When I was still in college -way back when- I was just beginning to practice making bagless tea. I had only a couple of teapots (I still have the one from Lechter's - does anyone remember that place?) and a tea strainer from Dean & Deluca's. Whenever I had the chance, I would traverse Manhattan in search of a good tea supplier. This was some time before I shopped online, and most searches were undertaken by foot. When I found Porto Rico, I was really excited. As you walk in, you are assaulted by the coffee smell. Though I'm not really a coffee person, it's definitely pleasing. Sometimes being around such an overpowering amount of coffee is enough to wake me up. I, of course, was only interested in buying loose tea, which they scoop in little brown bags labeled with the name of the tea of choice. From this location (there was one on Bleecker Street, it might still be there) I bought Moroccan Mint Tea. That was when I was just getting into green tea, as it was mild on my sensitive stomach. I did not realize it had enough caffeine to keep me awake at night. I decided to drink a pot in the evening and ending up rambling to my Dad about all and sundry until well after midnight. Per Dad's request, I bought some loose herbal teas to add to my growing collection.
A similar buying experience was McNulty's...all those apothecary jars of tea to smell...my favorite at the time was Blueberry, though Rose Petal came in close second (come to think of it, I'd really enjoy a cup of that right about now.) This shop was on Christopher Street. They also sold tins of teas from different British companies. By the counter there was brick tea up for purchase. It was too pricey for me, but as a part of tea history I always made a point of looking at it.
I'd learned about these sources chiefly from books I'd borrowed from the Central Library. I never go there anymore, because I can request what I want online. Between Manhattan and Queens, I have access to so many books, it's surprising when something isn't available. Anyway, books about tea always have a Where To Buy section, and of course New York is always listed.
Thanks for indulging me in this tea nostalgia moment. I mean to collect all these memories into a book, but I procrastinate. Maybe a pot of Moroccan Mint at 8PM will motivate me.