Neighborhood Joint: High Tea on the Lower East Side
It’s a favorite spot for the Tea Society, which until recently was called the Men’s Tea Social. The group changed its name to welcome all tea lovers.
“Gay men who are into tea, that’s kind of huge,” said the group’s founder, Roy Lamberty, 49, the executive chef of Fatty Fish, a restaurant on the Upper East Side.
Afternoon tea is dismissed as a ladies’ thing, Mr. Lamberty said. “I don’t feel we should stick to stereotypes.”
Nearby, a group of women in satin dresses sat against the windows, chatting in Russian at their bridal shower. They watched the bride-to-be, Alexsandra Lerner, 24, of Manhattan Beach, as she pulled a lace-trimmed short silk kimono from a box.
Reading a card, tears fell down her cheeks. “I should get married every year,” Ms. Lerner said.
Back at Mr. Lamberty’s table, Mr. Chan inquired about the provenance of the green tea.
“The state of West Bengal is basically shaped like Idaho. At the very top is Darjeeling,” Ms. Dubin said. “Due to some, let’s say, civil unrest, to get tea from this area is very difficult.”
The bridal shower selected the unlimited Champagne option, an add-on to the regular tea service, which costs $35 per person and includes the delivery of a tiered tray stocked with treats like smoked-salmon sandwiches, buttermilk cupcakes and blood-orange frozen yogurt.
“Besides the jam and scones, I made it all myself,” said Ms. Dubin, originally from Cleveland.
When it comes to clotted cream, she instructed, “Don’t dab; be decadent.”
Mr. Lamberty said he hopes for a tea revolution. He does not drink coffee or alcohol. “Tea gives you that clearheaded awareness, without the jitters,” he said.
Benjamin Wagstaff, 25, was seated nearby. He wore orange leather slip-on shoes and an open shirt. He lives down the street and visits often.
Touching a silver necklace, a gift from his British grandmother, Mr. Wagstaff, a tech entrepreneur, reminisced about afternoon tea with her. “It was definitely something to look forward to,” he said.
“I like the idea of stopping what you are doing and having conversation,” Mr. Wagstaff said. “There’s a brunch culture in New York. Why can’t there be an afternoon tea culture? It’s not easy to find somewhere comfortable that wouldn’t rush the process.”
It was 3:30 p.m. and Mr. Lamberty’s group, having arrived at 1, was preparing to leave.
“The greatest thing about tea is that I can drink a lot of it, and drive,” said Mr. Chan. “And not get arrested.”
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