Try This Contemporary Spin on Afternoon Tea at Langham Place Hotel

Categories: Filtered, Tea

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Lauren Mowery for the Village Voice
If your impression of afternoon tea at New York's vaunted hotels ranges from staid service to high prices to sad tea bags, you'd mostly be correct. Langham Place (400 Fifth Avenue), the luxury hotel brand founded in London (and origin of the concept of hotel tea service), hopes to reverse that perception with its modern twist on the traditional affair at the New York Fifth Avenue location.

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The Sad State of Restaurant Coffee

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Lauren Mowery
Ellen Seidenstein pouring a Chemex at Eleven Madison Park

Last fall, I drifted through the meticulously revamped Union Station in Denver toward my first cup (actually, three) of coffee for the day. Mercantile Dining & Provision, the largest and most dynamic restaurant in the active train depot, rather unusually, offers a coffee flight on its morning menu. Astride a wooden stool at the bar, pure mile-high sunlight flooding the counter, I accepted a platter of three different brews from beans roasted locally by Commonwealth and hand-poured on a timer, for comparison. Akin to a wine tasting flight, the best way to understand nuance in what we drink (in my opinion), Mercantile seeks to introduce coffee drinkers to the same experience. After tasting the differences between the three coffees — a natural processed Panamanian (orange, sage), washed processed Panamanian (honey, cherry), and Guatemalan (pizza herbs, cinnamon) — I wondered why the hell I had to come all the way to Denver, better known for its microbreweries and orange jerseys, to experience something my home turf should've conceived of long ago.


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Where to Find a Meditative Japanese Tea Ceremony Served High Above NYC

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All photos by Lauren Mowery for the Village Voice
The singular charms of New York that initially seduced me to take up residence in the city (quirky book stores, genre-defining bars, and affordable ethnic restaurants) have abraded with the rising cost of living and commercial homogenization of the city. While pols squeeze residents for every hard-fought, burnished penny, absentee landlords gloatingly execute leases with banks, and boring, big-box brands like Restoration Hardware (notably in the former Pastis space). Even homegrown restaurants have alarmingly morphed into mini-empires (Shake Shack in Istanbul, for instance). Disenchanted, I turned to Google in hopes of finding an authentic, uncommercial experience in the city. I searched for a Japanese tea ceremony.

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Why This Coffee Sourcer Risked His Life to Travel to Yemen

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Provided by Matt Swenson
Last December in Yemen, an American photojournalist held hostage by Al Qaeda was killed during an attempted rescue mission by U.S. Special Forces. Less than two weeks later, a bomb killed over a dozen schoolchildren on a bus. In early January, an explosion at the police academy in Yemen's capital took several lives. And last weekend, two French citizens were arrested on charges of being members of Al Qaeda. The U.S. State Department, not surprisingly, characterizes the security threat level in Yemen as "extremely high," and months earlier had urged all U.S. citizens to depart the country immediately.

Yet Matt Swenson, director of sourcing, education, and quality control at the coffee company Nobletree, was undeterred by the State Department warning, and, perhaps justifying the risk through some curious calculus of the mind, found himself on a 31-hour flight pattern (which in itself could be considered crazy) from New York to Yemen on the same day as the rescue mission. Swenson's life-risking mission? Tasting coffees from one of the founding countries in the history of the beverage.

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Manhattanites Can Now Go Sip Matcha Tea at the West Village's Chalait

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Lauren Mowery for the Village Voice
Last year, New Yorkers saw the first shop dedicated to matcha (a powdered green tea from Japan) open up in Williamsburg. While matcha hasn't taken the city by storm — yet — we've seen the product creep on to the menus of national chain brands (Teavana, Peets) as well as into foods (matcha-infused pastries) and health food drinks (Liquiteria has added a matcha smoothie to its roster of seasonal concoctions).

And now, in a bright, windowed corner space straddling the intersection of West 4th and Christopher in the West Village, has come Chalait (224 West 4th Street), Manhattan's first matcha-focused tea and coffee shop.

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Caffeine in 2015: Here's What to Expect in NYC Coffee and Tea Shops This Year

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Lauren Mowery for the Village Voice
New York coffee and tea lovers enjoyed accelerated growth in the caffeine world last year: The Aussies continued to sweep through the city with their avocado toasts and flat whites (plus the first stateside location of tea brand T2 opened); Scandinavia made it's mark, especially as a Manhattan-born but Swedish-styled coffee, chocolate, and restaurant chain called FIKA quietly mushroomed around town; and the number of specialty coffee shops rose at an unprecedented rate, with many electing to take control of their brand and beans by roasting their own coffee.

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10 Great Last-Minute Gifts for Coffee and Tea Lovers

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Lauren Mowery for the Village Voice
It's now Monday before Christmas (!). Are you still desperate to fill the stockings of coffee and tea lovers on your list? Here's a last-minute guide to 10 presents you can buy ASAP, including a certificate for a roasting class, a set of premium teas, and an earth-friendly reusable mug.

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Toby's Estate Expands to the West Village, and Is Already Crowded

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Lauren Mowery for the Village Voice
Due to the hyper-local nature of coffee retail, "build it and they will come" is a perfect maxim for the response every new coffee shop that opens in the West Village receives. And thanks to the Australians, the Aussie coffee invasion of New York is now so widespread that there are two significant Australian cafés in the West Village just over a block away from each other, both completely swarmed with patrons. Like Bluestone Lane, Toby's Estate has several spots in the city, though the most recent outpost is more squarely focused on coffee than the Australian café experience.

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Pastries Infused With Tea and Love at Tiny Pinecone Teahouse

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Lauren Mowery

Pop-ups continue to proliferate around the city, as rents remain absurdly high and storefronts vacant. Greenwich Village newcomer Tiny Pinecone (58 West 8th Street, 732-977-8775) fills the area's void in high-quality teas, which are here paired with pastries that outshine the usual baked goods found in local cafés. But be careful of falling in love: For now, the cute Japanese-inspired spot plans to remain in its 8th Street location (a woefully cursed block for retailers and restaurants) only until February 2015.

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Want to Drink Better Coffee? Think About It as You Would Wine

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Lauren Mowery

A few months ago, I had a conversation with a respected wine journalist and Master of Wine that left me incredulous for this person's surprising attitude towards coffee. Asked to expound upon the significant parallels between both drinks, a nascent but certainly timely topic, this industry luminary quipped, "The only thing I care about in my coffee is that it is scalding hot." It wasn't a joke; it was declared almost indignantly. This writer might as well have told me their favorite beer in the world was Bud Light. Maybe this Mad Men-era opinion was earned after multiple decades in the wine industry, but I like to think not; and if you think this way, you are woefully out of date as well.

How could a wine lover and educator, a connoisseur of flavor and devotee to complexity and origin, nonchalantly dismiss another comparably complex, fragile, and nuanced liquid gift from the earth?

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