20 February 2015

second look at NYC

In summary:
  • I drank more tea than I planned
  • Ate much less than I expected
  • Museums are great
  • It's all in your attitude
Let's break these down.

1. Harney & Sons: paris blend
$6 for a pot of tea is a little pricy, but there was free wifi and I was really cold from walking around lower Manhattan. The shop is pretty nice, but I prefer the more niche places. Apparently they have good scones, but I was saving my stomach.

2. T Shop: charcoal roasted cui feng and aged heavy roasted oolong
This shop is much more of my style, bonus points that the store owner loves MUJI as well. It's $10 per tasting, but I'm fairly certain I was offered more than the usual amount of steepings as I came in when some old customers were around. We just ended up chatting for a long time, and hence drinking many infusions.

3. HK style milk tea at Tai Pan bakery
I thought it'd be like Marathon's, but woah they're worlds apart. This was gross, aka super weak tea via a Lipton tea bag. Their egg tart was great though, very creamy filling with a flakey crust:

4. Kajitsu / Ippodo: hot yuzu tea, matcha, iribancha,and hosen sencha (but I bought kumpu sencha instead since it came in a smaller package)

Aside: woah I paid $17 for my 50g bag, whereas it's $8.40 online? What is this...

But the sencha taste amazing. A hint of grass, and a good balance of sweet and bitter (leaning towards sweet). So much more flavour than Chinese green teas, though I do love my 竹叶青. Also managed to get around 5 infusions out of one brew. I'm definitely looking forward to trying more of their offerings, and hopefully attend a workshop the next time I visit. I regret not chatting more with the shop keeper, but I was feeling embarrassed to stay longer as I took the entire 2 hours that Kajitsu was open for lunch to finish my meal. The shop keeper was super nice too, he asked about my preferences and choose a hosen sencha out of their line up to brew for me to try.

5. Fang's Gourmet Tea: charcoal roasted lishan oolong and 2009 liubao
This place was recommened to me by T Shop's owner, and I'm glad I missioned up to Flushing to visit. First tasting is another charcoal roasted lishan oolong. This one alternated between smelling fruity and tasting vegetal, and vice versa. It also had a lingering after taste.

The second tasting is my first time trying a 六堡 (liu bao), love it! This one is processed differently, with no withering under the sun. It brewed into a deep gold liquor, with not much smell. The shop keeper first brewed it, and then boiled it for later infusions. Tasted earthy / mossy at the beginning of both the brew and boil, and was then very sweet, like dates. I was so tempted to buy this.
This was also an unusual tasting, which is normally either $5 or 10 per 5 steepings. But since I came on Chinese New Years, and there weren't other customers (aside from another old customer that we leisurely chatted with), I was able to enjoy 10+ steepings of the liu bao. The shop keeper even gave me candy :D

This has been pretty extensively covered, but here's what didn't make an appearance yet:
 Taro pun and pastry from Fay Da Bakery.

 Cheesecake from Lady M
Was not happy that they sold out of their signature crepe cakes, but really it's my fault that I went near closing time. Their cakes are pricy at $7-8 a) slice, but they are really good. This one is very decadent without being too rich.

and the best dish I've had all trip, in terms of taste along (Kajitsu is the best in terms of overall dining experience):
Xi'An Famous food: noodles and silken tofu

You just have to try it for yourself.
I went to their original location, which is in a super sketch, basement food court. The crowded hole in wall places are guaranteed to have good food haha. This experience kind of reminded me of eating at the food court in beijings 王府井, but really just the general atmosphere. Alex and I didn't have much of an appetite then, couldn't even finish one plate of lotus fried rice together. I surprised myself by finishing the noodles and most of the tofu, a feat considering I've been drinking tea non stop at Fang's for 2 hours beforehand.

Another random memory:
Riding on the 7 train to flushing reminds me of sitting on the train heading into London from Heathrow. It's really a superficial similarity, both trains are above ground, the stations look about the same. Too bad the 7 train's announcements aren't in a British accent :(

And related to the 7 train, but a couple days earlier:
Had a TTC moment on the MTA, four 7 trains passed in the other direction before the one I needed came.

They're warm, has free wifi, and takes more than the whole day to explore.

Starbucks are the next best thing. They are godsent for free wifi and a place to warm up. It's time to be obnoxious and just sit for a long while.

part 1
What surprised me are my friends' general negative view on traveling alone. Out of everyone I've talked to, only 2 people had excitement as their initial reaction. Far more common was "why are you going by yourself?!" Perhaps it's because they are concerned about my safety? I should've been unapologetic in my answer. Traveling with people is great, it certainly makes it easier to eat out (well it may complicate the decision of where, but you can split food!) but traveling alone is great too, in different ways.

part 2
You’d think travelling alone gives you a lot of time to think. To think about grand questions like “why am I in New York?”. Well that question did occasionally pop into my mind, often as I am waiting for the subway to arrive in the unheated stations, but I did not have the efforts to pursue an answer*. Because when you are travelling alone, there are far more urgent questions that require answering, such as
-Am I going in the right direction?
-Am I doing good for time?
-Is my hand securely placed over my bag?
-My phone’s still in my pockets right?

So no, contrary to my expectations, I did not think much about profound matters.

*The best I’ve got is that if I didn’t go on this trip, I’d be in Toronto thinking “why am I not elsewhere?"

part 3
The magic of traveling is all about the mindset that it brings. You are more eager to explore your surroundings, and you are appropriately rewarded. When else will you subway for one and half hour for the sake of one tea shop? Or walk for a whole day when it's -20 with windchill out? That's my lesson learned from this trip, and I hope that I can summon this mindset while in Toronto.

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