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White Chelsea Chai from New York’s T Salon

August 6, 2010

Today’s Tea: Chelsea Chai by T Salon
Stumbled upon by: goodtea

We apologize for the unplanned hiatus here at Tea & Procrastination, Inc., but to make up for it, we’ve got a couple of exciting new posts lined up, including reviews of tea rooms we’ve come across in our travels.

First up is T Salon, located in New York City’s famous Chelsea Market. While roaming through Chelsea one hot summer afternoon, I ducked into Chelsea Market to enjoy the air conditioning and buy something to drink. Lo and behold, before me appeared a shop with warm-colored wood floors, a vaguely Asian aesthetic, and shelves filled with countless cannisters that could only contain tea. Thus, I discovered T Salon.

T Salon apparently got its start in 1992 when parfumier-turned-tea-guru Miriam Novalle decided to set up an environmentally sustainable tea shop. Among other things, T Salon prides itself in using easily renewable bamboo wood in its shops, environmentally friendly packaging, and animal-grade corn-based or potato-based plastics for cups and utensils. Even the attractive lamps casting a soothing glow over the shop are made of recycled tea bags!

In addition to a wide selection of loose teas (quite a few of which are organic), T Salon’s shop–which could be accurately called a tea bar–serves a variety of hot and cold teas, tea-based smoothies, tea-based cocktails, as well as beer and soda. You can grab a drink to go, or you can take your time sit down in the cushy lounge area–described as “swanky” by New York Magazine–and relax with a cup of tea. Apparently you can also order a flight of teas and experience a proper tea tasting, or you can make a meal of it, as luscious desserts and other delicious foods are also available.

I browsed the selection and decided to get some iced tea to go. (Amusingly, the sizes on the menu are written in Japanese: kodomo (kid’s size), chiisai (small), mannaka (medium), and okii (large). It’s a nice contrast to the Italian affectations of certain coffee shops.) I got an okii cup of iced Chelsea Chai. The Chelsea Chai is, oddly enough, a white tea-based chai, which I had never had before. Lightly spiced with green cardamom and peppercorns, among other things, it was unlike any other chai I’ve had. I don’t think this is the type of chai to which you’d want to add milk and sugar, but it is an ideal iced tea, with the light, smooth body of the white tea and the invigorating spices. For once, I thought it wasn’t sweet enough, but T Salon keeps honey and raw agave nectar out on the counter for customers. After liberally adding some sweet agave nectar to my tea, the flavor of the spices really came to life.

So I took my ice cold, sweet, white chai with me and roamed through the rest of the market and then ventured up to the High Line, the modern elevated park conveniently located near Chelsea Market. What better way to spend a summer afternoon than sipping iced tea beneath a sunny sky, surrounded by wild plants in the middle of Manhattan?

From now on, I’ll put T Salon on my list of places to go when I’m in New York. Its convenient location near the sights of Chelsea makes it a great rest stop when showing tourists around, too. And even if you’re not in the city, you can support this environmentally conscious tea shop by buying tea from T Salon’s online store.

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