What's the difference between a tea room and a tea shop? It depends on who you ask. For my purposes, a Tea Room is a place where you sit down for tea, generally a formal place with wait staff and cloth napkins. A Tea Shop could also have tables and chairs, but it's more casual, and you order at a counter. Even more specific, a Tea Room would serve Afternoon Tea, and a Tea Shop would not, even if there were scones on offer. A Tea Shop might have wifi, which would seem out of place in a Tea Room. Some may even seem modeled on the Starbucks brand, or even refer to themselves as The Starbucks of Tea (think Tealuxe.) There's also Tea House, which is either/or for me, but feels to me what I'd call tea spots of more Asian origins. I know others would disagree with these definitions, especially in different geographical locations, but this is my tea blog thank you very much, and I have to call the shots somewhere!
So, Alice's Tea Cup = Tea Room; Communitea = Tea Shop. Teany calls itself a Tea Cafe, which is all well and good, but cafe is just so coffeelike...I don't know.
But wait a minute, you ask: what about Whittard, or Tea & Honey? These are shops that sell tea products...wouldn't they be a Tea Shop? I've probably called them tea shops before, but in my estimation, they're really tea stores. Then there's Tea Lounges, which are probably closer to my Tea Shops, but with more cushions.
Argo would be classified as a Tea Shop. Its newest location, in the Flatiron Building (home of the Daily Bugle in the Spiderman movies for all you comic book people out there), is very well situated. It's got a decent amount of seating, though I can't imagine large parties hanging out there: unless it was a really quiet time of the day. The menu is large and bright and colorful, rather like a bubble tea shop. There's plenty of iced teas as well as hot teas, and for the most part they're made up of their blends of fruits, herbs, and teas, or their "Signature Teas." I had the Mojitea (much like the cocktail but with tea) and Bon had the Red Velvet (red tea [rooibos], raspberry, and white chocolate really refreshing.) I also had a nice salad with quinoa and chicken which was slightly overpriced...but everything is too costly for me, so don't go by my judgement there, and anyway it was delicious.
We sat at a window overlooking Madison Square Park, and right outside is public seating which is great for the Junelike weather we've been having. Next time I'd like to try hot tea, as I can't fully review a tea place of any kind without having a hot tea and some kind of pastry. My first visit, though, was encouraging enough, and may I say the staff is pleasant and helpful. The bathroom had some plumbing problems, but otherwise everything was up to standard.
Against one wall there are all kinds of loose teas to choose from, and in the center are teapots and cups and doohickeys for all your sipping needs. Do stop by if you're in the area, we need to keep these places alive and kicking! Even better, bring your laptop...free wifi!!! (I have a new netbook, so it's a focus of mine.)
Ville! (requisite cat name)