Tea in the City

28 Jan

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In the Bermuda Triangle of New York — the Village — hides a wonderfully tiny restaurant called Tea and Sympathy. The British-owned shop is no larger than a small bodega in size, making a line to get inside highly likely, but its tea list and charm is worth the half hour wait.

It’s situated on Greenwich Street next to a small store selling British goods — the usual PG Tips, Cadbury chocolates, clotted cream, etc — and the more famous fish-and-chips joint, A Salt and Battery.

You’re greeted by a waitress and a busy older gentleman, both with thick accents, and seated at your tiny table. The walls are decked out in frames holding pictures of England, past royalty and various knick-knacks. The menu, although pretty normally priced for New York, seems a little overpriced for a college student, but is full of typical English food such as Welsh RarebitShepard’s Pie, Pasties and Bangers and Mash — making you forget about its cost. Of course, the highlight and purpose of my trip was not (originally) for the food, but rather the tea and scones that I knew awaited me.

They offer a list of teas from their own brews of English Breakfast and Earl Grey, along with a selection of 30 other options. The table next to mine ordered a large pot of Vanilla, and the amazing smell probably could have wafted a long mile. When you order a tea, they bring you either an individual pot, or, depending on how many people order the same at your table, a huge teapot that accommodates three people.  They have an eclectic mix of china: mismatched teapots, teacups and plate ware, making it almost sickeningly adorable. The tea is loose leaf — as it should be!– so when you pour, just be careful to put the strainer over your cup and not miss.

I ordered Earl Grey — my favorite — and was way more satisfied than I should have been. Not that it wasn’t great, just that I am easily pleased and it is not that exciting to a normal person.

The really great thing about this place is that they offer both afternoon tea, and cream tea. The afternoon tea is about $35 a person, and comes with all the little sandwiches and cakes. Although this isn’t as outrageous as it could be (in London afternoon tea at hotels or Kensington Palace’s restaurant The Orangey runs at about — if I recall correctly, that is — 35 pounds, or 60 dollars, a person) it is more expensive than it looks worth. Offering the option is definitely smart on the restaurant’s part — it offers the opportunity to experience something similar to the afternoon tea tradition. But for money, the cream tea is absolutely the best option.

If you’ve never had clotted cream, you are missing out. It may not have the greatest name, but it’s a thick cream spread that tastes like heaven, and far better than butter on a scone. For $12.50, cream tea consists of a small pot of tea, two small scones, and clotted cream and jam. To eat this properly, put both the cream and the jam together on the scones, which alone were exceptional. They aren’t anything too crazy; no cranberries, blueberries or nuts — just scone — but they weren’t dry and they weren’t too dense. The tea itself is always great. Loose leaf is always a better option because of the way the leaves interact with hot water — more on that later — and drinking it after straining it in your little teacup is a very nice feeling.

I don’t want to give the wrong impression — some people may not find it as amazing as I do. One of the hang-ups is the list of rules posted on the door and in the menu that customers have to follow. This seems like a bit of a turn-off, but it makes up for its strict rules in its atmosphere and grub.

There really isn’t any other like it in the city. Despite its English charm being played up for the American public — who, as we all know, jump on anything British as fast as we can — Tea and Sympathy’s level of authenticity is still higher than any other restaurant I’ve found. And I love it — it provides that Anglophile fix for anyone who enjoys the English.

So if you are looking for something that is as close to traditional British in New York as you can find, it’s the place to go. Especially for its tea.

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12 Responses to “Tea in the City”

  1. cheypons 28/01/2013 at 9:10 pm #

    Hannah! I really really want to start drinking tea because I’ve heard how good it is for you but my problem is i’m a HUGE coffee drinker. I’ve tried Green Tea but I hatedddd it. Do you have any suggestions for flavors, maybe something fruity?

    • hschaffer 28/01/2013 at 11:52 pm #

      I’m not green tea’s biggest fan either, I usually get something like “Green Tea Mixed Berry Flavor” or lipton has this passionfruit/orange/jasmine one I really like, because I don’t like plain.

      Other than that, there’s a whole range of herbal teas that you can try, and their benefits change depending on the types… I like peach tea — it’s really easy to drink and not as sweet as something like raspberry (which is also really good, just strong). And there’s a great Blueberry Acai (Bigelow) tea. Chamomile is good for relaxing, but it tastes like — because you are — drinking crushed flower water. Herbal teas depend on your fruit/flavor preferences.

      The only thing with herbal teas is they are caffeine free, so if you want caffeine, try something like Black Tea with Pomegranate (Twining’s sells it) or Lipton has a Bavarian Wild Berry black tea that my friends like. Any teas with ginger are also supposed to be great (hibiscus ginger is awesome– it’s an herbal, I think YogiTea sells). And black tea is still full of antioxidants.

      I know that’s kinda long but i hope its helpful haha. And all of these are usually in the grocery store.

  2. kodorczyk 28/01/2013 at 11:14 pm #

    This place is so cute! I want to go now

  3. deb beebe 04/02/2013 at 1:34 am #

    Must go soon!!!

  4. Emily 06/02/2013 at 11:51 pm #

    I want to go to the tea shop and the shop with the British goods, however, first and foremost, I want to go to “A Salt and Battery.”

    • betsyocarter 07/02/2013 at 12:16 am #

      I definitely want to check this place out! I LOVE cute cafes like this!

      • hschaffer 07/02/2013 at 12:18 am #

        Yeah definitely go!! It’s a little expensive but if you just do the tea and scone its not that bad.

      • hschaffer 07/02/2013 at 12:18 am #

        They all have accents too which is the best

  5. cjb1890 19/02/2013 at 7:09 pm #

    This place sounds so cute! Have you ever been to Alice’s Tea Cup? I went for the first time a few weeks ago and it seems like it might be pretty similar to Tea & Sympathy- great tea list with delicious scones and clotted cream! They have a few different locations around the city, too.

    • hschaffer 20/03/2013 at 11:23 pm #

      Yes! I’ll have to go back again soon though, I’ve been once and it was a few years ago. It was adorable!

  6. heyynewman 20/02/2013 at 11:03 pm #

    I was in the area today and remembered this blog post so I checked out Tea and Sympathy. So adorable. Of course, being such a big person, it took a little while to get used to the small amount of space, but the tea and scones were excellent (I got chai). I also got the chocolate, hazelnut, and banana cake smothered in custard. I definitely recommend this one. Pricey but a nice treat.

    • hschaffer 20/03/2013 at 11:22 pm #

      That cake sounds amazing. I am definitely going to try that next time!!

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