NYC Tea Tour! Muse Monthly & Bad Girl Good Tea Explore Manhattan’s Tea Houses

It’s no secret that I love tea, and I love Manhattan. I really do. But the thing about New York (and probably every city) is that it’s super easy to find coffee, but not so easy to find tea that isn’t Starbucks. Which is ridiculous, because for a city that prides itself on having an amazing, authentic food scene, you’d think there would be more places for tea. And so, the Muse Monthly Tea Tour was born – a quest to visit Manhattan’s best tea houses and shops and find some amazing places to stop for both cold and iced tea all over the island.

I was joined by Sam from Bad Girl Good Tea, an incredible small tea company out of Manhattan. I couldn’t imagine a better tour partner and we had a blast. It was exhausting, but super fun and we had a lot of laughs along the way.

Seven stops. One Day. Here we go!

Alice’s Tea Cup, 156 E 64th

Alice's Tea Cup: NYC Manhattan Tea Tour with Muse Monthly and Bad Girl Good Tea

Alice's Tea Cup: NYC Manhattan Tea Tour with Muse Monthly and Bad Girl Good Tea Alice's Tea Cup: NYC Manhattan Tea Tour with Muse Monthly and Bad Girl Good Tea
Our first stop was Alice’s Tea Cup, which I’ve been wanting to visit for a long time. There are three locations in Manhattan so there’s plenty of Alice themed goodness to go around. Alice’s is popular with moms and their daughters – Katie Holmes and Suri Cruise, for example, and is a great stop for brunch. The interior is cute and comfy – not completely Alice themed, but there was Alice art on the walls and their signature tea blends are Alice/fairy tale themed. Sam and I both had brunch and tea, which comes in a personal pot (just the way I like it). Sam enjoyed the Alice’s Blend and I had Sparrow’s Soul. Both delicious (but I thought hers was better). 

Radiance Tea House & Books, 208 E 50th
Radiance Tea House & Books: Manhattan NYC Tea Tour with Muse Monthly and Bad Girl Good Tea IMG_1172
Our second uptown stop was Radiance Tea House and Books. I will freely admit that one of my shortcomings as a tea drinker is more traditional, pure teas. I don’t know as much about traditional teas as I would like, and so I purposely scheduled in a few teahouses that catered to a more Japanese tea style. Radiance was the first of these, and it did not disappoint. Radiance is definitely more upscale – it’s in a part of town that has a lot of businesses and so it seemed like a nice spot for lunch, but it was also very quiet, which meant our giggling and texting felt a little out of place. However, our server was very kind and willing to suggest teas we might enjoy, and she even helped us style the photo to the right. I had a lovely oolong and Sam had a sweet green tea, both of which were lovely. Radiance is a beautiful spot to visit and stay for a while, especially if you’re a lover of traditional teas.

 

Thirstea, 280 E 10th St
Thirstea: Manhattan NYC Tea Tour with Muse Monthly and Bad Girl Good Tea Thirstea: Manhattan NYC Tea Tour with Muse Monthly and Bad Girl Good Tea
Our third stop was Thirstea, the first of our East Village stops. There are a few cute little tea shops within a few blocks, so we got a nice little tour of the neighborhood. By the time we got here, it was nice and sunny out, which made it a perfect day for sitting out on the bench and enjoying our tea. We had a lovely chat with one of the owners about being a small business and thriving in a digital world vs having a brick-and-mortar location, about tea and the ups and downs of entrepreneurial life. We also did our first periscope here (which Sam was dreading, but I made her do anyway) – the sound is terrible but you can watch it here on Facebook
Thirstea isn’t exactly a place to sit down for tea like the other two were. It’s a little, brightly colored hole-in-the-wall with a few barstools inside, but not a lot of space. They have a wide selection of teas and a few original blends, as well as bubble teas and smoothies. But this was one of my favorite spots on our tour – not only was the shop itself adorable, but the man we talked to was so nice, and that’s what really made it for me. It’s one of those perfect New York places with good people and good atmosphere. It’s definitely a perfect place to visit on a warm summer day. 

Physical Graffitea, 96 St Mark’s Place
Physical Graffitea: Manhattan NYC Tea Tour with Muse Monthly and Bad Girl Good Tea
So I will admit that the East Village is not my neighborhood – I’m a SoHo girl, but I love the Village and it’s iconic culture. Physical Graffitea is a definite part of that. The location was first a vintage clothing store and is now a tea shop under the same management, and it definitely has that local New York charm. Stepping into Physical Graffitea is like stepping into the 1970s. It’s definitely the place you’d meet that cute hipster boy with his mustache and thick-rimmed glasses, or the singer-songwriter girl who plays acoustic guitar and dresses like Stevie Nicks. They had a huge selection of teas and plenty of friendly faces. At this point, we’d had too much tea so we didn’t drink anything, but I could definitely see myself bringing a book here and holing up for an afternoon. As a matter of fact, I might just do that. 

