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Té Company: The Loveliest Tea Room in New York

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Té Company: The Loveliest Tea Room in New York

March 30, 2021

Our recent post on the Taipei Tea House Built from Reused Materials made us happy to remember a favorite spot closer to home. Té Company in New York’s Greenwich Village is a tiny, hushed tea room run by Taiwanese tea connoisseur Elena Liao and her husband, Frederico Ribeiro, a chef formerly of Per Se.

Barely marked, the establishment is something like a speakeasy for those in the know. John Derian, whose Christopher Street shop is around the corner, tipped off Julie and me. That’s how we found ourselves wandering from John’s emporium with its vintage cabbage rose wallpaper and shell-encrusted fireplace to a table just big enough for two set with terracotta pots of oolong and bowls of Taiwanese braised pork over rice. Frederic focuses on “snacks” that pair well with Elena’s teas. And though his menu is by necessity small—the cooking is done in a nearby restaurant’s kitchen during its off-hours—The New Yorker described Té Company as “one of the most exciting restaurants in New York City,” its service “polished as a river stone.”

We’re happy to report that Elena and Frederico have weathered this past year thanks to devotees who have been ordering their teas, tea wares, and nibbles online; taking part in virtual tastings; and ringing the Té Hotline, manned by Elena at the ready with tea recommendations and sympathy: “The world has been so upside down,” she says. “A lot of our older customers have been checking in.” Té Company is newly reopened on Fridays through Sundays for outdoor sipping and takeaway. Join us for a visit.

Photographs courtesy of Té Company, unless noted.

if you don&#8\2\17;t know to look for the golden teapot on the window, the  9
Above: If you don’t know to look for the golden teapot on the window, the tea room is easy to miss: it’s located at 163 West 10th Street, on the first floor of a 1900 apartment building in a space formerly occupied by a beloved rare cookbook store. To enter, visitors pass through the same vestibule that residents use.
at a time when so much of the city is empty storefronts and chain restaurants,  10
Above: At a time when so much of the city is empty storefronts and chain restaurants, Elena Liao and Frederico Ribeiro manage to run the ultimate mom ‘n pop establishment by doing everything with great care and modesty. They’re shown here by the entry, where reading material awaits on a ladder. The space was converted for them by local architects Kimoy Studios. Photograph by and courtesy of Manhattan Sideways.
the architects say they designed the space for &#8\2\20;pausing time.&# 12
Above: The architects say they designed the space for “pausing time.” The comfiest seat in the house is Restoration Hardware’s Professor’s Leather Chair. Explains Elena: “we looked at a lot of armchairs; this one isn’t large but it sits very well for big people and little people.” Above it is a map of Taiwan, where Elena grew up drinking tea after every meal, serving it to guests, and bringing tea presents to teachers as a sign of respect. “Tea is the second most consumed beverage all over the world other than water,” she says.
elena noticed that in the states, tea had devolved since revolutionary war days 13
Above: Elena noticed that in the States, tea had devolved since Revolutionary War days—”it had become associated with being sick and being with your grandmother.” She set out to broaden the country’s horizons. Elena visits Taiwanese tea farmers every May during harvest season, tasting and selecting the leaves she serves.
too small for chairs with backs, the tea room is furnished with wooden stools f 14
Above: Too small for chairs with backs, the tea room is furnished with wooden stools found in Restoration Hardware’s bathroom department. The original brick was whitewashed and the architects introduced a slatted wood ceiling. Photograph courtesy of Kimoy Studios.
tea is prepared at a counter lined with brass canisters. elena uses bonavita el 15
Above: Tea is prepared at a counter lined with brass canisters. Elena uses Bonavita electric kettles which allow the precise water temperature to be set and maintained. Photograph by and courtesy of Manhattan Sideways.

The teas on offer reflect Taiwan’s “land, craft, and heritage: a wide range of flavors and aromas that represent the island of Taiwan and its people.”

inset receptacles keep the counter clear. see aha! design: a compost bin built  17
Above: Inset receptacles keep the counter clear. See Aha! Design: A Compost Bin Built into the Kitchen Counter. Photograph courtesy of Kimoy Studios.
Above L: Oriental Beauty, known as the champagne of oolong, is one of the many loose leaf teas available on the Té Company website. Above R: Frederico’s lime-dusted Pineapple Linzer Cookies are six for $20. Tiny Bars of nuts and seeds have just debuted on the menu.
the wares elena selected for té company &#8\2\20;are not fancy: they&# 20
Above: The wares Elena selected for Té Company “are not fancy: they’re traditional clay teapots and everyday porcelain cups and pitchers.” Shown here: a Porcelain Teacup, $8; Small Porcelain Pitcher, $20; and Terracotta Clay Teapot, $42. The table decoration is a dried artichoke brought by a regular, a florist who stops in after trips to NYC’s flower market.
seaport oolong is cultivated on the southern tip of taiwan: &#8\2\20;hints  21
Above: Seaport Oolong is cultivated on the southern tip of Taiwan: “Hints of the ocean drift out of the teacup,” says Elena. To learn more, watch her Brewing Guides, including How to Brew Loose Leaf Tea in a Weck or Mason Jar and No Tools Grandpa-Style Tea.

Elena leads virtual tastings for groups: you can have her send a sampling of teas, snacks, and wares, and she’ll guide you in an online tutorial.

Browse the Remodelista Tea & Coffee archive for more ideas, including:

For more of our favorite restaurants and cafes the world over, see our Design Travel guides.

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