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FrontRunners: New York Tea Party

Sheila Gibson Stoodley

Yumcha (212.524.6800, www.yumchanyc.com) barista Joseph Mahek initially was uncertain of what to expect from Jin R, the Chinese chef and tea expert who flew in from Beijing to teach Mahek how to serve the tea list that she had created for the new Greenwich Village restaurant. “I was intimidated at first,” he recalls, “but she gave me a whole new outlook on tea.” Through unique offerings such as iced tea flavored with rose water, rose jasmine buds, and apple juice, Yumcha aims to elicit a similar response from uninitiated American diners. “Everyone drinks tea in China from almost the day they are born,” says Jin R, who runs the popular Beijing restaurant Green T. House. “Western audiences are typically not as exposed to teas, so their palates need some training to appreciate them.” Alcohol needs no introduction to American palates, however, and two cocktails that draw from the tea list have become popular with Yumcha patrons: a version of iced tea that includes Champagne and a vodka martini made with green tea powder.

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