. And even horses cannot resist - he recalled one peeking its head through the door as an officer grabbed a cup. "We blend to taste, " Tom added. Each day, beans are grinded on site and brewed in three roasters for a hot cup. And although small, the place is stocked with a large selection of coffees and teas sourced from a variety of regions. The chai spice tea comes from India and the Mexican Vienna brew from Zimbabwe. The assortment of flavorful tisanes includes intriguing names like red velvet cupcake or bella coola lemon lime.
Olivia, a member of the Manhattan Sideways team, was in a state of fevered anticipation when she realized we were inching closer to 64th Street, where the southernmost Alice's Tea Cup is located. The whimsical tea shop has three different "Chapters, " and this is the second in the series. Unlike the original location, which sits on the ground floor, this chapter has two floors, decorated with Wonderland characters and Lewis Carroll's cryptic text. The tearoom is owned by Lauren and Haley Fox, sisters who have loved tea for as long as they can remember. And, they have always been passionate about everything Alice in Wonderland: they grew up on the Upper West Side, just a short distance from the Alice in Wonderland statue in Central Park, and both adored Lewis Carroll's books. It made perfect sense, therefore, to open an Alice in Wonderland-themed teahouse in 2001. The eatery has become an enormous success, and has attracted many different groups of people: like the book, the tea house, though full of curlicues, bright purple hues, and fairy dust, is not geared towards children. Children are frequent and enthusiastic visitors, but it is just as likely that one might see a business meeting between two creative types, an exuberant reunion between friends, or a solitary adult diner nursing a pot of tea. The tea list is extensive and scrumptious. "List" is a misnomer – it is more of a booklet. Olivia has tried at least fifteen of their teas so far and has not made even a dent in their selection. Each tea is brought out in a personal pastel pot, to be poured into one of the eclectic mismatched cups and saucers that decorate the repurposed sewing machine tables. The tea also makes its way into the food menu: Olivia raves about the smoky Lapsang Souchong chicken breast, made using a Chinese black tea that smells and tastes like a bonfire. Despite the brilliant concept, the adorable decor and the excellent selection of teas, it is the afternoon tea service that steals the show. Diners can choose between "The Nibble, " "The Mad Hatter, " and "The Jabberwocky, " depending on how hungry they are, and servers will bring them a heavenly three-tiered stand layered with finger sandwiches, desserts, and scones - without a doubt, the most popular being the pumpkin scone, drizzled with caramel syrup. So as to have the full Alice in Wonderland experience, there is a mini shop up front where Haley and Lauren's cookbook, Alice's Tea Cup, is on display alongside many other trinkets such as fairy wings, picture books, and anything one might need to reproduce their own magical tea party at home.
Every subject that one could possibly imagine a magazine covering between its pages can be found on the shelves of this fabulous shop. There is a strong emphasis on fashion, including international glossies, plus news, business, art, architecture, entertainment, food, travel, sports and dozens of other topics. And in case a cup of coffee is needed while browsing, there are pots waiting to be poured and a selection of other typical magazine stand items, as well.
