The Harney & Sons Soho offers a monthly tea class/tasting by tea sommelier Emeric Harney, the grandson of founder John Harney. The class is about two hours long, costs $50 and starts after the store closes, at 7:30pm. Since I usually stick to my standbys of Hojicha and Genmaicha, I thought this would be a great chance to taste a wide range of teas while learning a little bit about them.
When you walk in, on the wall to the left is a huge shelving system showcasing all their teas. The metal boxes against the wall hold water set to certain temperatures.
There were just three other people aside from me taking the class and throughout the two hours, we tasted 11 different types of tea, starting from white, then green, oolong and ending with black.
To start, Emeric sets three types of white teas on the counter and explains a little bit about them while we took turns smelling the dry loose leaf teas. Out of the three white teas, we were asked to select one to taste. If you want to taste more, it may be a good idea to bring a friend so you can try out theirs as well as your own. For each cup of tea prepared, a timer was set to make sure none brewed incorrectly.
I was very surprised to find out that white tea has the most caffeine – more than black! Apparently thinking that white tea has the least caffeine is a common misconception.
Next, we moved onto the greens and this time, we had a selection of four for the first round of Chinese green teas and another selection of four for a round of Japanese green teas. For the Oolongs, we selected one of four and everyone had a taste of the fifth. The black tea tasting lasted the longest since we tried six different kinds, either Chinese or Indian.
During the black tea tasting, Emeric prepared a snack of savories that are sold in the cafe. This is really just a snack with each person getting three of the cucumbers and three of the gravlax rice crackers.
I found the trough behind the counter fascinating. This was where all the unfinished teas were poured into, letting the liquid flow so the tea leaves can be scraped off and thrown out.
A discount is given to purchases made at the end of class and I went with Scent of Mountain Sencha, a green tea we had tasted. The tea class ended at around 9:50pm so it went on a little longer than two hours. I really enjoyed the experience since I got a chance to try out so many different teas in one setting and have them all perfectly brewed for me.
Note: Next tea class is on August 14 at 7:30pm. To reserve a spot, either stop by the shop or call.
LOCATION: Harney & Sons Soho | 433 Broome Street | New York, NY 10013 | 212.933.4853
Emeric's Photo Credit: Harney & Sons, Harney & Sons Products Photo Credit: From Linked Sources