“Let’s grab coffee” is a familiar NYC phrase, but increasingly it’s tea (the world’s second most popular beverage after water) that New Yorkers are bonding over, savoring, and pretty much obsessed with. Here’s proof: We tagged along with the Tea Tour NY Meetup group, which regularly seeks out rare leaves from retailers in Chinatown, SoHo, and Tribeca—including the places favored by acupuncturists and practitioners of Traditional Chinese Medicine—and met the group’s tea-loving fans and fanatics. (Look closely: Just how much did tour-leader Lefty Atanycorner spend on lychee?)
You can re-create a tour of the destinations on your own (listed below), though you’ll miss the lectures and the discounts as well as the momentum and enthusiasm of the city’s tea-obsessed.
Pearl River Mart (477 Broadway, btwn Grand and Broome): The first ever Chinese American department store is popular for its housewares, as well as its small tea house on the second floor.
Ten Ren Tea (79 & 79 Mott St., btwn Canal and Bayard): One of six branches in New York City, Ten Ren Tea has a storefront selling every imaginable type of tea and ginsing, and a futuristic teahouse serving the City’s best tapioca bubble tea.
Kamwo Herbal Pharmacy (211 Grand St., betw Mott and Elizabeth): The largest Chinese Herbal Pharmacy on the East Coast has a beautiful array of bulk herbs and teas and is the go-to emporium for TMC professionals.
New Kam Man (200 Canal St., at Mulberry St.): In addition to the phenomenal selection of Asian snack food, you’ll find gorgeous, bargain priced tea sets.
Chung Chou City (218 Grand St., btwn Mott and Elizabeth): Interesting and hard-to-find herbs are sold here, plus the City’s largest selection of flowering teas.
Sanctuary T (337B West Broadway, betw Grand and Broome): Equal parts restaurant, teahouse and emporium, Sanctuary T serves salmon poached in strawberry tea, its own version of English high tea, tea-based cocktails, as well as loose leaf teas to tote home.
Video by Melissa Friedling.