Popular Parisian tea house Le Palais des Thés has opened their first US location on the Upper West Side of NYC. They are a well respected tea purveyor, and have been selling tea and teaware for 25 years. Their teas can be found in various stores around the city, but this is the first brick and mortar where you can purchase loose tea by the ounce, gifts, teaware, and have a sample to taste. Until now, I hadn't tried many of their teas so I decided it was time to visit the new store and see what I was missing.
As I approached the store I noticed it was tiny, about the size of a shoebox. But walking in, I realized it was a jewel of a shoebox. Teas line the walls along with colorful canisters, teapots, and other tasteful tea gifts. It's a perfect place to pick up a last minute holiday gift. At the front of the store there is a tea to sample, which is quite welcome during this chilly weather. There was an English Breakfast blend to sample on the day I was there. It was basic, but bold and invigorating. A worthy competitor to my favorite breakfast blends.
There is a dizzying selection of teas from around the world, color coded by region. Teas on display had a small vessel in front with loose tea to smell. I sniffed a few of the blends on display, and I do admit that some of them were tempting. The woman behind the counter was friendly without being pushy, which I always appreciate. A store this size can be intimidating when you first walk in, especially when you're the only customer. But the salesperson was helpful, and easy to talk with.
I was given a couple of samples to take home with me, and I tried the popular The Du Hammam. It is a very pleasant brew that is gently floral and fruity. Not something I usually drink, but I can understand why it is so popular. I have two other tea bags to try, and I look forward to tasting them.
The shop's founder François-Xavier Delmas takes great care in sourcing teas and forming relationships with planters. He has a very interesting blog that is worth checking out http://www.discoveringtea.com/.
I will definitely be back to this little store soon, to try some of their pure teas. I heard a SoHo shop will also be opening soon. There are very few tea shops in Upper West Side area of Manhattan, so I'm sure this location will do quite well.
Le Palais des Thés- 194 Columbus Ave. NY, NY: Recommended. Highlights:large selection of tea for purchase, as well as gifts. Warm, low-key staff.