he idea of afternoon tea for most of us invokes the country, the smell of cut grass blowing through an open window, cucumber sandwiches cut into small triangles with the crusts cut off, those three-tiered silver cake platters, clotted cream, china tea cups and saucers. What it doesn’t invoke is Manhattan, the Upper East Side, the sounds of city traffic intruding on every thought.
Still: this dichotomy is exactly what tea shops in the city have going for them. When you start to get restless in the early springtime, when the constant grey sidewalks and skies start to get you down, a little bit of afternoon tea is just what the (British, home-visiting) doctor ordered.
While Tracy Stern’s SalonTea TeaBar is certainly not the first little tea shop in Manhattan (Alice’s Tea Cup, across the park on West 73rd Street, comes to mind) it’s still not a common sight among the never-to-be-stopped expansion of Starbucks signs. There’s still enough originality in the idea to make the TeaBar take off.
But this isn’t your grandmother’s tea party (although, I must admit, there ain’t no party like my nana’s tea party); this is what would happen if the people at Studio 54 threw a tea party. The store is an explosion of orange, pink and brown; banquettes are patent leather, and chairs are by Philippe Starck.
Each tea on the menu has its own personality: The Society Hostess is naturally decaffeinated, vanilla-infused China black tea; The Fashionable Dandy is China black tea scented with bergamot oil; The Writer is Indian chai accentuated with cinnamon, cloves, and cardamom; and The Musician is herbal Rooibos tea blended with hibiscus and rose.
The Beauty Teas, on the other hand, are designed to target areas you need beauty help in: The Natural Beauty is caffeine free, vitamin and mineral infused tea, for glowing skin, long hair, and nail strength; The Toxic Beauty contains low caffeine, provides antioxidants, and is used for natural weight loss; and The Sleeping Beauty – and infusion of chamomile flowers and lavender buds – is used to induce sleep.
For people who can’t quite wrap their heads around a coffee-free hot-drink shop, a small concession is made in the short specialty lattes list; while the lattes are made with chai, or green tea, you can at least pretend you’re drinking coffee.
For grub, chow down on madelines, macaroons, and scones.
Address: 501 East 75th Street, New York, NY
Area: Upper East Side
Hours: Mon. – Fri.: 7:30am – 6:30pm
Sat. 9:00am – 6:00pm
Price Range: $$ (Affordable)
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