Tea Drunk, 123 E 7th St
Tea Drunk: Manhattan NYC Tea Tour with Muse Monthly and Bad Girl Good Tea
Tea Drunk was the second of my traditional tea spots. Tea Drunk is a beautiful, serene spot that offers tea classes as well as these pre-curated tea tasting menus for those (like us) who are new to the world of traditional teas. We had the green tea tasting  which featured three beautiful green teas that ranged from sweet and light to full and flavorful. It was a beautiful ceremony guided by a very knowledgeable tea master. We also got to hang with little tea friends – they’re made from   Yixing clay leftover from the creation of clay teapots and they “drink” the extra tea, meaning you pour your leftover tea over them and they absorb the water.  I had a lot of fun with my little elephant!  Yixing clay tea elephant: Manhattan NYC Tea Tour with Muse Monthly and Bad Girl Good Tea

Sanctuary T, 337 W Broadway
SanctuaryT: Manhattan NYC Tea Tour with Muse Monthly and Bad Girl Good Tea SanctuaryT: Manhattan NYC Tea Tour with Muse Monthly and Bad Girl Good Tea
Now, SantuaryT is definitely more my speed. It’s tucked on a nice corner in Soho and is a very swanky, modern tea house/bar/restaurant complete with gorgeous Australian servers and parmesan truffle friends. By the time we arrived here, it was sunset on a beautiful warm day. We took a table by the open storefront to people watch and had an incredible, relaxing time. I had a hot Soho chai which was delicious, and Sam had an iced matcha. This was maybe my favorite stop along the way. That might have had a little to do with how hot our server was. Tea and cute boys and a beautiful New York sunset – what more do you need?

 

Tea and Sympathy, 108 Greenwich Ave
Tea and Sympathy: Manhattan NYC Tea Tour with Muse Monthly and Bad Girl Good Tea Tea and Sympathy: Manhattan NYC Tea Tour with Muse Monthly and Bad Girl Good Tea
Tea and Sympathy is hands down one of my favorite places in New York. My sister discovered this spot years ago and we’ve been coming here pretty frequently ever since. It sings to my little anglophile heart – owned by a British family, it’s the cutest little hole in the wall, decorated like your English grandma’s kitchen with food to match. Here you can get an incredible selection of teas in mismatched teaware as well as a full English breakfast or Sunday roast. The same family owns A Salt & Battery, the fish & chips shop next door, and a little shop inbetween that sells British food and gifts. It’s a beautiful little haven. 
By the time we got here, it was late at night and we were both exhausted, so of course we finished strong with some vanilla tea and cake. Because, duh. 

The Tea Tour, in my opinion, was a complete success. Not only did we have some amazing new teas and find some fantastic spots, but I made a new friend and had some really special conversation. And that’s what it’s all about, right? Good friends and good tea. Nothing better.

 

Check out our friends Bad Girl Good Tea!

Sudden Death by Alvaro Enrigue – Review & Playlist

Perfect Days by Alvaro Enrigue Riverhead books book review Muse Monthly

It’s like getting drunk with your Art History teacher.

Which, for me, is pretty much exactly what I want in life. You can’t deny that it would be amazing to split a bottle of wine with your former professor and chat about prostitutes that starred in your favorite paintings, corrupted popes, and the secrets of Spanish conquistadors. And then by the end of it, you’re shitfaced and thinking, ‘wait, is this all true?’ This is essentially the experience of reading Sudden Death – and it is quite the experience.

The novel is multi-layered: first, a story of a tennis match between Spanish poet Francisco de Quevedo and famed artist Caravaggio (who is my absolute all time favorite, just as a side note) intersperced with the history of tennis as a developing sport; second, an intensely realistic and human history lesson spanning from Italy to Mexico; third, Enrigue’s email’s back and forth with his editor during the writing of this novel. What Enrigue does brilliantly with Sudden Death is blur the line between reality and fiction – you could, if you were that type of reader, read this along with a history textbook or your google search open, and fact check the shit outta this, but I don’t think you really need to. Did de Quevedo vs. Caravaggio really happen? Did Galileo keep score? Does it really matter?

What Enrigue has done is create a novel that reads more like a Samuel Beckett play, that creates this hyper-reality in which things are just a little bit weird and unbelievable, but not too much that the reader is aware of it. He breathes life into these historical names that we typically feel so far away from – and it’s a real, gritty, dirty life, tangible humanity, with all the bumps and brusies and vomit and sex that you could possibly want. At some points, you may ask yourself, ‘why is this so engrossing?’ The answer is, because it’s written with such skill and personality and humor that you can’t help but get caught up in it.

Sudden Death is a really unique novel. It’s an incredible reading experience that cannot be compared to anything else I’ve read before.

And I’m definitely sending a copy to my art history professor so we can grab drinks and talk about Caravaggio.

Owning It: On Anxiety & Entrepreneurship

Owning It: On Anixety & Entrepreneurship - Muse Monthly Blog, anxiety, business owner, girlboss, mental illness

I’ve been meaning to write this for a while.

