Monday, March 11, 2013

Where's the tea love New Jersey?

I proudly call the state of New Jersey home. It’s the land of Bon Jovi, Springsteen and 24 hour diners. Much to my chagrin, the one thing that we do not have a lot of is tea. I live a short train ride from NYC and the difference in tea cultures is astounding. The Big Apple is experiencing a veritable tea renaissance, unlike anything that I have seen. The two places are very different but I’m still left wondering, where’s the tea love New Jersey? The closest local tea purveyors to me that do not require a Hudson River crossing are a bubble tea place and a coffee shop with a collection of dusty, stale tea in glass jars. Finding good tea is next to impossible, especially without a means of travel beyond NJ Transit.

For years, Whole Foods and Wegmans were the only places where I was able to purchase halfway decent tea. Can you believe that I’ve only ever eaten at two restaurants in New Jersey that served loose leaf? I am surrounded by decadent Italian eateries and yet when I ask for tea, I’m brought a piping hot carafe of water and their very best Lipton tea bags. I’ve taken to carrying loose leaf sachets in my purse at all times. Even our local Asian restaurants serve tea bag made green tea. While I’m weekend brunching at my favorite local spot, I can’t help but wish and dream of a Harney & Son’s SoHo style cafe where I can sip a good cup of tea and nibble on a scone or two.

There have been two outstanding tea establishments that I watched slowly fail and eventually close, Janam in Jersey City and Cha Ma Gu Dao in Montclair. I believe that both businesses were before their time and perhaps a little too niche. Janam specialized in Indian teas and if at all possible, they were too geeky before tea became the new coffee. Cha Ma Gu Dao was a serene and somewhat austere Chinese tea specialist whose business model made the Starbucks crowd uncomfortable. They actually had Yelp reviews complaining that there was no music playing!

Is the Garden State too unrefined to support a high end tea retailer? No, I very much believe that tea can succeed here. We don’t need the pushy sales tactics of the usual shopping mall retailer and we don’t need snobbery. What we need is a place that can present tea in a fun, approachable way. I don’t have the resources or time to be that tea savior but I’m writing this in the hopes that I can plant a seed in the mind of someone else who does.

Do you have a favorite tea place in New Jersey? Perhaps there is a hidden gem I have yet to uncover. Let me know about it in the comments!


10 comments:

  1. not exactly what you are looking for, but are you able to get to edgewater? If so, the Mitsuwa supermarket has a descent selection of tea for purchase (with a focus on Japanese green tea of course). They also offer free hojicha (at least that's what it was when i was there but it's been a couple of years) in the dining area. Sadly it's all I know about NJ area tea....

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  2. I totally hear your frustration. I wish I had more quality tea places near by. I would need to travel into downtown Chicago for a cup and that isn't an easy trek as it is a little over 40miles away. We used to have a Tea Gschwendner but it closed down. The only thing I have now is a frozen yogurt joint in town that also serves Rishi brand tea. Good luck! I hope you get a new tea place soon.

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  3. TeaFields, Englewood ask for Erica it is what you're describing great food wonderful tea

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  4. Thanks Rachel! We used to have a Tea Gschwendner in New York and I miss it. They had some great Darjeelings and an awesome apple spice tea they made just for NYC.

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  5. I've been there once and definitely need to get there again since rumor has it they are stocking green tea Kit Kats. The trouble with getting there without a car is that I have to take the shuttle bus from Port Authority in NY :P

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  6. I do need to get to TeaFields! If only it were closer. Three buses is quite a hike :/

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  7. notesontea (Georgia)March 13, 2013 at 11:23 AM

    ooh, glad to know about TeaFields and Mitsuwa supermarket. Next time I visit my Jersey family I will ask for rides. I am bummed that I missed Cha Ma Gu Dao in Montclair.



    I think a family-oriented tea place might do really well in some Jersey towns. I know families who come into the city on the weekends with their young daughters for tea and music.

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  8. I definitely think so. The one restaurant that I have really enjoyed that offers tea in NJ is Anna Beall's Tea Room in Westfield. A lot of locals bring their children and they even do children's birthday parties. If you ever get a chance to go, I highly recommend it.

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  9. Hi Nicole:

    I have been enjoying reading your tea blog since meeting you last year. Here's some places in NJ that I found to be interesting:

    Oak Tree Road - Iselin, NJ - There are lots of Indian restaurants and supermarkets that sell black Indian and British teas.

    Fairway in Paramus, NJ - They have a nice tea selection, and also sell loose tea.

    H-Mart Korean Supermarkets and Mitsuwa Marketplace in Edgewater

    Silver Tips Tea - Tarrytown NY is worth going to. After having afternoon tea, explore downtown Tarrytown, Sleepy Hollow, Lindenhurst Castle or do a easy walk on the Aqueduct trail

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  10. Thanks David! I'm so that you've been enjoying the blog and it was great meeting you at the Steepster meetup. I'll definitely be sure to put these places on my to do list :)

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