Soft blues music greeted me as I entered this remarkable hidden gem on West 10th Street. I found the current New York Times hanging on a rack and a case filled with bags and tins of tea. Before settling into a cozy corner with Tom, the photographer from Manhattan Sideways, I met the extraordinary couple who own the store, ready to guide me through a tea adventure. I immediately thought to myself, this might be the best kept secret in the Village, but I am sure it will not be for long. Federico Ribeiro and Elena Liao met at Highlands, just a short distance away, in 2009 while both were having a drink at the bar. Elena already had a deep passion for Taiwanese tea and wanted to bring the product, along with her knowledge, to Manhattan. Elena moved to the States from Taiwan when she was thirteen but she loves returning "home, " and has a good connection with the farmers. "I drank tea all my life; it is the national beverage in Taiwan. " Whenever her parents had company, tea was served. Federico enjoyed cooking; he had worked in several top restaurants, including Per Se, but was eager to learn about the history of oolong tea. Thus, the two began traveling together, visiting Elena's parents in Taiwan and spending time with tea farmers. With their strong education and sense of aesthetics, the two decided to open their own charming space. Elena had a tea company for four years prior to opening Te. She had been selling to restaurants, attempting to offer a more intensive program, but she recognized that she was not reaching enough of an audience. She had increasingly felt that in the States, there was a great awareness and appreciation for coffee and wine, but not so much for tea. She became determined to change this by giving people a more "sensitive experience. " The city lacked places to find oolong tea. "There was a real void, and in a city where you can find just about anything, I felt that one should also be able to find my tea. " In 2016, the couple opened their magical shop with a focus on Taiwanese tea. Te has about twenty different types of Taiwanese tea. They all come from the same plant, but differences in processing result in distinct categories: oolong, black, green, macha or white tea. The level of oxidation determines the tea's color and how strong it will be. Elena told me that she chose to focus solely on the tea from her homeland - "otherwise it would become overwhelming. " She went on to share that she "read and read and read - I educated myself. " By meeting with the farmers, however, and returning every year in May (the harvest season), she is able to taste the leaves as they are first picked and can control what they are receiving back in Manhattan. "I am always learning so that I can be certain that I am providing my customers with the best possible product. "Everything about Te is well thought out and Elena and Federico work quietly and professionally to be sure that each patron has the exact experience that fits his or her needs. When we sat down and ordered a pot of tea, we were told that whenever we needed more hot water, we simply had to tilt the cover to the side, and that would signal that we needed our pot filled. There was no need to disrupt our conversation. For the customer who wants to settle in at one of the few small tables and work undisturbed on their computer, they are welcome, as is the person who would like to sit and have an elaborate tasting with Elena. For Tom and me, we were eager to hear the couple's stories and to become a bit more educated about tea. Elena sat down and happily described every aspect of the world of tea, clearly demonstrating her passion and knowledge. Presenting us with a small soft leather book that contained the tea menu, Elena flipped through the pages, describing some of her favorites. When I spoke with them, Federico and Elena had only been open for a couple months, and they were very pleased to be able to say that they already had regulars. "People love to come in and sit down and chat about tea. " I do not think that Elena could ask for anything better than that. Although they feel that they are constantly trying to "reinvent" themselves, depending on the needs and desires of their audience, I believe that Elena and Federico have already found a fantastic formula. Oh, but I did not mention the food! The menu is tiny, as Federico prepares each dish by hand, but the few items could not be any more perfect. I had a simple red leaf salad with a light olive oil dressing, toasted almonds and freshly grated parmesan. I savored every bite. Tom had never tasted anything quite like what he ordered - Tortilla de Patata. Federico said that it was just potatoes, onions and egg. I chimed in, saying, "kind of like a quiche without the crust, " but Tom insisted that it was nothing of the sort. All he could mutter was "out of this world. " Even the sourdough Portuguese bread served alongside my salad was outstanding, but that, we learned, is because Federico makes it himself.
