January 22, 2015

Matcha and more at Chalait

If you live in New York and are a fan of matcha, you've probably heard of Chalait. The matcha cafe, which also serves loose leaf teas, coffee, and sandwiches, is owned by Michelle Gardner and Ramon Puyani. Recently I got an unexpected hour to myself in the afternoon so went to Chalait for lunch and tea.

I am a fan of grilled cheese sandwiches. The cafe's version is The Toastie, two cheeses plus tomato on toast. It was served with pickles. Both were very good.

Given that Chalait is a matcha cafe, I ordered a matcha drink. A shot of everyday grade. I finished it before my sandwich arrived. The shot was what I needed in terms of caffeine and I liked how it tasted. However, the shot stood in contrast to the "sweet matcha" I've been using in my matcha lattes! (I've been using Rishi's Sweet Matcha.)

I'd like to try the Chalait version of the PB & J. And as a chocolate lover, the nutella baguette and matcha hot chocolate are calling my name.

Chalait is located at 224 West Fourth near Christopher Street, right around the way from another sweet spot, Big Gay Ice Cream.

Additional media coverage of Chalait

Matcha Is the Next Big Thing in Tea [Yahoo Food]
$10 Piece of Toast on Sale at West Village Cafe [DNAinfo]
Manhattanites Can Now Go Sip Matcha Tea at the West Village's Chalait [The Village Voice]
Caffeine in 2015: Here's What to Expect in NYC Coffee and Tea Shops This Year [The Village Voice]


January 20, 2015

Tea Review: Amoda Tea Discovery Box - Sock It To Me by Indie Tea

Tegan Woo of Amoda Tea contacted me in November 2014 about the company's Fall Picks Tasting Box. I received a discovery set* with 5 craft teas: an oolong named Three Blessings by Swan Sisters, a chocolate minty rooibos from Tay Tea, and three black teas. The black teas will be reviewed on the blog beginning with Sock It To Me by Indie Tea.

Sock It To Me is a blend of five organic and fair trade black teas: Golden Monkey, Yunnan Gold, Banaspaty, Qu-Hao, and Korakunda. Notice the golden threads among the loose leaves? That's the Golden Monkey.

I steeped the packet of tea in a pot of boiling water for 3 minutes and served with and without (whole) milk. It is delicious both ways. The milk definitely smoothed out the briskness of the blend though the unadulterated tea was not astringent. The tea is malty and smoky; the latter is especially detectable when you smell the tea. I tasted fruit and sweetness and some chocolate (cocoa) notes. Yunnan Gold is known for its cocoa flavor. Banaspaty is an Assam which could be the source of the malty flavor. Qu-Hao is a Fujian black. According to teaspot.com, "Hao’s full rich body is incredibly low in tannins with a natural note of chocolate, earning it the nickname "Black Silk". Finally, Korakunda is grown in Korakundah in the Nilgiri Mountains of India.

Even if you don't subscribe to Amoda Tea, I'd recommend purchasing Sock It To Me to black blend enthusiasts. You can buy via Amoda Tea or directly from Indie Tea.

* Amoda Tea still offers "discovery sets" but its primary tea tasting box is The Monthly Box, a monthly subscription box containing 3 cup samples of 4 different craft teas, steeping instructions, tasting notes, biodegradable tea filters, tea-sipping playlist, and exclusive member perks.

January 13, 2015

Favorite Tea Ware: Alexis Siemons of teaspoons & petals

As a tea drinker, and I am sure this is true for you, I adore teaware, from bombillas to matcha whisks. Everyone has their favorites! This series showcases the favorite teaware of folks in the tea blogging community. Today's faves are from Alexis Siemons of teaspoons & petals.

Miniature Tea Set: This was my very first tea set that was purchased when I was around nine or ten years old at a dollhouse & dollhouse accessories store. While I did not have a dollhouse, I knew it was a special piece. I still remember the small table where is was placed by the window in my childhood bedroom. It seems that this set led to a love affair for teaware with delicate floral details, subtle gold trim and classic shapes that are seen throughout my teaware collection and within the name, teaspoons & petals.

