It doesn't take a NYC native to realize that the city's landscape is always changing. New trends come in and out of vogue, be it the much-coveted cronut to the once beloved (why?!) UGGs; a new style or pastry du jour never lasts long and New Yorkers never bat an eye. One thing, however, that the city-slickers defend tooth and lacquered nail is their coffee — black, tall, skinny, foam, espresso shot — we may change how we take it, but it's always there.
Lady Manhattan's newest experiment (Starbucks' brainchild), Teavana Fine Teas + Tea Bar, seeks to add another variable to the caffeine addiction equation, and I for one say pass the sugar cubes. Starbucks CEO Howard Schultz vows that the wide array of flavors and tea blends will re-shape the American palate and bring tea to the forefront of the beverage debate — tied with coffee, naturally.
While Starbucks may be operating on a more mass market level, Kensington Tours "Explorer in Residence" Jeff Fuchs started his company, Jalam Teas, for tea purists looking for a froo-froo-free cuppa. Having called Shangri-La home for the past decade, Jeff ventures into remote villages in the Yunan province to hand-source tea leaves, with a special emphasis on Puerhs. There is a tea club with monthly shipments of Jeff's newest finds (so far I'm partial to the Jing Mai) and little notes on the geographic origins, cultural significance and health benefits of the tea.
Growing up in Australia and spending a formative period in Israel shaped my love for tea — strong cups of Earl Grey in Sydney and black tea with crushed anise seeds in Tel Aviv. Even my travels have been influenced by this multifarious drink — milky chai with my elephant polo team in Nepal and the sinfully sweet gunpowder green tea with fresh mint leaves served at every self-respecting café in Morocco.
Time will tell if New Yorkers are ready to trade-in their afternoon cup of joe for a spot of herbal refreshment. Frankly, as someone who never starts a day without a double Arpeggio (#NespressoAddict), it will certainly be a hard habit to break — but I welcome the challenge.