Few things are more relaxing than sitting in a cozy cafe, sipping a mug of tea. With art from local artists, Diane and David Green, hanging on the walls, a plethora of delicious herbal smells hanging in the air, and the soothing conversation of the owner, Ilana, Physical Graffitea is the perfect spot to do just that. Ilana told some of us from Manhattan Sideways that she used to own a vintage clothing store, but always wanted to open a tea shop. In 2011, she swapped out her vintage clothing for jars of loose tea and Physical Graffitea was born. The store is named after the Led Zeppelin album Physical Graffiti and is located in the building featured on that famous cover. In 2012, Ilana and her daughter took a picture with Robert Plant when he came by to check out the store. Ilana explained with a big grin how her daughter called to the customers in the shop, “Come out, Led Zeppelin is here! ”The menus are lovingly made with pressed oolong and lavender flowers. In addition to the teas, there are homemade cookies and kombucha on tap. Ilana has over 200 kinds of tea by the cup or pot, as well as a full online store. While teaching us about the origin and uses of her teas and herbs, she made us a cup of her super strong matcha. We could smell it from our table as she blended the ground green tea powder with soy milk and honey. She explained that there are different kinds of matcha and that she only uses the premium grade. A cup of this strong green tea, which comes both iced and hot, clears the mind and leaves one alert and calm. If matcha gives the brain energy, maca, a Peruvian superfood, gives the body energy. Ilana told us that the bartenders on St. Marks come to her to get matcha with some added maca right before their shifts so that they are ready for the night ahead of them. Ilana has gained her extensive knowledge of teas through constant reading. She explained that herbs quickly lose their medicinal power, and “you can tell that herbs are fresh when they’re more bitter. ” It has to do with the oil that is present on the leaves themselves. She informed us that flowers and leaves dry out in six months and roots and bark in three. All the teas are carefully sourced for flavor and freshness. The chamomile is from Egypt, the lavender from Tibet, and the hibiscus from Mexico. We learned so many interesting facts from Ilana: The Sweet Oblivion tea has been known to wean people off sleeping pills, nettle leaf is good for pregnant women, and Pu-erh is a tea that is purposefully aged, passed down from father to son. There are teas for allergies, hangovers, fertility, pregnancy, menstruation, digestion, and the list goes on and on. Ilana was excited to tell us that doctors have started to refer their patients to her, since they have found the medical teas so effective. Whether for taste, energy, or medicinal purposes, Ilana has clearly demonstrated that she has the knowledge to choose the right tea for the right customer.
Though the Tea Ceremony Society would be interesting enough on its own, the Urasenke Chanoyu Center building also has a fascinating history: the 130-year-old landmark was Mark Rothko's studio, and where he ultimately died. In 1964, the interior was completely redesigned to form four tea rooms surrounding a central tea garden. Anyone interested in chanoyu, the traditional Japanese tea ceremony, can join the society for a fee. In-depth chanoyu classes are offered to members, and monthly tea ceremony demonstrations are open to the public.
Olivia is a woman who, admittedly, likes to take risks. Fresh out of school where she studied to become a dentist, she instead felt called to selling tea. At the time, there wasn’t a great market for tea in China; when Olivia approached her neighbor - the only person she knew involved in the tea business - for advice, she was met with warnings rather than information. However, Olivia is also a persistent woman, and with some “nagging” her neighbor finally agreed to teach her about tea manufacturing. Additionally, Olivia spent time in the mountains where tea is grown, observing farmers and enriching her tea education. After spending a month tediously picking a storefront, she opened her first store in her hometown of Fuzhou in 1995, and found herself an "immediate success. " Just three months later, she was able to open her second storefront in Shanghai, and then finally a third in Guangzhou. Olivia describes this twenty-year journey, and her subsequent move to America, as a “strange kind of fate. ”Jin Yun Fu represents gold, tea’s aroma, and fortune. Her logo captures a red circle representative of the sun and a swirl representing a cloud. This swirl’s open endedness will keep fortune coming to the shop forever as the cloud will continually rise. And though her move to New York was not entirely smooth, she feels strongly about her choice of location and fortunate in the continued success of her Chinese shop. In New York, Olivia wanted a location that was central, which would allow her to interact with people of all denominations, and she feels she found that on West 25th where she is located upstairs in the Showplace Antiques Center. A large percent of her customers are Americans, as she has discovered a budding interest in tea culture of younger generations of Americans. She boasts that she has never encountered a rude customer, though she was unsure whether to ascribe this to either the culture of tea itself or the calming properties of drinking tea. Olivia’s passion for her work shines through, continually emphasizing the importance that her customers learn the mental and physical healing benefits of drinking tea. She feels that despite tea’s Chinese origins, it is a “worldly gift from nature. ” Though she endorses the benefits and specialities of each type of tea, when pushed for her favorite she lists Wuyi Yan tea - a type of Oolong tea - for its texture and special “mouth feel. ” Every thing she does in her shop is infused with a care for disseminating the knowledge she has amassed in the years since opening her first shop in the 1990s. When you step into Jin Yun Fu, Olivia’s claim that she’s never encountered a rude customer becomes less shocking. It’s organized atmosphere, equipped with mini statuettes, beautiful tea kettles, and, of course, lines of loose-leaf tea bags would calm even the busiest of New Yorkers.
