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My Second Mom

Lynda (left), at afternoon tea with some of her good friends

Tomorrow we’re celebrating the life of my mother-in-law, Lynda. She passed away last week, and I wanted to write a short something to share a few memories about my wonderful second mom.

It feels natural to write some of my memories here, since a lot of our bonding happened over tea. The first time my then-boyfriend brought me to her house, one of the first things she did was offer to make me a cup of chamomile. I was really nervous and wanted to make a good first impression, so chatting over a calming cup of tea proved to be perfect. From that first meeting, she welcomed me with open arms and treated me like family. Her open-heartedness is one of the many qualities I already miss very keenly.

From then on, it became a tradition to meet at her house for tea whenever I visited the town where she lived. We’d hug, and then she would insist that I sit down while she made me a cup of tea. No matter how tired she was, she said it was her pleasure to make it for me, so she’d order me to the couch while she prepared our cups. It became a tradition for me to bring her a new tea to try as a visiting gift, so we often drank it together or fell back to a mutual favourite, chamomile. We’d sip tea, chat, and look at her beautiful flowers (she was an expert orchid raiser, which is a pretty difficult task if you’ve ever tried). The last time I visited her at her house, the scent of jasmine flooded my nose as I opened her door to leave. So many fragrances from tea and flowers will now be always connected to her memory in my mind. I’m relieved; they say that scent is the strongest sense tied to memory, and there are so many things about her that I don’t want to forget.

On our last family trip together, I had a quiet moment together with her. She wasn’t feeling so well at this point, and I offered to steep her some tea. She agreed, and I put a lot of care and worry into making that cup as delicious as possible. It probably sounds silly – it’s just a drink. But it became one way of expressing love for each other.

After I married her amazing son, our feeling of being family was solidified. I called her mom one day soon after, and enjoyed the flash of happiness in her eyes and her answering smile. So here are a few things I love about my second mom: her kindness, empathy, love of animals, her never-ending advocacy for my punky appearance, her deep understanding of who I am underneath that appearance, her listening skills, generosity, excitement at cooking vegan food for me and my husband (she even made us an entirely vegan Christmas dinner for us a couple of years ago!), her sense of humour, her thoughtfulness (she mailed me some gloves once – via Express post – when she heard I had lost mine), her smile, and so much more. Mom, thank you for everything.

 

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Tea Adventures in NYC

I’m taking a break from translating on here this week to make a post about my tea finds in New York. As mentioned in a previous post, I was able to find recommendations for some tea and matcha places in NYC online before going, and fortunately I met some great people through visiting tea shops there who referred me to more places to check out. Without further ado, here are some of the places I was lucky enough to visit:

MatchaBar Chelsea

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MatchaBar opened their doors a few years ago and are located in Chelsea. I spent a lot of time in Chelsea, so I was able to swing by a couple of times. Their matcha mixed drinks were amazing – iced matcha with a layer of ‘milk’ (their default milk options are all dairy alternatives, which is pretty awesome – we’re not cows, so I prefer not to drink their milk 😉), and then a layer of amazing flavor on the bottom. I tried their peaches and cream (pictured above, peach juice below almond milk and matcha) and their chai matcha latte (pictured below). The flavor combos were imaginative and fantastic. The chai latte was my favorite and was simply unbelievable, I highly recommend it! One thing I loved about these mixed drinks was that although the bottom layer tended to be sweet, the iced matcha itself wasn’t overly sweetened, so you can enjoy the strong flavor of good quality matcha with some sweetness and complementary flavor added without it becoming sickeningly overwhelming.

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Did I mention their baked goods? They have an entirely vegan selection of yummy treats supplied by Brooklyn Whiskers. I had the matcha mini cupcake and matcha vanilla cookie, both were killer. Having refreshing matcha drinks with alternative milks and delicious vegan treats ensured that MatchaBar was one of my favorite tea places in NYC! This is a must-visit spot.

Greecologies

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Greecologies is primarily a Greek yogurt place, so since I can’t eat dairy it wasn’t on my list of places to visit. But one day I was walking by their shop in the East Village and their signboard let me know that they had Rose Matcha Lattes (!!), so I decided to go and ask if they had any dairy alternatives they could make it with. They happily told me they had at least two alternatives, so I ordered one. While I was waiting the friendly person at the counter gave me a sample of their rose petal preserve, which they use to make their rose lattes. It was so sweet and delicious! It tasted heavenly in the latte itself, and I was tempted to buy a bottle of preserves to bring home. I think it’s neat that they leave some rose petals in the preserve and add it straight to the matcha latte – I love floral flavors, so drinking rose petals is always a treat. If you’re also a rose fan I highly recommend Greecologies.

