Tea Places: 29B Teahouse
Last year I wrote about Tea Dealers and their location inside of the Canal Street Market. They’ve since moved again and I think the latest incarnation is the most exciting one yet. Now you can sit down to drink their teas as well as nibble on some pretty incredible food. The space is impeccably designed and very calming, a perfect fusion of a traditional teahouse and modern sensibility. Cast iron tetsubins sit on sleek black induction burners and beautifully arranged flowers are tastefully placed throughout.
My first visit was a casual drop in when I just happened to be in the area for another event. The menu is limited but offers some really interesting options. There are even tea cocktails for those who are so inclined. I opted for a yabukita kabuse sencha and the king salmon sashimi. The tea was incredible (so much umami!) but the salmon was definitely the star of the show. It was among some of the best sashimi I’ve ever had. It was accompanied by freshly grated wasabi that really knocked my socks off.
The attention to detail and focus on service are really what makes visiting this teahouse an experience. You might pay more than you would at another place but this isn’t afternoon tea service or a cafe where your leaves are brewed up in a paper bag. It’s a destination, both for the tea and culinary delights. Tea pairing dinners are hosted regularly in collaboration with Michelin Star chefs. I also really love that they are open relatively late in the evening. Sometimes I’d much rather get tea with friends than cocktails but at this place, we can do both!
My second visit was for a very special occasion. 29B Teahouse hosted a tea tasting and book signing with Tony Gebely of World of Tea. Stefen began the event by sharing his admiration for Tea: A User’s Guide, a sentiment that I can definitely echo. It is absolutely essential reading for anyone who is interested in tea. My copy is used as reference material on a regular basis, especially when I am writing blog posts. Spring for a physical copy rather than the Kindle edition if you don’t already own one. The carefully documented color photographs are incredibly useful.
One of my favorite things about attending tea events is getting to connect with other people who are just as crazy about tea as I am. I was happy to see my seat was reserved next to Jee from Oh, How Civilized. A conversation we had that day was exactly the kick in the butt I needed to finally move the blog from Blogger to Squarespace. I connected with a few other great people that day as well. Group tastings are always fascinating for me because tea is so subjective. We all drank the same teas at the same time but the tastes and aromas that everyone experienced varied quite a bit.
Just one of the teas we tasted came from the teahouse’s collection, a South Korean sejak. The rest were teas from Tony’s personal treasure trove. There was a dizzying array of teas, many of which I had only heard about before (and even a few that I hadn’t). Funky heicha, a copycat sheng from Sri Lanka, and Fujian black tea were all on the bill. Tony shared textbook facts about each of them with us but also spiced things up with anecdotes from his tea adventures around the world. Brewing for that many people is a bit nerve-wracking but stacking infusions from multiple gaiwans helped him get enough tea brewed for everyone fairly quickly
I’m not usually one for pairing food with my tea. I’m more likely to drink lots of tea and forego eating altogether when left to my own devices. That being said, I was definitely intrigued by the plates of tiny sweets that 26B Teahouse laid out for us.
Stefen explained that each item was designed to emphasize a specific quality of the tea. There was very dark chocolate to help us to pick up the tannins in tea, black sugar to bring out the sweetness, and candied citrus to highlight astringency.
This is definitely something I’d like to experiment with more in the future. I’m always looking for ways to train and expand my palate and it would make a pretty interesting blog post.
Fujian Black Tea
I left the tasting certifiably tea drunk, so much so that I needed to go grab a slice of pizza. Once my stomach had settled I started walking to the train but of course, I couldn’t resist one last tea stop. Setsugekka is a unique matcha shop that was recently opened by tea master Souheki Mori. Spoken like a true tea addict, I shared an Instagram story proclaiming that the solution to too much caffeine is more caffeine. I’ll be sure to write about that experience here on the blog soon.
Thank you to 29B Teahouse and Tony for a wonderful event! I’m so glad that I was able to attend.
Sheng Copycat from Sri Lanka
Black Tea Infusions Stacking Up
Sri Lankan Silver Needle