This year has been difficult, to say the least, so we’re happy to see it in the rearview mirror–or we would be if we drove. And who drives in this city? These days a lot of people, and like them we also tried some new things. This year wasn’t at all what we had expected (ah, the days of planning a huge anniversary bonanza), but with the new year on the horizon we’re feeling, dare we say, hopeful.
December is often a time to reflect on the year, and this year we’ve been focusing on gratitude. While that in itself isn’t new to us, with all the ups and downs of the last 9, 12…18…48 months, it seems more elusive and more important than ever. The support we received from our customers and friends throughout 2020 has been flooring, almost literally given the volume of holiday orders we’ve received! So it must have been the fumes of hundreds of pineapple linzers that gave us the idea to write a blog post in the middle of all of it–and possibly more...but you’ll have to stay tuned to find out.
The Year in Review
We had a lot of grand plans for 2020–events, new teas, new content–and when New York locked down, they seemed to evaporate. But, as many of us discovered, the world didn’t stop existing because our movements were suddenly restricted; Monday morning was still, well, a Monday, so we went to work.
Sourcing via video conference, phone call, and flown in samples wasn’t nearly how we had hoped to see what our tea makers had come up with this year, but like everyone else we adapted and were pleasantly surprised by the results.
So we telesources and added our new finds to the tea library: Canyon Green and Mount Qilai to replace old teas, Buddha’s Hand Roast and Hibiscus to deepen our flavor profiles, Assam Formosa and Stonegate Breakfast to expand our black tea collection.
A Virtual Tearoom
We launched our very own tea quiz to guide you to your favorite new teas and the Té Hotline to help you choose teas, learn about them, or just to chat. For those of you who receive the newsletter, we briefly started sending it more regularly and added a new section for tea and music pairings, thanks to Kenji, and book pairings from yours truly, all of which will be available on the blog.
Summer Pop-up & Weekend Takeaways
We held our first pop-ups in the entrance of our tearoom over the summer, and when all our friends showed up we started opening every weekend for take away. When Kenji started bringing his guitar to work and playing outside, it almost felt like the tearoom as usual.
Our 5th Birthday
And just like live music makes everything better, cake makes every anniversary better. For our fifth, we had castella cake on a stick and really, is there anything more one could ask for in a year like this? There is of course: you could have received a Golden Ticket. One would win you a tea subscription and the other a linzer subscription–but there’s always next year.
The Shortbread Cookies
Our pop-ups were the laboratory for the shortbread cookies that are now our second signature cookie option. Elena has often said that the pineapple linzer is the kind of cookie that you only need one of to be satisfied (not that we’re judging if you disagree), so think of the shortbread as our counterpoint: the cookie you can eat a box of in one sitting.
You don’t even have to trust us on that–although you should: Grub Street named the shortbreads one of the best new comfort foods of the year. And given how much comfort 2020 required, we can’t help but feel accomplished.
As most people know, your daily cup of caffeine is an important anchor in normal times, let alone in this disaster of a year. As our daily tea intake skyrocketed, reminding us that no, this would not be the year anyone kicked their caffeine craving, we discovered a few other things to get us through: impatience, yes, but also gratitude for the things that we had taken for granted before the world became what it is now–nearly unrecognizable to our naive and doe-eyed January-2020 selves. So, to end this year on a high note, we’re focusing on some silver linings.
I remembered the morning Fred and I decided to close the store. It was a Friday, the 13th of March, and I remembered thinking this is going to be a 3-month closure at the most. Yes - I am an optimist. A hard stop in 2020 was a necessary pause. Without the daily tasks of running the tearoom, we were given time and space to reflect on our journey and realign our priorities. It was also a milestone year as Té turned 5 during quarantine. In retrospect, the big change felt like a gift.
Personally, I was able to establish a meditation routine which proved to be very helpful when the world is upside down. I also discovered the power of Korean drama on Netflix (little finger heart)! If you are looking to get into one, start with Crash Landing on You – first episode is hard to get through, but the rest is my present to you. It is cheesy, hilarious, and heartwarming – everything you need to be entertained.
Rest and sleep... Which feels like too much but also not enough. Apparently, I don't have the same rigor in my personal life as I have in the kitchen, which I had my suspicions about but now is clearer than ever. I also set a goal of watching this list of movies, which, sadly, I didn’t make that much progress on. I can say with confidence that Shoe-Shine is one of my favorites, but if I had to recommend one I’ll choose Il Sorpasso (Recommended from a friend).
Though certainly not the easiest of years, I did appreciate going about life at a more unhurried pace. I am grateful for the luxury of time to take long walks, practice music, read books, cook and enjoy a good tea without worrying about where I have to be next.
For me, the silver lining of the year has been rediscovery. I’ll offer three: my love of walking–including the consequences of doing so in the wrong shoes. I had difficulty reading in the early months, so every book I managed to finish seemed like cause for celebration. Lastly, and possibly my favorite rediscovery of the year, Cinambientique! A somewhat obscure ambient radio show hosted by Clemens, who has the most soothing voice that ever was (you can only hear it on the Frissionwave episodes, though).