But it’s difficult to write about my anxiety when it colors every aspect of my life. It becomes very difficult to separate myself from it, it’s difficult to tell what is my personality and what is a symptom of anxiety. I’m not sure who I would be without it.

I’m going to try to start from the beginning.

Looking back, there are a lot of things that happened to me that were anxiety related that I didn’t have a name for at the time. I have vivid memories of being physically sick any time we had to go somewhere new, or anywhere I didn’t know anybody. I have a petrifying fear of being lost and left on my own. I transferred schools in high school and spent half my first day at the new school throwing up and crying in the bathroom (I promptly switched back to where I knew people). It’s just part of my life.

College was a low-point for me. What is typically a very exciting period in a person’s life – moving away from mom and dad, meeting new people, generally transitioning into ‘adulthood’ was actually a tragic four years for me. And it’s hard for me to explain because I still don’t know how or why it happened, but it was like my anxiety switch went from low to full blast all in one moment. I moved into a dorm room with my friend from high school thinking that I would feel safer. But something snapped. I went from someone who considered herself ‘outgoing’ to someone who refused to leave her room, someone who went home every weekend and cried on the way back, someone who stopped eating. I dressed myself up in high heels in the hopes that someone would notice me and start a conversation so that I wouldn’t have to. I lost fifteen pounds during the course of that first semester and made zero new friends. Instead, I failed all of my classes and was left feeling lost and broken. I was a shadow of myself, both physically and mentally. I didn’t know who I was anymore.

When I transferred back to a school closer to home, I knew what I needed to get back to myself – books. I cried and cried, I felt like a failure, but I knew that I needed a change. I sought comfort in literature and writing, and decided that instead of making friends or going out or trying to find a boyfriend, I would focus on writing and curling up with books in the library. I retreated into myself, because I did not know how to break out of the shell that had magically formed around me.

And I was okay for a while. I started to learn more about my anxiety and recognize what was part of that and what was something I could change. I lived my life. I found a job, I found another job, and then I weaseled my way into a job that I thought was going to be The Dream.

Turns out, not.

What was supposed to be my Dream Job ended up being the most stressful and terrible four months of my life. I went from feeling secure to feeling insecure, paranoid, and overwhelmed. I thought everyone hated me, I was sure I was going to get fired every day, and I never felt on top of things. In addition, I started to have physical symptoms as well – not only was it constant knots in my shoulders, but my legs would tense up to the point of cramping, until finally I started to feel like they would buckle underneath me at any moment. I was constantly feeling like I was going to throw up, and then I started having panic attacks – real panic attacks, crying, unable to breathe, the whole nine yards – while I was sitting at my desk.

All I wanted to do was curl up with my book and have the largest cup of tea possible.

And it was then that I knew I had to leave, and I started Muse Monthly shortly after.

But owning and operating a business is absolutely not a stress-free environment. It is not without weeks of constant heart palpitations, waking up in the middle of the night in a panic (stress dreams are super fun, you know), crying over finances, loosing track of things on my to-do list, and constantly feeling overwhelmed. I feel like I’m in haze all the time, with more and more things piling on top of my head, and the more it is, the more I just want to sleep through it. I feel shitty all the time, and I want it out, I want it gone, I want to take this dark and twisty storm inside my head and put it in a box and burn it. I don’t want to feel my heart doing a double-time inside my chest and worry I’m having a heart attack and I’m going to die at 27. And part of my brain will say, “you’re fine, it’s just anxiety”. And Anxiety will answer, “but what if it isn’t?”. And then Anxiety will laugh.

But the difference is, it doesn’t own me anymore. I used to feel so crushed under the weight of it, so completely like I was falling apart and I’d never feel stable again. For the first time in my life, I can use my anxiety as fuel to drive my business. I use this panicky, “I’m going to fail” energy and channel it into something useful for once. Because failure isn’t an option anymore, so instead of crying and vomiting about everything, I have to fucking do something about it. Which is not always as easy as it sounds. It’s actually kind of awful sometimes, and sometimes (read: like, yesterday), I think about shutting this bitch down and crawling into bed and never coming out. But at the same time, I love this work. I love Muse Monthly, and I know I’d never be happy at a regular job. I’m never bored, which is better than I ever could have asked for.

Of course, I also have an incredible support network – I have amazing friends, a beautiful and creative boyfriend, and a great group of other female entrepreneurs who are going through the same shit that I’m going through. I’ve accepted anxiety as part of my life, and I’m aware enough now to know what is an anxiety symptom and what is just me being stupid.

It isn’t easy, doing this and having this full-body, 24/7 mental illness bullshit. I wish I felt normal, but at the same time, I’m kind of glad I don’t. I wouldn’t be here if it weren’t for my anxiety. I’m owning it like I own my business.

And I’m drinking a lot of tea, and getting lost in a lot of books. I’m surviving.