College is cool, but one of the things that I miss is New York’s food culture. Every vacation back home is eat-as-much-good-food-as-you-can-week. (I’ve been feeling out of touch with the joys of food and cooking, and it’s something that I intend to remedy during my time at Amherst.)
Well, during my spring break, I got to satisfy my tea obsession at the Coffee and Tea Festival in NYC on March 23rd. I already have so much tea in my dorm room that it’d last me a couple of years, but there was no way that I would miss this event. I got my butt out of bed and stood on the line that wrapped around the 69th Regiment Armory, on my way to tea nirvana.
There was a sizable crowd during the first two hours, to the point that it was difficult to access the tea samples, but the crowd did thin out towards the late afternoon. The first table that I visited was Pairteas, a company that uses research on flavor chemicals to pair teas with food. I tried their taste test, where I tasted the cinnamon candy, spit it back out (I forgot this step but it still sort of worked), popped in a mint lifesaver and then spit that back out as well. The key is that you first taste the cinnamon, then the mint candy overpowers the taste and then the cinnamon taste comes back again after you spit out the mint candy. Here’s a tidbit from their site which reflects on the purpose of this taste test, “Binding of a food chemical to one receptor can actually inhibit the function of another receptor: you will sense one array of tastes if you drink a tea without food, but a very different array when you pair the same tea with specific foods: many tastes of the tea disappear while others stand out!”
Next, Runa Tea. It is not made from real tea leaves (Camellia sinensis), but from guayusa, an Amazonian tree leaf. With as much caffeine as coffee and twice as much antioxidants as tea, it makes a good alternative to both coffee and tea.
Press Tea uses a special method of brewing tea– pressing them. Quite a novel approach and I’m surprised that no one had thought of that before. (Actually, I did brew tea in a French press before, but does that count?) I’m not quite sure how the taste differs from normally brewed tea, since the tea sample I tried was masked by the added sugar.
The Four Season Spring Oolong (right) from Fang Gourmet Tea was delicious, and better than the Golden Lily (left).
Soursop (flavored green tea) from Kanlo Tea, which was slightly sweet and tart.
Jasmine green tea, my favorite kind of tea, from Lotus Tea.
Bingley’s Tea Limited, Jane Austen-themed.
T, which unfortunately only gave sample sessions for a fee.