• Your Guide to Buying Loose-Leaf Tea in Hoboken and NYC {And How to Brew It Like a Pro}

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    Brewing your own tea is just as easy as standing in a line and waiting for your drink — and no one will spell your name wrong on your cup {Starbucks, we’re looking at you…}. Making it at home is far more cost-effective than buying a daily beverage to-go, so we’ve rounded up a list of places to get some loose-leaf tea for you to make yourself. Read on for a beginner’s guide including where to try different teas in Hoboken, and a guide to the best off-the-beaten-path tea shops in NYC for tea enthusiasts.

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    Tea 101

    Many teas, including black, white, green, and oolong, come from the same plant—camellia sinensis—but the difference between them comes from how the teas are processed. As a general rule, darker teas, like black, tend to have higher caffeine, and lighter teas, like green and white, have lower caffeine, but both have high antioxidants.

    A Doctor’s Endorsement

    Hoboken’s Dr. Brian Chang recommends white and green tea because they contain calming amino acid L-theanine, which can reduce anxiety and promote steady, focused attention. For healing herbal teas, Dr. Chang likes the Traditional Medicals line (e.g., Gypsy Cold Care, Breathe Easy) that’s often on sale at Basic Foods. If you feel like you’re about to catch something, Dr. Chang’s favorite immune booster tea is Oregon’s Wild Harvest Immuni-Tea.

    How Much Caffeine Does Tea Contain?

    By comparison, coffee has about 145 mg of caffeine per cup, while black tea contains about 65 mg (just under 50% the caffeine of coffee), and green tea contains about 30 mg {just over 20% the caffeine of coffee}. If you’re worried about your caffeine intake, you can literally rinse away the majority of caffeine in tea by running the leaves through hot water before you brew it. Herbal teas, which have no caffeine at all, sometimes called tisanes, do not contain tea leaves and are composed of dried fruit and herbs.

    A word of caution for you matcha-lovers: Matcha is higher in caffeine than many teas because it consists of powdered whole green tea leaves that get mixed into water and ingested, as opposed to traditional teas, where the leaves are steeped for a few minutes and then discarded.

    A Guide to Locally-Bought Tea in Hoboken

    If you’ve only had Lipton black tea, you’re missing out. Tea offers something for everyone, from dark and spicy chai to light and fruity greens to soothing, after-dinner herbals like peppermint. To try your hand at home brewing, walk over to Basic Foods and head down the tea aisle. They offer dozens of discounted boxes, which makes it easy to pick out a few options to try. Alternatively, you can visit a local shop like bwè kafe, City of Saints, or Empire Coffee and Tea Co., all of which also sell their teas loose, but if you don’t time how long your tea steeps and remove the bag, you will may end up with a bad cup.

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    ^The loose tea sitch at Empire Coffee + Tea

    Empire has a loose tea room behind the registers, and Nurturing Life Acupuncture & Wellness sells loose and bagged herbal teas. Hop over to Newport Mall and visit Teavana for the closest full-on tea shop, or consider some of the NYC stores below if you want lower prices on equal or higher quality teas.

    Something for Everyone: Mid-Range Prices in NYC

    David’s Tea {688 6th Avenue, NYC}

    Only a few steps away from the 23rd street Path station (688 6th Ave.), David’s Tea is like Teavana’s younger, hipper sibling. Employees dressed in cheery turquoise cardigans are ever-ready to pour you a taste of their daily samples, and will happily pull down teas from their rainbow-colored wall of tins conveniently arranged by tea type {e.g, herbal, black, green, white, oolong, rooibos, pu’erh, mate}.

