10 Favorite Tea Spots in New York City

Looking for an adorable tea spot (not afternoon tea) in New York City that delivers on great tea, delectable sweets, friendly service, and comfortable seating? Here are my 10 favorite places, in no particular order, where you can sit back, relax and enjoy your sweets and a cup of tea. 

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1/ Bar Pleiades
Tea isn’t on the bar menu, but it can be requested at this cozy lounge with comfy seating at The Surrey hotel's Bar Pleiades on the Upper East Side. The main reason to go is for their perfect madelines, the same ones served at the restaurant Daniel.

2/ Harbs
Tea and cake go so great together, which is why Harbs, with plenty of seating, tasty cream cakes, and lovely teas makes for a great place for tea at three. 

3/ Chalait
My new go-to place for matcha-based drinks. Love that they have sweet options on the menu.
 

4/ Ladurée Soho
From the lavish desserts to signature teas, Ladurée Soho knows how to do tea and delicate French pastries.

5/ Espresso Bar at the Marlton Hotel
The lounge at the Marlton Hotel has gotten a bit popular, but if you can find seats, it's a nice spot for a tea break. Get the cheese and kale scone or the olive oil muffin and pick one of the Bellocq teas served in a matching teapot and teacups.

6/ Lobby Lounge at Mandarin Oriental
This is a great place to meet a client or an old friend. Superior service, excellent tea, and desserts. Get a seat by the window if you want to take in the sweeping views of Central Park and Central Park South.

7/ Cha-An
I've been going to Cha-An forever and this cozy little spot on the second floor in the East Village serves an excellent hojicha. Plus, desserts here never disappoint. I love their sweet honey toasts.

8/ The Crosby Bar at the Crosby Street Hotel
The Crosby Bar has afternoon tea service, but I like going here for tea and sweets. 

9/ Lady M
To me, the original Upper East Side location is their best. There's less seating, but that also means it's way less hectic than the Bryant Park location. Banana mille-feuille is my cake of choice.

10/ Caffe Storico at the New-York Historical Society
This is a secret I almost don't want to share. Tucked inside the New-York Historical Society museum is this completely adorable cafe that serves decadent desserts that should be enjoyed between sips of tea.

Posted on March 2, 2015 .

Blending Two Tea Bags to Create a Custom Brew

I recently got a few samples of Kronen Tee to try and noticed their teas are all in tea bags, not loose, which is what I usually prefer. Although, I will say that when I'm feeling lazy I'll reach for a tea bag.

On one of those lazy days, I came up with the idea of creating my own custom blend by using two different flavored tea bags. After looking at the selection, I decided to create a Vanilla Earl Grey by using an Earl Grey tea bag and the Vanilla tea bag. It was surprisingly great with both the earl grey and vanilla flavors coming through equally. It worked especially well since they were both black teas, so the base was the same.

At this point, I felt much more adventurous so I tried blending their Green Coffee Infusion with green tea and peach black tea. This was not as successful, but it wasn't horrible. The base for one was a green tea and and the other, a black tea, which I suspect is the reason it didn't go as well. 

I'm going to try a few more blends to see which ones work the best together. Have you ever tried doing this? Which blend worked for you?

 

Posted on February 26, 2015 .

Matcha Cafe Wabi

Took a trek ALLLLL the way out to Matcha Cafe Wabi on the Lower East Side to try their matcha latte. And it was totally worth it even in the freezing cold.

The matcha latte is made with a heavy cream base (YES!) and light syrup. 

The matcha flavor shines through and it's perfectly sweet and creamy. It was delicious and I love the cute leaf design topping the latte. 

To go with my matcha latte, I got their matcha rice crispy treat (I need to make this!) and a sweet red bean, cranberry, and raisin steam bun. The steam bun is savory and isn't really sweet at all, but it went well with the sweet matcha latte. The rice crispy treat had a nice matcha flavor but overall the baked goods were good, but not exceptional. I wouldn't go back for those baked goods, but if I'm in the area, I would definitely go for another matcha latte -- so good!!

It's a cute place but there's very little seating inside. There's just a small bench that can fit two people so it's better to take your drink to go. But really, you should go and try that matcha latte!

 

Posted on February 24, 2015 .

Flying with Miles

All international flights I took last year were flown using miles. I flew Business Class to Paris and Florence, then took Economy Class going and Business Class coming back from Seoul, South Korea. 

How did I do it? I spent some time researching and learning about points and miles from travel blogs. Here are three guides I used to learn how to get started:

- Million Mile Secrets - Beginner's Guide to Miles & Points
- The Points Guy's Beginner's Guide
- One Mile at a Time - Beginner's Guide to Miles & Points

The first takeaway is to figure out your travel plans. I knew I wanted to fly to Paris and Italy so I worked out which airlines I wanted to fly.

Next, which is the key takeaway, is to sign up for credit cards that offer points that can be transferred to airlines for miles. Hardcore travel bloggers sign up for 4-8 credit cards every few months but I didn't need a million miles a year, so I started slow with signing up for three credit cards, which would give me enough miles for my trip. I opened up the Chase Sapphire, Chase Ink Bold, and the United Airlines credit cards. They gave me a total of 140,000 points after I met the minimum spending requirements.

Note: To make credit card points work best, you should pay your balance in full each month otherwise the interest you pay will probably add up way more than what you would get in miles. Also, if you're planning on a big purchase like a house, best not to open a slew of new credit cards since you want to keep your credit score clean.

I knew I wanted to concentrate most of my miles to one airline with multiple partner airlines. Being based in NYC, my best bets were United Airlines and American Airlines. After researching a bit on FlyerTalk.com, I decided on United which offers a lot of availability and routes on their frequent flyer program. (I may change to American Airlines since I'm getting a little sick of flying in and out of Newark, NJ.) I found Delta to have the worst frequent flyer program so they weren't in the running.

I created a spreadsheet with my credit card information so I would be able to keep track. I decided to keep the Chase Sapphire after I had it for a year since it offered no foreign transaction charges, unlike my American Express card. Now I use the Chase card whenever I travel. For the Chase Ink Bold and the United Airlines cards, I closed both accounts a month before they were set to renew since I didn't want to pay the annual fee. 

To maximize the use of my cards and earn multiple points per dollar, I used the Chase Ultimate Rewards portal where you can shop through Chase and get bonus points. 

Before my trip to Seoul, I had opened up the Chase Ink Business Plus card which gave me points to travel using miles, but not enough for Business Class both ways, so I flew Economy going and Business coming back. I didn't enjoy flying Economy, but I did like that I was flying for practically free. 

Hope you find these tips useful and happy travels!

Posted on February 13, 2015 .