Naturopathica is a one-stop shop for healing and wellness. The modern, uncluttered storefront on 26th Street contains a vitality bar where customers can purchase tonics, elixirs, tinctures, teas, and cold-pressed juices – as well as simple coffee and specialty hot drinks including spiced hot chocolate, matcha lattes, and coconut kava lattes. Each blend serves a purpose, whether it is to aid with healthy, clear skin, balance natural immunity, or ease stress or joint pain. And there is a lot of room for customization: for instance, kombucha, coconut water, and any juice can be combined with a herbal tincture and a vitality shot. On the other side of the store, there are shelves of Naturopathica’s various skin care products and remedies. The back wall, the “Remedy Bar, ” has jars of loose tea for visitors who wish to continue their road to wellness at home. As Heather Neufeld, the spa director of the Chelsea location, pointed out, Naturopathica has a “360 degree approach to wellness. ”As we were walking through the space, Heather shared a bit of background on Barbara Close, the founder and CEO. After being trained in aromatherapy, Barbara decided to create skincare and herbal remedies to reduce inflammation in the body and skin. She got her start in the mid-1990s and has since gained a reputation in the wellness and lifestyle world, thanks in part to attention from celebrities, notably Martha Stewart. Her methods involve products that work with the body’s natural processes rather than against them. She opened her first Healing Arts Center in East Hampton and has had her products carried in over 450 renowned resort and day spas in North America. Heather spoke about the East Hampton center, mentioning that it “speaks to the heritage of the brand. ” Enter the Manhattan store, which opened in December 2015: the new, twenty-first century base for Naturopathica. The Vitality Bar is one of their new features, and Heather says that it has been a wonder for introducing people to the brand. “There’s a discovery point for everyone, no matter where you are on your wellness journey. ” Even those who just come in for a coffee and decide to try dandelion root tea instead have been aided by Naturopathica. After all, “Your gut has so much to do with your overall health. ” What many people do not realize upon their initial visit, myself included, is that Naturopathica is much larger than it appears. Walking through a door in the back, I discovered numerous treatment rooms. Each one was decorated with their signature blue, with some rooms containing "seperatory funnels" filled with colorful oils. In addition to the six rooms, there is a consultation area where therapists can have private conversations and share their thoughtful cards that give clients a step-by-step list of instructions. Around the corner, a calming meditation center was situated, with a peaceful projection of a night sky in the woods. The projected photography evolves, but the softly glowing candles and variety of mats and low seats remain constant. As Heather led me back to the front, she assured me, “We practice what we preach. ” Her enthusiasm for the culture that Barbara has created was apparent. “Everything is mindfully created. ”
"Growing up close to Asia always gave me a sense of their traditions, especially the importance of tea in China, " Elina Medvedeva told me when I visited her brand new tea salon in 2017. Originally from Russia, Elina came to New York in 2004, and today feels that "For me, this is home now. "Located one flight up, Floating Mountain is a hidden oasis on West 72nd Street. Blissfully tranquil, it is a perfect place to hide from the real world for either a few minutes or several hours - whatever suits a guest on any given day - and sip on a pot of freshly made tea. While walking the side streets of Manhattan for the past several years, I have always found it fascinating to hear the stories of people who once worked in the financial world but left it behind to purse their true passion. Elina's story fits right in with so many others. She spent twenty years in Moscow as a high executive in corporate sales, but she told me that she never had the feeling that she was doing "something good for society. " She continuously questioned, "Why am I here? " She did not enjoy the politics going on within the corporate world, and when she moved to New York, she initially decided not to re-enter the job market. She came with her husband and began contemplating her next move. She immersed herself in yoga and stayed with it for the next ten years. Once Elina received her green card, she ended up back in a corporate position, but felt it was always a "contradiction. " Practicing yoga in the morning and then sitting in front of a computer did not make sense to her. She was constantly feeling the "urgency and the stress. It was always in my heart to be searching for what I should do next. "In 2016, Elina was practicing yoga on 