Brewing top-caliber tea with minimal fuss.

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Brewing top-caliber tea with minimal fuss.

So what's the difference between making world-class tea and a crappy teabag you pull out of your drawer at work? Surprisingly, not much! The key is to not microwave your water and to freshly boil it. Microwaving water depletes it of oxygen, which is what gives tea it's flavor.

Next, if you can use filtered water, all the better! 

So what do you need? A cup, freshly boiled water and your tea. With a teabag, you put one in and dip it, right? With premium, loose-leaf tea, just use two fingers and pinch out what looks like a teaspoon, being careful not to break the leaves. Eyeballing it is okay and here's why: there is zero consistent science to tea. You can never have the same cup twice! It's important to see each cup of tea as a creation unto itself. Sometimes you'll like it, sometimes you may not for various reasons. Constantly exploring and treating each cup as it's own unique drink will help you appreciate top-caliber tea!

Once the tea is in the water, it needs usually 4-5 minute of brew time and you can stir as much as you like. Stirring helps the leaves to open, but if you want to get multiple steeps out of the tea, stir less. Again, no science, all art. That's it! The leaves will sink to the bottom and you can drink the tea. No messing around with a drippy, sub-optimal teabag! 

Sit back and appreciate the aroma. Try to identify if it smells fruity, woodsy, caramelly, etc. This is the fun! It's so easy to make tea, put it in the cup, cover with just-boiled water. Stir. Wait. Drink. Easy!

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Spending time with someone you love is a gift!

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Spending time with someone you love is a gift!

There is a cultural imperative to have a work-life balance. The 4-day work week is touted as being the 'answer'; people want to have money for their lives, but don't actually want to work set hours. What are people doing with all this time that's freed up by canning the 9-5? It's obvious that relationships and spending time doing things you love with people you love is the most important thing in the world.

This is why the concept of Afternoon Tea is so vital to getting your fill of phone-down quality time, to connecting in a meaningful way with people you care about. To shutting the world out and taking a mental stay-cation. Afternoon tea can have the same kind of transporting effect as reading a book. Or running. Or going on a Netflix bender. But much more delicious and ultimately satisfying because it's so much more than just tea. It's about being delighted by small details, by new flavors, by learning something new about the people you care about the most. Why not make a celebration out of your day? We'd love to have you! To book a reservation, go to the reservations page! See you soon.

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Peppermint, I'm sorry. You're not tea.

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Peppermint, I'm sorry. You're not tea.

An important first step in learning about the world of tea is understanding what tea is and what it is not. Firstly, tea is a plant and it is called Camellia Sinensis. Meaning, if you're steeping something that is not Camellia Sinensis nor has Camellia Sinensis blended into it, it's not tea. Peppermint is an herb, lavender a flower and ginger a root and so on. These substances are important to distinguish because if you can't have caffeine, which most other tisanes (the word that means something you steep like a tea that has no tea in it) don't, then you don't want to call a green tea an 'herbal' when it does indeed have caffeine and tea itself isn't an herb. There is quite a lot of confusion in the market about what tea is, and if you're putting something into your body, you have a full right to know and understand what that is. Camellia Sinensis produces recognizeable types, like White, Green, Oolong, Black and Pu-ehr tea, which is a Chinese way of fermenting and pressing tea. Sometimes actual tea leaves are combined with herbs, spices, flowers, roots and/or fruits and so on, but those are, perfumed teas. Or teas with additions. Like how you can have a plain chocolate bar or a chocolate bar with nuts. Just because the nuts are there doesn't turn it into a nut bar. It's still a chocolate bar with nuts. So, step 1: Know what's in your teapot! We'd love to hear your comments below about what's in yours!

#whatistea #thisistea #tea #camelliasinensis #teasarenottisanes #confusion #whatsinyourpot

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World Tea Expo!

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World Tea Expo!

Believe it or not, I've never been to the World Tea Expo! It used to be called 'Take me to Tea' and I remember hearing about it, but as anyone who has ever started a business on their own can attest, going to industry events is sometimes just about impossible. I say just about because nothing is impossible, but...priorities!

Anyhow, it was absolutely amazing to be amongst my fellow tea-tribe members. A group I had long sought out, yet was right in front of my face. There was so much to learn about Chinese, Japanese and Sri Lankan teas. While I'm aware that tea is grown in more than 50 countries, it doesn't mean I've tried it all, nor is it always easily attainable. 

The show was so enlightening and I came away with many new friends. What did seem apparent is that there aren't many in the industry like me - whose passion for Indian tea matches their expertise in marketing and that a focus on curating a tea experience is relatively rare. 

Well, I cam home with a LOT of tea. If you're in NYC and come to Afternoon Tea at janamtea.com, ask for some tea out of my 'secret stash'. I'll also start posting my reviews!

 

 

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Creating a culture of tea in the US

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Creating a culture of tea in the US

It's been awhile since I've written a blog post! Since last time, Janam Tea was written up in the New York Times (Sunday Metropolitan section) and in Time Out NYC twice! Once in Nov. 2017 for our curry chicken salad tarts being one of the best new food finds of the year in the brunch category and another for being one of the top 15 best brunches in the afternoon tea category in March of 2018. We're so proud of these accomplishments, but there's something that means more: we're making people happy and creating a culture of slowing down and enjoying each other's company. 