Tea Drunk at The Met

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Tea Drunk provides some very high quality Chinese teas, so I was excited to hear that they had opened a pop up shop at The Met to celebrate the fabulous exhibit Age of Empires: Chinese Art of the Qin and Han Dynasties. I tried some of the Gua Pian, Qi Shan, Lu An 2016 green tea pictured above. It had a pleasantly gentle flavor while still being very full-bodied.

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The above photo by Tea Drunk shows the gorgeous view guests can see while sipping away at their tea! Looking around at this beautiful architecture while enjoying a cup of green tea was one of the highlights of my trip.

Matcha Cafe Wabi

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Matcha Cafe Wabi is a fantastic little shop in the lower east side. My friend ordered the yuzu black tea and said it was one of the best teas he’s ever had 🙂 My iced ceremonial grade matcha was so smooth and refreshing on the muggy day I visited, I bought a tin to take home!

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They even had a few vegan goodies, like this super tasty homemade matcha scone! It was slightly crispy on the outside (perfect for dipping in tea or coffee), and had a great matcha flavor. Yumm 😋

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The nice person who was making matcha demonstrated some of his tea equipment and was very welcoming. The great quality teas, implements and goodies for sale are a great reason enough to drop by, but the amount of care that goes into each cup is a big bonus. This matcha shop was excellent and I miss it a lot!

Chalait

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Chalait has a few locations, and I visited the Chelsea shop. They have a number of more standard matcha drinks (straight shots, lattes, americanos, etc.) I liked the strong flavor of the matcha in my latte, and was impressed that they offered a house-made cashew milk as well as a couple of other dairy alternatives. I didn’t get a chance to try any of their steeped teas, but it looked like they had some nice options such as seasonal shrub and golden chai.

by CHLOE.

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Just a quick mention of by CHLOE. It’s a vegan fast food chain rather than a tea shop, but they’re open pretty late and during a late night burger face-stuff fest I noticed they have matcha lattes on the menu and had to try. It’s pretty standard for matcha lattes, good flavor and more decent than I expected for a non-specialized place. They have other tea related drinks on the menu, so if you’re looking for some fun veg food with your tea this is a great place to stop.

Franchia Vegan Cafe

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Franchia is another place that’s not specifically a teahouse, but in this case they have an extensive and unique tea list, so I wanted to make sure I mentioned them. Their offerings include persimmon leaf tea (above), which was rich and savoury with a nice hint of sweetness. Other interesting sounding teas are Korean plum tea, snow dew tea, and their red chili latte. I could go back 20 times and still not have tried everything I want to!

Kettl Tea

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Kettl Tea in Brooklyn was well worth the visit! Zach, the owner of Kettl, was highly knowledgable about tea and it was fantastic asking some questions about his tea journey. He made this fantastic bowl of Shinme matcha (wonderful bright color with a very smooth flavor, I loved it so much I bought some to take home) and shared some iced houjicha that he had brewed that was very refreshing.

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The tea selection at Kettl is a dream. Zach works closely with tea producers in Japan, building close relationships and travelling to help out and learn more about the growing and harvesting process.

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The design of the shop was wonderful, and the curation of pottery made me wish I had brought a couple of extra suitcases! Kettl is very worth a special trip, but even if you’re not in the area their web store is descriptive and kept up to date.

Cha Cha Matcha

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If you want a colorful matcha mixed drink, Cha Cha Matcha is your spot. They have so many fun, fancy and tasty matcha-based drinks that it’s tough to decide what to pick. I chose The Divine (pictured above): matcha, beetroot, ginger, turmeric, pepper, blue algae, spirulina, almond milk, coconut milk, and macadamia milk. It was a dark and cloudy day when I visited Cha Cha Matcha, but this colorful drink seriously brightened it up! Since this was enough to satisfy my sweet tooth I didn’t get any of their signature baked goods or soft serve, but I read a comment online that said that their soft serve was completely vegan, so if you’re avoiding dairy it might be worth asking about if you visit!

Ippodo Tea Co.

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Last but certainly not least, Ippodo Tea New York was as amazing as I knew they would be (I’ve been a huge fan since visiting their Kyoto flagship store and teahouse last year.) . The shop is small and doesn’t have a seating area, but it still has a warm and welcoming atmosphere. There’s a lot of tea on display that’s for sale, as well as some implements and books. The staff know their tea inside out, so they are terrific at answering all sorts of tea related questions. I was lucky enough to take a shincha workshop there and learned so much that I’ve decided to make a separate post about it! I’ll plan to have that up next week, but in the meantime I’ll be dreaming about their iced gyokuro (above) as summer progressively gets hotter.

Thanks for reading if you’ve made it this far. Please feel free to leave comments about your experiences at these places, and especially if you have other places to recommend – let’s build up a great guide to tea and matcha in New York City!