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July 23, 2014

Tea Two Ways: New Approaches to a Centuries-Old Drink

By Sasha Levine | Drinks

Tea Two Ways: New Approaches to a Centuries-Old Drink
Courtesy of Silk Road Teas

Americans are rarely behind the times when it comes to cultural trends, but our relationship with tea has lagged since the very beginning. Fortunately, two stateside enterprises are attempting to change all that, taking wildly different approaches from opposite sides of the country.

The Innovator: PressTea (New York)
Coffee’s had its third wave, so why not tea? This year-old café from Taiwanese founders (and cousins) George Kuan and siblings Richard and Patty Chen is leading the charge with espresso-style drinks made of proprietary blends of black, green and Rooibos teas sourced in Taiwan, China and India. Using an entirely new mechanism that resembles an espresso machine, these young experts are turning out clever riffs on hot and cold coffee classics. Consider a black “teapuccino,” with rose simple syrup; a Formosa macchiato; a Rooibos latte or an iced-coffee-style Mont Blanc chai, each made from a thick, concentrated shot that uses seven to ten times more tea than the average sachet. The result is a delicious, wholesome concoction that any third-wave barista would appreciate. New for the summer is a collection of FizTeas (carbonated iced tea), including green-tea lemonade, pineapple chai and mango Rooibos. Their tea-infused pastries, also made in-house, shouldn’t be missed. 167 Seventh Ave. S.; 212-888-6666; presstea.com.

The Traditionalist: Silk Road Teas (San Rafael, California)
Don’t mistake “traditional” for “conventional”—this outfit is anything but. Founded 22 years ago by a traveler in search of the very best teas, Silk Road—now owned and run by husband-and-wife team Ned and Catherine Heagerty—sells the finest-grade tea available in the United States. Their rare and artisan offerings are all small-lot (limited quantity), domestic grade (highest quality), unblended (from a single plant) fresh teas (minimally processed according to local custom), picked every year at the end of March (the time of the coveted first pluck) and sourced directly from China’s remotest farmers. Their inventory, as a result, is entirely unique, the flavor profiles complex and nuanced, vibrant and unadulterated. It takes only one pot of their very rare (and very expensive) Snow Dragon or Drum Mountain Clouds & Mist ($380 a pound) to taste the difference. 415-458-8624; silkroadteas.com.