72nd Street when she noticed that the tailor across the hall had vacated his space. Peeking inside, she saw the arches above the windows and the light shining in and said, "Oh my goodness, I have to have this. " Within one week she signed a lease. "Without making two plus two, I then began thinking of what I was going to do. " She pondered how her concept could complement yoga and came up with the Tea House. "It made perfect sense, as Buddhism, Zen, and Yoga all flow together through tea. "Reflecting, Elina told me that tea had been a part of her life since she was a little girl. Her dad would have a cup every afternoon. So the more she considered the idea, the more it seemed that tea was the way to go. "We are always running somewhere - to be on time for something. There's no space in our lives to pause, sit, and reflect. Tea is a good excuse to do this. "Immediately after making her decision to turn her precious space into a tea salon, Elina began studying the layers of the 5000-year-old history of tea in China. She traveled to the country and became fascinated with every aspect of tea's history. "No one has any idea how much tea is in China. " I learned that 97% or so of the leaves never even leave the country. "China is the mother of the tea - the depth behind the philosophy of the tea is mind boggling. " Elina knew that she wanted to incorporate meditation into her space and to demonstrate how tea has been used in ceremonies throughout the centuries. None of her tea is mass produced - each tea leaf is handmade with love by the farmers in China. According to Elina, "This is their life - it is filled with generations of passion for tea. ""Everything came together for me in China, " Elina announced. She brought Roza Gazarian, a graphic designer who moved to the States from Armenia in 2004, onto her team. Roza also worked in the corporate world. Although Roza described her experiences as positive, she was ready to leave the pressure of a daily job. Upon her return from a year of travel around the world, during which she practiced Buddhism, Roza was asked by Elina to design the space for her new venture. During their conversation, Elina discovered that Roza had also always wanted a tea house. The two seem to have found perfect harmony in their relationship - Rosa is the creative force behind Floating Mountain, while Elina is all about the tea and the finances. The two have created an idyllic space - simple but beautiful with a white oak counter, tatami mats, copper lighting, soft music playing in the background, and a few shelves dedicated to delicate, petite pieces of pottery. At Floating Mountain, guests are welcomed in, asked to remove their shoes, and then invited to take a seat at either the counter or on the floor. People are encouraged to "smell the tea, taste it, and then relax with it. " Elina and Roza find that many guests come by for one cup and then end up spending hours in the space. "Tea can get into your soul and soothe you, " Elina stated with certainty. The goal of Floating Mountain is to allow people to feel that they are in a different environment from anything else they have experienced. The two women hope that everyone will be able to enjoy the moments they spend in the tea house while relaxing and contemplating life.
Across the park and nine streets north from the 64th Street location, Olivia, a member of the Manhattan Sideways team, was still visibly excited to be sitting down to breakfast at Alice's Tea Cup. Though she loves each of the teahouse's three "chapters, " the 73rd Street cafe is the original - and the first one she visited as a young teen. She shared stories with me of coming here and marveling at the tiered Afternoon Teas that would arrive at her table, filled with scones, finger sandwiches and sweets. She questioned whether or not she might have been a bit too old at fifteen to celebrate her birthday here and then spent the rest of the afternoon wandering around New York blowing sparkle-filled bubbles, dressed in a pair of shimmering fairy wings acquired from the tea shop's front room, which is filled with whimsical retail items. On our visit to Alice's, Olivia, now a mature twenty-five, had her usual - a pumpkin scone with a personal pot of tea - while Tom, our photographer, ordered "the biggest coffee" they had. It arrived in a mug "the size of Tom's face. " Olivia pointed out all the Alice in Wonderland themed decorations that she remembered from previous visits, including a quote from the character of the Duchess written in fun purple font along the walls and an angry painting of the red queen in the bathroom, telling employees to wash their hands or "Off with your head! " Her favorite little decorative touch, however, was on the swinging door into the kitchen. There is a giant keyhole window, suggesting that maybe, like Alice, the diners had shrunk to the size of mice, and would be swept away into a magical land, scones and teacups in hand.