Tea at high end supermarkets (New York City)

Tea has become increasingly popular in the U.S. in recent years due to the ever growing interest in Eastern cultures along with the belief in the health benefits of tea. Nowhere is this more evident than in New York City, where many varieties of specialty and exotic teas are becoming available in delis, restaurants, cafes, and local grocery stores. New York City is home to the most discerning food lovers and health conscious people. It’s no surprise that teas are in high demand in the Big Apple. It is amazing to look at all the varieties of teas that are now available at the local grocery stores right around the corner. Lipton tea, the stereotypical “American” tea, though still popular, is often only one of dozens, if not hundreds, of varieties available in one grocery store section.

First, we visited the new Fairway on the Upper East Side. Fairway is considered a specialty grocery food store and it is known for carrying great produce and specialty food products at reasonable prices. First, it was surprising to see that they had more than one section of teas. They not only carried many types of the more traditional green, black, and oolong teas, including favorites like roasted hojicha green tea and Earl Grey. But, the shelves also reflected the growing interest in specialty teas that boast unique flavors and health benefits. For example, one shelf carried Revolution brand teas with unique flavors like Orange Chocolate Green Tea and Pomegranate White teas. These unusual combinations reflect the popularity of fruity and sweet teas among Americans.

At Food Emporium, a popular grocery chain in New York City, we see no fewer than sixty different varieties of iced teas on their online delivery site with varieties ranging from regular lemon iced tea to ice cold Japanese green tea to iced honeydew white tea. Americans love their iced teas in the hot summer and New Yorkers are no exception! Perhaps more surprisingly, they also have a great selection of hot teas including chamomile, black teas, green teas, and earl grey. Additionally, they carry specialty teas like matcha green tea powder and sencha tea. On a couple of shelves, they had a wide selection of herbal and medicinal tea including diet, throat care, and super-antioxidant teas. It’s clear that Americans not only enjoy drinking teas, but believe that teas can be beneficial to their health and appearance.

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Tea in casual U.S. culture (New York City)

Traditionally, the U.S. is not as well-known for it’s tea culture, at least compared to many countries like Great Britain, China, or Japan. Still, tea plays a role in everyday life here as well. Americans sometimes drink tea in the morning as an alternative to coffee. Tea can be had with meals and oftentimes people enjoy a nice cup of tea with their favorite dessert. In the U.S. though, the huge difference is that the great majority of tea is served ice cold and is often sweetened. For the past sixty years or so, the majority of teas available in U.S. were black teas. In recent years, green tea, oolong tea, and white teas have become more popular as there has been growing interest in the cuisines around the world and as the possible health benefits of tea have been advertised.

Upscale Restaurant

Union Square Cafe interiorNew York City is known for it’s many world-class restaurants and we thought it would be interesting to take a look at what’s on the menu at some of the local restaurants. At Union Square Cafe, rated the most popular restaurant in the world by Zagat’s (restaurant review) eight years in a row, the tea menu includes an interesting mix of high-end teas from various cultures. The specialty teas ranged from the Hojicha from Kyoto, Japan to organic chamomile tea from Egypt to the Four Seasons Oolong tea from Nantou, Taiwan. The variety of high-end teas reflect the growing gourmet interest in the tea cultures of the world.

Union Square Cafe menu showing tea

Casual Restaurant

On the other end of the spectrum, there is Shake Shack, a hugely popular casual burger restaurant in the city. It is not unusual to see two hour lines at it’s flagship location, even on a weekday!

On the Shake Shack menu, we see a more casual everyday tea menu. There is the fresh brewed iced tea (which is generally iced black tea), which can be sweetened or unsweetened. We also see the Arnold Palmer, a delicious half and half mix of lemonade and iced tea, named after the great American golfer.

Shake Shack reflects the great popularity of iced teas in America, particularly in the younger crowd. In fact, on a hot summer day, whether you are dining at a hole-in-the-wall or at a fine three-star restaurant, don’t be surprised if the most popular drink being ordered off the menu is a simple and refreshing iced tea.

You can find menus on these sites:
http://www.shakeshack.com
http://www.unionsquarecafe.com/menus.html (take a look at the dessert menu)

Photos from Shake Shack

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