I had the pleasure of visiting The Gallery in the comfort of Michael and Winnie's cozy home. It was like walking into my ideal tea room, surrounded by containers full of tea and tea ware galore. Michael, Winnie, and Dae were all gracious hosts, and although I felt out of place in terms of tea experience, I felt very welcomed. Michael was feeling a bit under the weather, so he was mostly in the background. I had gotten the impression from what few photos I've seen of him on their store's website and Dae's Journal that he was a very serious/stoic person. I was surprised with how taken he was with the knock-off iPhone my mother got me in China.I tried three teas, their bi-annual Oriental Beauty, the Golden Buddha, and a Dong Ding. All were excellent, but what captured my attention most was the Oriental Beauty. It was unlike any other Oriental Beauty I have had before. What swill Oriental Beauty have I been drinking all my life! Whereas many Oriental Beauty I've had before are generally simple and straightforward, this one was supremely complex.
It was like opening up an antique wooden drawer filled with Indian spices. Thick in the mouth feel, it lingered in my mouth for what seemed like an eternity. I had prepared to completely write off Oriental Beauty, but this was definitely a game changer. I'm not ready/qualified to say that it was the best; however, it was definitely very good.
I also bought an 80s 125 ml Zi Ni pot for juvenile/adolescent sheng. The "secondary" seal on the bottom was a bit amusing...it recommends this pot for puerh. Makes the process of dedicating this pot much easier. I also bought their smallest gaiwan, an acquisition that has been delayed for too long.
I didn't visit any other tea shops in NYC, but I did visit some vintage/antique Japanese shops, Seasons International in SOHO and Things Japanese in the Upper East Side. Although they both carried mainly Japanese tea ware, there were plenty of vintage cups to satisfy a student of Chinese tea drinking. They both had an interesting selection of tetsubin, which I sadly had neither the space nor budget for.
I bought a few vintage Japanese plates for my gaiwan brewing set-up, and I also bought a 30s Japanese sake cup which I plan on using for puerh. I like rounder cups for pu-erh, and I think that an old(er) tea deserves an old cup. However, the most surprising discovery was an early 20th century gaiwan, hidden in the corner behind all the cups. It was even on sale, which made it even more irresistible. I don't really have a need for more gaiwan, but I was mostly interested in seeing how tea tastes differently in a vintage vs. contemporary piece.
It was nice to visit my friends back East, and it was even nicer to have the opportunity to score so much nice tea ware. It's unfortunate though, that because of these purchases my tea budget is shot to hell for the next month or so. Luckily I'm in a good place tea-wise. I have all my tea bases covered, I have enough pots for the teas I drink regularly, and I have a pretty nice tea set-up now. I'm playing around with a few samples from Sampan, and I'll be ordering some samples from Nada, to fill out my pu-erh collection for some slightly older stuff.