Born of a hangover, bred by the lovely Kelly Tisdale and then-boyfriend musician Moby, and comfortably nestled in a sunny nook in New York City’s Lower East Side neighbourhood, teany could be one of the gastronomical highlights of your next trip to Manhattan. It was for me when I visited the city on a whirlwind mother-daughter trip to celebrate the merciful completion of my interminable undergraduate degree in the winter of 2008, just prior to starting library school that fall. And here, my friends, is why.
First off, teany revolves around tea; 98 varieties, to be exact. Suffering from hangovers and bemoaning the lack of proper local establishments serving comforting tea and rich food to aid in recovery, Moby and Kelly decided to open their very own tea shop in May 2002. While the teas and tisanes are lovely served hot, the cold tea concoctions offer an interesting departure from tradition for those who are so inclined. These include the Teany Antioxidant Cooler (with a base of white tea), the Peach and Tea Milkshake (with chai tea), and the Lavender Lemonade. We tried tea #69: Sweet Apple Plum and found it to be the perfect balance of tart and sweet thanks to the mix of hibiscus and apple.
Second, teany welcomes everyone with a menu that appeals to a wide range of tastes, while catering specifically to vegetarians and vegans. This placed it at the top of my list of NYC vegetarian/vegan must-eats that also included Cafe Blossom and Angelica Kitchen. Teany snackers can indulge in tea sandwiches, scones and petit fours (bite-sized desserts) alongside their tea, while hungrier visitors can opt for heartier fare ranging from the Cashew Butter Sandwich to the Asian Vegetable and Noodle Salad with Spicy Peanut Sauce. Tea even makes its way into the food, as with the green tea-infused jasmine rice.
Third, teany is tiny. I’ve already shared my adoration for things in miniature, so there’s no need for me to belabour the point, but I do think it necessary to mention this aspect of teany’s charm. It’s in the name and it reinforces the shop’s low-key, local, neighbourhood appeal. The mini vases of flowers placed on the tables and the tea lights tucked into small holes carved in the shop’s brick wall complete a decor that already radiates warmth thanks to large south-facing windows.
Fourth, there’s the neighbourhood itself. A visit to the Lower East Side Tenement Museum had endeared me to the area on a previous trip with my Liberal Arts program in college back in 2000, and further exploration this time around revealed an abundance of foodie delights (Guss’ Pickles! The Doughnut Plant!) alongside the Lower East Side’s historic appeal and friendly inhabitants. Staff inquired after our visit and a handsome fellow diner (complete with newsboy cap) indulged my interest in teany’s origins by explaining that Kelly had taken over sole ownership of the cafe in recent years.
Last, and certainly not least considering the authorship of this blog, teany has a companion book. Yes! You read that right! Get it at your local library! It’s a gem that conveys the eclectic spirit of the place through an enticing blend of humourous anecdotes, tea-inspired musings, and delicious recipes. Read it cover to cover, refer to recipes as needed, or flip to a favourite feature when you need a quick pick-me-up; my favourites include “Comrade Moby’s Revisionist Prehistory of Teany”, “Lulu’s Tea Party” (a photospread of teany’s youngest regular enjoying a tea party with her friends real and stuffed while discussing “the pernicious lack of transparency in the operations of the international monetary fund” and dancing to the Sex Pistols’ Anarchy in the UK), and “T.” (a poem by teany regular Dimitri Ehrlich). As for the recipes, I’ve found a perfect potluck offering in the Avocado, Beat, and Mango salad with Blood Orange Tea Vinaigrette (aka Dish of Bliss).
Oh, and did I mention teany’s mascots, two tea robots purchased at an outsider art fair? Enough said.