Tea Cup With Gold Trim & Rose Petals: This tea cup belonged to a dear family friend who had passed away. Each time I enjoy tea from this lovely cup I think of her and honor her memory. I hold this piece near and dear to my heart.

Wooden Tea Canister: I recently wrote an article about a line of Karmi Tea canisters handcrafted with cherry birch wood tea by artisans in Japan, and I fell in love with the design steeped in history. This traditional style of laquerware shows the natural wood grains beneath the chestnut brown finish, revealing hints of its origin. The wood is naturally dried so that it offers an ideal environment to keep tea leaves fresh (the shape of the vessel and lids are designed to offer an airtight seal). I use this Kama Karmi Canister to store my special green teas from Ippodo. (FYI the Canister is from Rikumo http://rikumo.com/collections/karmi-tea-canisters/products/karmi-tea-canister-kama)

Yixing Clay Teapot.

All photos courtesy of Alexis Siemons. Thank you for participating in the series, Alexis.

P.S. Read Alexis's article about traditional Japanese Yamanaka lacquerware for Fresh Cup magazine. It's a long form essay but worthwhile to read.

January 06, 2015

Three hot chocolates at Brazilia Cafe

In early December 2014, I received a press release from the public relations company representing Brazilia Cafe about the cafe's hot chocolate menu. Rotea suggested I ask the company to arrange a tasting for me. Indulgence PR responded quickly and affirmatively. On a very cold day, coincidentally, I went to the cafe. I thought I would taste small shots of all the hot chocolates, but since I was offered full-size servings I selected three drinks from the menu.

Mitchell, the cafe's manager, met me and brought me to the bar in the rear of the cafe. Cesar, the barista, was personable and prepared the hot chocolates well.

What did I drink? The Hazelnut, Black Bottom, and Melting Marshmallow.

The Hazelnut was a nice combination of chocolate and real Nutella. It was not too sweet, thick enough, and smooth with Nutella bits on the bottom. Hershey's dark semi-sweet chocolate chips are used to prepare the drinks at Brazilia Cafe. Say no to powder! The hot chocolates are prepared with organic whole milk from Horizon.

The second hot chocolate I drank was the Black Bottom. A good hot chocolate with a thinner consistency than the Hazelnut and coconut notes. About three-quarters of the way down you taste the fudge layer which has a dried berry flavor.

Finally, I drank the Melting Marshmallow. It's the cafe's Original, minus the cinnamon, topped with a very large marshmallow. The marshmallow did not melt very much. I probably should have ordered the Espresso Italiano or even the Orange Spiced which is made with orange *and* cardamom.

If you visit - and you should - order the Hazelnut or the Black Bottom. Brazilia Cafe is located at 684 Broadway at Great Jones Street.

Hot chocolate courtesy of Brazilia Cafe. Thank you to Indulgence PR for arranging the tasting.

December 19, 2014

Favorite Tea Ware: Nicole Martin of Tea for Me Please

As a tea drinker, and I am sure this is true for you, I adore teaware, from bombillas to matcha whisks. Everyone has their favorites! This series showcases the favorite teaware of folks in the tea blogging community. Today's faves are from Nicole Martin of Tea for Me Please.

Yixing Teapot: This was my first yixing teapot. I fell in love with its unique sunrise design. It's dedicated to my favorite tea, Huang Zhi Xiang from Seven Cups Fine Chinese Teas.

Gaiwan: Gaiwans are my go to brewing method these days. This is the first one I ever purchased. It's still trucking, even though there's a small crack in the lid now.

Glass Teapot: I love my glass teapot because I can see the leaves open up and admire the color of my tea. It works great for white and green teas.

Hagi Chawan: I went through a phase where I collected a lot of Hagi teaware and this is my favorite piece. It was glazed twice so bits of blue peek through the top white glaze.

Vintage Teacup: Most of my teaware is Asian inspired but I'm a sucker for a vintage teacup. This one was produced by Paragon in the 1930's.

All photos courtesy of Nicole Martin. Thank you for sharing your favorite teaware with us, Nicole.