Our gracious customers have allowed us to be the backdrop for special events in their lives, for bridal showers, milestone birthdays and graduations. It's clear that tea is and will be an integral part of celebrating one's life-yes, even here in America. One of my favorite experiences was a young man taking his girlfriend's parents to tea to ask them if he could marry their daughter. Aww.

We believe that tea can bring people together, fuel incredible conversations and connections. It's something one can enjoy alone, but so much the better with cherished friends and loved ones. Even bad tea can do this...Imagine what great tea can do! If you'd like to find out, join us at the table for some of India's most exquisite teas.

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Did you hear the news?

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Did you hear the news?

We have just passed our first anniversary and in the last month alone, have been featured in the New York Times and our curry chicken salad tarts were named one of the top 100 best new food finds of the year in TimeOut New York, November issue.

The news is that we've passed a major milestone and proven an experiment: Do people want afternoon tea, can they appreciate Indian tea (to most a totally foreign substance) and will they be willing to pay for the experience more than what it costs to produce it. We've discovered all of the above to be a resounding YES!

This has been an enlightening year. We've iterated menu items, had staff members come and go, had a few architectural mishaps and through all of it have maintained a clear and discernible vision. I say 'we' because this is a true partnership between me and anyone who has ever encouraged me to follow this dream. I thank you. All of you. Sometimes you don't know when a word or phrase will change someone else's life forever. I'm grateful and amazed that we stand here together today and so excited for the opportunities ahead.

We'd love to hear your stories too. If there's anything you'd like to share, we'd love to hear it-whether here on the blog or in person over tea. That's what this whole thing is all about. Thank you for reading, coming in for tea and for being the awesome humans you are to contribute to this unbelievable undertaking.

So much love!

Photo credit @matthewgilbertson

 

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Spring menu ideas?

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Spring menu ideas?

Spring is upon us, so that means a new menu! We want to switch out the chocolate pudding with maple panna cotta and berries. Things are always changing around here, but you know what's not changing? The quality of the tea. It's Afternoon Tea, and tea ought to be the highlight. So, it's with careful consideration that I select the panna cotta flavor to go best with the tea. All the items served at afternoon tea are designed to be colorful and go together. They provide a range of textures and flavors. Designing the ultimate Afternoon Tea definitely takes some engineering!

Others try to do it, but unless someone is truly dedicated, coming up with an Afternoon Tea menu is definitely not as easy as it looks!

What do you think would be your preference? Comments below!

  • maple
  • blackberry
  • dulce de leche

 

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Why have an Afternoon Tea vs. tea in the afternoon?

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Why have an Afternoon Tea vs. tea in the afternoon?

I get this question quite a lot. What is afternoon tea and how is it different from having tea in the afternoon?

A few key differences:

  • Afternoon Tea is a set menu, nearly always involving scones, cream and jam, egg salad and cucumber sandwiches. The items on the afternoon tea tray vary, but one thing is for sure...it's not just tea. And it's not lunch. And it's not brunch. It's some middle-zone!
  • It's a culinary experience dating back to the 1780's in England, so that's why there are things like scones, because that's typical cuisine for that area.
  • Having an Afternoon Tea means sitting down with your company and really sharing a great 'sit-down' conversation. Having tea in the afternoon might be a quick cup of average stuff from your local coffee shop. Afternoon Tea usually involves much better quality tea and often served in loose leaf pots.
  • Dress codes are typically enforced for Afternoon Tea. In my case, please come dressed to be in an upscale environment but I do not have an enforced dress code unless there is a special event. 
  • You MUST make reservations (janamtea.com/reservations which will take you to reservations page through Garfunkel's, which is the hosting venue). Walk-ins are very difficult to accommodate as I make every last thing for the precise number of people attending.
  • Another major difference is cost. Your average Afternoon Tea costs around $50/pp and can come with additions like champagne or cocktails. Mine happens to be $40/pp, which is largely because of the location. It's not in a big fancy midtown hotel, it's in the Lower East Side, where there are galleries and things are a little more 'street'. Many say my presentation and food outshines even classics like the Russian Tea Room, but I don't know for sure. Check out Yelp reviews to see what people are saying. It's 
  • As Afternoon Tea is designed to connect with your loved ones and it's for this reason, at Janam Tea, we kindly request electronics remain off and hidden during teatime so you can really just lose yourself in the experience (and so can everyone else around you). 

Here are some similarities:

  • Having tea does not have to be a snobby experience. I don't expect people to know what single-estate Indian Tea is, thus the front page of my website and the 'Why Indian Tea' page.
  • Pouring honey and milk in light teas covers up the flavor. Only full-bodied (meaning darker color and more viscous) teas can hold milk. No one likes hot watery milk.
  • Tea should have plenty of room to steep once in the water. We only use loose teas in teapots, but if you're at home, tying tea bags too close to the tea or packing it into infusers doesn't allow the full flavor to be released.