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    READ: A Guide to the Coffee Shops of Hoboken

    Sullivan Street Tea and Spice Company {208 Sullivan Street, NYC}

    A five-minute walk from the 9th Street PATH station, Sullivan Street Tea and Spice Company is another store you could easily get lost in. They offer an impressive range of teas at affordable prices, but the true allure of this store is their spice collection. The store is chock-full of large, glass canisters holding oddities like dried ghost peppers, vanilla sugar made with vanilla beans, and an organic salad sprouting blend to grow your own bean sprouts on your kitchen counter. This is a fun shop to visit if you enjoy cooking, baking, mixology, or poking around a cool shop filled with curiosities. It’s easy to keep things affordable because you use a metal spoon to take as much or as little of the spices as you’d like.

    T2 Tea {67 Prince Street, NYC}

    This shop is a high-energy, giant space whose walls are lined with pre-packaged 3.5 oz. boxes of tea averaging $12 – $14 per box. Their friendly employees will brew you up a sample of anything you’d like to try for free — perfect if you’re in the mood to experiment.

    Historic Tea Shops: Low-Frills, Lower Prices

    McNulty’s Tea & Coffee Co. {109 Christopher Street}

    Located one minute away from the Christopher Street PATH station, this shop has been selling tea and coffee out of this location since 1895. People travel from far and wide for their coffee, but their tea collection is extensive and varied. The teas are all laid out on tables within reach, so you’re free to open the canisters and smell them yourself.

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    ^Ready to brew the perfect morning to-go cup of Dragonfruit Rose green tea from McNulty’s

    Porto Rico Importing Company 201 Bleeker Street, NYC

    Just a few minutes away at 201 Bleeker Street, Porto Rico Importing Company has been selling coffee since 1907 —the floors of the shop are covered in giant bags of beans — but if you look upward, the walls are lined with shelves displaying large, metal tea canisters. An employee will take down anything you’d like to smell, but you’ve got to know a bit about your tastes to navigate their tea section, which is organized by type (e.g. herbal, black, oolong, white, green).

    The Creme de la Creme

    T Shop {247 Elizabeth Street, NYC}

    This spot is another hidden gem where you can treat yourself to a private tasting of Taiwanese tea that you’ll never forget. A tea expert will brew you five different steepings of the same tea leaves. This may sound redundant, but you’ll be amazed by how the flavor changes with different steeping times. This is a slow, informative demonstration, so be prepared to put down your phone and soak up the experience.

    Ippodo Tea {125 East 29th Street, NYC}

    Just a two-minute walk from Grand Central Station, this specialty store with only one US location sells just one type of tea — green tea from Kyoto, Japan {e.g., sencha, gyokuro, matcha}. Step up to the bar, chat about your preferences {sweet? grassy? toasted? low caffeine?}, and request a sample. They’ll brew you up a tiny cup at the perfect temperature using only traditional methods and teawares.

    See More:Hoboken on a Budget: A Guide to Eating + Drinking For Less

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    ^A relaxing tea tasting at T Shop

    Brewing Tips

    Tea bags are not good for tea leaves. Tea leaves need space to open and blossom in hot water. If you’re going to join the big leagues and brew your own tea, invest in an infuser that gives the tea some space to spread out as it steeps —a tea ball is too cramped. And don’t forget to store your loose tea in an air-tight container.

    Different teas brew correctly at different temperatures, and should be stored in air-tight containers. Most teas should be steeped below boiling, as overheating or over-steeping them can result in a bitter, astringent taste. If you boil your water, let it cool a bit before you pour it over the leaves. Or, take the plunge and invest in a kettle that will reliably heat your water to the perfect temperature in seconds. It’s pricey, but worthwhile if you’re a daily tea drinker. Even if you don’t have a teapot, you can make perfectly delicious loose tea with a regular pot if you McGuyver an infuser out of a coffee filter.

    Where do you buy loose-leaf tea locally? Share with us in the comments!

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    Written by:

    Lauren, a New Jersey native, is proud to call Hoboken home. An English educator by day, in her free time, you’ll find her stocking up at Hoboken’s farmer’s markets, taking a restorative yoga class, or writing at the Hoboken Library. She loves to eat the season, buying and cooking food that’s fresh and delicious, sharing tasty and unfamiliar options like sorrel, persimmons, and sunchokes with her friends and family.