Tuesday, December 12, 2006
Where to sip? Author knows, and tells
Here's a hot holiday gift for the tea lovers on your list, especially those who also like to explore in Manhattan.
"Tea in the City: New York" by Elizabeth Knight has arrived! This colorful, highly entertaining new book, published by Benjamin Press, is the ultimate guide to sipping tea from around the world right in your own backyard.
As longtime readers of my columns will remember, Elizabeth, a Hoboken resident and certified English Tea Master, is the tea sommelier in Astor Court at the legendary St. Regis Hotel in Manhattan where we often enjoy afternoon tea.
Coupled with her passion for all kinds of tea, New York is her favorite city.
"The thing that made me really want to write the book is to let people know they don't have to travel to enjoy tea rituals from other cultures," said Elizabeth in a recent interview. "We have it all at our fingertips in New York."
"Tea in the City" takes you on an adventure from the trendy teahouses in Chinatown to formal afternoon tea at swanky hotels on the Upper East Side and beyond.
Broken down by neighborhood and packed full of lively information about each establishment, including décor, what kind of tea is served, how to get there by subway, whether you need reservations and the price range of each place (indicated by dollar signs), the handy, pocket-size book makes it easy to visit more than one tea parlor or do a "tea crawl" in a single day.
Fully illustrated with exquisite four-color photographs by Bruce Richardson, "Tea in the City" introduces you to Chinese, Indian, French and Russian tea traditions, to name a few, and includes shopping sites where you can acquire everything from teapots to curds and condiments imported from England.
Speaking of the Brits, bet you thought they introduced us to tea. Not so.
As Elizabeth points out in a spiffy little history of tea in NYC included in the guide, "Americans drank tea before the British, and New Yorkers drank it first." Who knew?
"Tea in the City" is loaded with cool tidbits like this, not to mention tea spots in Brooklyn, Queens and the Bronx. There's also a glossary in back to help you better understand exotic choices like bubble tea, which originated in Taiwan; chai, made with rich ground black tea infused with milk, sugar and a variety of spices; and bocha (bow-chah), a buttered and salted Tibetan tea.
Do you know the difference between high tea and afternoon tea?
High tea, frequently confused by Americans who associate the ritual with classy terms like high class, high fashion and high finance, actually got its name from a working-class supper served in England around 6 p.m.
To quote from "Tea in the City": "The name is said to refer to the fact that this meal was eaten at a high dining room table rather than a low parlor table reserved for afternoon tea."
Elizabeth, also the author of "Tea With Friends," offers guided New York tea tours and tea seminars for those who'd rather sip than walk.
"Leave your passport at home," Elizabeth advises, since "New York is the world in a teacup."
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—Ahn Behrens, Jersey Journal