I love having Afternoon Tea and I love having tea in the afternoon, but hopefully after reading this, it's clear these are decidedly two different things! I'd love to hear your thoughts!

amy@janamtea.com

 

 

 

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Details matter: Round scones vs. Triangular

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Details matter: Round scones vs. Triangular

Scones are such a particular texture, it was really important to me to get it right. 

So many scones were tasted and rated, it would make your head spin. I looked at round, triangular, with currants, with raisins, with oats, with cranberries, chocolate chips, gluten-free, you name it. I tried it. Scones are served with my housemade clotted cream and raspberry jam, so I knew it had to be something that wouldn't compete with those flavors.

A note about my clotted cream! Clotted cream is simply cream solids that have been separated from the liquids, so it's literally the creme de la creme. The texture is somewhere between cream and butter and kind of hard to get right. The flavor is heavenly!! It's rich, so heavier than whipped cream, but it's not as thick as butter. You spread the cream on your scone and top with jam. Then sit tight because you're about to be launched into another orbit, especially if you take a sip of your tea right after. Why has tea been so popular over the last 150 or so years in England? This experience right here. 

Back to the scones. They're all butter, which means you know they're fabulous. I know clotted cream (nearly butter) on all-butter scones sounds insane, but trust me on this. The texture of the scones shouldn't be dry or crunchy. Nor is it too soft. It has heft but isn't heavy. Mine has little crunchy sugar crystals on top so that's pretty fabulous. It should not be too bready as in the case of Irish soda bread, but it's not a muffin either. 

I went round because I like how it looks on the plate. Triangles took up too much real estate and found the corners and the middle to have very different textures. If details are important to you, may I suggest trying an afternoon tea sometime!

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This is what it's about...

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This is what it's about...

Afternoon Tea really just translates into quality time. Getting to know someone, whether you've known them for years or minutes. The two gentlemen pictured here were introduced not 20 minutes before and ended up having a fascinating, intense 3 hour conversation about everything under the sun. They entered as strangers and left as old friends. Afternoon Tea was the common thread, though they quickly found that they had many things in common. This is special! Their new friendship is both meaningful and memorable to them.

Stop and think about it. When was the last time you started a 3 hour conversation with a perfect stranger? If your answer is recently, then having Afternoon Tea at Garfunkel's is a natural fit. If not-would you try it? Would you let me introduce you to someone you didn't know? Would you drop pre-conceived notions, fear and your phone for long enough to learn something new? 

There is brilliance all around and it's my feeling that tea provides a good a foundation as any to start seeing it. I am so grateful to have a space not just to showcase fantastic single-estate Indian teas, but to really connect with people in a profound way and contribute to a positive collective experience.

I'd love to hear your thoughts on this! 

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The Holidays are here, which means a special menu!

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The Holidays are here, which means a special menu!

I'm so excited for the holidays. The parlor at Garfunkel's Speakeasy is already decorated with strings of pine tinsel, lights, trees and stockings. It's especially festive and I'm now thinking about a menu that will bring the whole atmosphere together. 

So, this is where I get to be really creative! In honor of my dear friend, Nathan R. (who I love to celebrate holidays with and seriously bummed that I can't this year), I've decided to roast a goose to serve for Holiday Tea. I'm also doing a glass of bubbles and putting a little caviar on the salmon to make things even more sumptuous.

I *might* have to break out my own recipe of masala chai. We'll see. Let me know if you want to see it on the menu! 

Hope you all have a wonderful holiday season and enjoy your family and friends!

To make reservations, go to janamtea.com/reservations. Holiday Tea is served in two seatings: 12p and 4p on Dec. 24, 25, 31 and 1. 

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Dessert Dilemma

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Dessert Dilemma

When it comes to Afternoon Tea, sweets are a big part of that. It's important that they are all different, colorful, harmonious with one another and are artistic in presentation. 

On the menu, at first, was a brownie, cut with an oval cookie cutter and the initial of its intended consumer creatively drawn on top with cardamom peanut butter piping, a 'thumbprint' shortbread cookie with candied pistachio in honey, lemon curd tarts and a coffee pudding topped with dark chocolate cookie crumbs. All of it required research. I outsourced the brownie and cookie baking to a local bakery and same with the coffee pudding. Asserting that I'm not a pastry chef (not a chef, but I'm practically made out of pastry), I thought I couldn't possibly make these things in-house.

I decided to experiment and you know what? Coffee pudding with tea tastes horrible. Outsourcing baked goods is expensive. Piping people's initials on each brownie is a little ridiculous. So, as it stands now, I have a blueberry danish (which I outsource, but it's SO good), lemon curd tarts (the curd is housemate and it's possible that I can also make the crust. We'll see about this), chocolate puddings layered with strawberry and a cookie make by Roo's Dough Co., which is visually a little too rustic, but incredibly delicious. I do want to bring back the shortbread, but feel I'd likely have to make this myself as well. 

Designing Afternoon Tea is very tricky and of course, time-consuming, but that's the experience people are paying for. The dessert selection will grow and evolve. Suggestions are always appreciated!

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