Thursday, February 4, 2016

New York City Moments

New York, New York. It's a wonderful town. And it's even better when you have friends to meet you there and show you what you'd most likely never find on your own.


I was in the city for just one day and one night at the end of a pilgrimage to see one of my dearest friends who had just had her second daughter and who lives in Upstate New York. Spending a few days with P, her husband, 2 scrumptious little girls and a 5-month-old puppy was already the best Thanksgiving weekend I could have asked for. Stopping in the city was the cherry on top.

Reaching out to the Underground Tea Syndicate NYC, I was able to secure 2 rendezvous with some of my favorite tea enthusiasts. Stop number one was with Rachel Safko, a gifted writer who I've really enjoyed getting to know over the past year. There's her Scents and Sensibiliteas blog, also known as "These Foolish Things... for the Urban Romantic." She had just been doing some research and tastings for this blog post on scented teas when we met at a cafe called Fika - apropos, as my maiden name is Swedish and I'm always interested in finding a little Swedish culture where I can.


She shared fun information on the research she had been doing on scented teas, we talked about family, of mutual tea friends, and I asked for her thoughts on a research project I was thinking of. Once again, I was struck at the reality of our times. I know Rachel through her writing, through her Twitter posts, through a couple of email exchanges, and one conversation at the World Tea Expo last spring. And yet, here we met, chatting like old friends. 

Now, you may well ask what two tea lovers were doing meeting at a Swedish coffee bar. But here is where I appreciate Rachel's "sensibiliteas." Whether she knew of my Swedish descent previously or not, she introduced my not only to the cafe known as Fika, but the Swedish tradition of Fika.

Here is how the cafe defines it:
The word FIKA [fee:kah] translates into taking a coffee break to indulge in the ritual of conversation, often accompanied by something sweet or savory. Having a daily FIKA is a way of life in Sweden and an important part of the culture. It offers a way of both relaxing and staying connected. - See more at: http://www.fikanyc.com/pages/about-fika#sthash.HeQ3qDTY.dpuf
I love this concept. And so, we indulged in the practice, though with tea rather than coffee (of course!).


We bid each other farewell, and off I went to Rendezvous no. 2. After a few missteps, I finally found myself in front of Chalait. And as the sun began to sink behind the New York City skyline and I stepped inside, there sat Jo. And a mug of matcha. 


It had been just over 4 years earlier that I had met Jo Johnson of A Gift of Tea in New York City in a tiny tea shop called In Pursuit of Tea, which unfortunately has closed its brick and mortar shop. As I greeted her with a hug and sat down, she pointed at a shelf above her. 

Tea by In Pursuit of Tea

Perfect.

What to drink? Well, Jo's mug looked very interesting, so I asked to have what she was having. A Matcha Cortado,  matcha shot cut with a little steamed milk. It was fun to watch the drink being crafted. Such precision. Such care. 


 And guess what. This was my first real matcha drink. At least my first that was prepared by someone who knew what they were doing (namely, not me!). For the first time, I began to see what the fuss might be all about. This was good. This was very good.

Of course, the best was being in the company of a friend such as this. I loved hearing about the projects she was working on, the dance exhibition her daughter was planning, holiday ideas, news about mutual friends. I picked her brain about some ideas, and enjoyed each wonderful moment.

Jo demonstrating the proper "Don't bother me," NYC subway face.
I, however, am demonstrating the "I'm not from around here!" NYC subway face.
New York, New York. It truly is a wonderful town, but my moments were about the people, this time. Not the places. The stories, not the statues. I look forward to my next adventure there and the people I'll see.