Wednesday, August 8, 2012

Press Tea - Manhattan

I've been curious to try Press Tea as I heard they use a 'tea press' of some sort (hence the name). I needed a full lunch hour since the cafe is on Ludlow street, quite a hike from my office. I'm not often on the lower east side, except for an occasional trip for interesting food or live music. Or retro candy. The area turns into a bit of a frat party at night, but during the day it is quiet, and you can walk around and observe the history of the neighborhood (and eat at places too crowded at night). If you look past the fancy boutiques and uber cool restaurants, you can still see old details on the tenement buildings and catch a crumbling sign or two from the days when the area was known for tailors and street peddlers.
The cafe is a bright little shop with a few tables and a large gleaming machine that looks like something for espresso. But no, that's not for coffee. It's the tea press! No coffee here, the sole focus is tea in various forms. Hot, iced, with milk, sweetened, etc. One of the owners was behind the counter (forgive me, I forget his name), and was friendly and informative. He recommended an iced green tea blend, so that's what I went for. He let me smell the tea before brewing- it was mellow with a punch of Jasmine. It was very pleasing, and I knew it would be great iced. After ordering, the tea press was in action- they use the machine because it extracts full flavor from the tea, and it's quite efficient. It also gives control of the water temperature, which is important with delicate green and oolong teas. The process looked a bit like pulling an espresso. To chill the tea, the hot mixture was added to a cocktail shaker with ice and shaken vigorously. The tea was perfectly chilled, and very tasty. There was a slightly foamy layer that reminded me of the 'crema' that you get with a properly prepared espresso. This brew was sweetened (you can order it plain), and I was able to order it 'half sweet', since I don't usually like sugar in my tea. The subtle sweetness was a nice compliment to the green tea blend, but I'm glad I didn't ask for the full sweetness level since it would have been way too much for me. It was a refreshing choice for the sweaty summer afternoon. All of the drinks are made with loose teas carefully chosen by the owners. The selection is small, but well curated.

I found out the tea machine is actually the same used in many bubble tea places. But bubble tea joints usually use tea bags, not loose tea. I haven't noticed these machines at any bubble tea places around the city, I'll have to pay more attention next time.

My friend had a black tea blend that was billed as a coffee substitute. They add an herbal mixture to the tea that gives it a robust, coffee- like flavor. It was also delicious iced, and would be a great morning tea.

I will definitely be returning to Press Tea soon, to try their 'tea latte', and a few of other choices. We mentioned to the owner that they should open a shop on 9th avenue in Midtown West, since there is much more foot traffic during the day, and lots of tea loving office workers. Until then, I'll have to go on quiet work days, or when I happen to be in the area looking at expensive clothes and pastrami sandwiches.

Around the corner from Press Tea is another well known (perhaps infamous) tea-centric place, Teany. It's been years since I've visited, perhaps I'll go back if I can ever pull myself away from Press Tea. It won't be easy, but I'll try. Perhaps Poppy will have the will power to resist.

Press Tea:  168 Ludlow Street. New York, NY 10002. Recommended

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