Yesterday I embarked on a new adventure: attending my first meetup in Greenwich Village for tea lovers. This was the second meeting for the group and took place in one of my favorite types of secret oases in Manhattan: a patio garden hidden behind an unassuming building.
Hosted by The Meaning of Tea, the gathering included interesting people of all ages with varied backgrounds and occupations who all happen to share an affinity for tea. We gained admittance by pressing on a buzzer that reads “Tea Garden” and walking through to the back of the building.
As you approach the garden patio, there is a Japanese tea ceremony room with a low table and tatami mats. The large window frames a Japanese waterfall, and when you walk out onto the patio, you get a sense of spacious green tranquility that simply is not commonplace in the city that doesn’t sleep.
We got to sample three black teas, two of them dharma blends and an Earl Grey. The aroma of the first teapot was so exquisite that I wavered: should I add milk and sugar because that’s usually how I drink black tea? I did for the first tasting and was immediately sorry when I realized I couldn’t really taste the tea. I took my subsequent cups black, including my perennial favorite Earl Grey. There’s definitely something to be said about the superior taste and quality of whole leaf, sustainably grown tea.
As we sat down to drink our tea and eat our biscuits, I noticed a small Buddha on the other side of the stone fountain. His peaceful expression was the perfect complement to our tranquil surroundings. I chatted with some of the people sitting closest to me about how I abhor artificially flavored tea and seek out organic food whenever possible. One person said when she’s dealing with a quality supplier she has a relationship with, the organic certification isn’t as important if she knows and trusts the person. One person said he never drinks coffee, only tea, and that his father collects tea from all over the world. (He drinks it too, I asked.) The rest of us said we sometimes drink coffee, but most of us prefer tea.
There was no fee to attend the meetup, and because I’ve been immersed in the world of marketing and story telling for a while now, I wanted to understand the purpose of the meetup. I asked the organizers, and one said it was about gathering tea lovers to share tea and conversation. There was no tea for sale, but we could buy it online later if we wished to. Another said one of the upcoming meetups would include a screening of the documentary film The Meaning of Tea. So it was about raising awareness, creating lovely experiences around the brand and very likely building a community of advocates in the process.
Their low-key approach worked. When I got home I felt compelled to search out the story behind the documentary and the company (and to blog about it.) The quote below is from The Meaning of Tea’s website, but it could also easily summarize my thoughts and feelings about my experience yesterday evening:
When I drink tea, the leaves carry something more than a flavor or a fragrance. I feel enveloped in the rare and the familiar knowing, that brings me on this journey – when a tea is a good tea, not the average tea of convenience. Please realize – it helps a great deal if surroundings are beautiful, and closer to nature, where water quality is most pure. A spirit of space that requires nothing; one-time, one-meeting, things just as they are.
— Scott Chamberlin Hoyt , Director Tea Dragon Films
In case you haven’t heard of the documentary, here is the trailer:
Here also is a particularly moving video excerpt from The Meaning of Tea:
This morning I made a batch of iced tea from the organic Golden Monkey tea sample we got yesterday and the taste is full and rich, with notes of chocolate. The big challenge will be to not overdose on caffeine by drinking it all day. Also, I can’t wait to use my current stash of tea and replenish it with my new find.
Are you a tea lover? What’s your favorite tea story?
Categories: Culture, New York City, Our Times