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High Tea,
Downtown New York

By Tracy Krisanits

Since 2002, the Ritz-Carlton - Battery Park has been serving New Yorkers a traditional high tea that is refined and delicate. The waterside view only adds to the extensive collection of fine teas that are offered to those looking to celebrate a special event or just momentarily get away from the hustle of the city. New to the magazine, Tea & Coffee Trade Journal sent associate editor, Tracy Krisanits to experience the fine tradition of high tea.

In the midst of the busy and fast-paced New York City, cars constantly honk their horns, street vendors attempt to boost sales of their eclectic mix of souvenirs, and construction workers tear up concrete with the deafening sound of jack hammers, yet with just one step inside the Ritz-Carlton - Battery Park, the peacefulness instantly takes over.

Since its opening, in January 2002, The Ritz-Carlton - Battery Park, has become the only luxury waterfront hotel in New York City. Amongst striking views of the Statue of Liberty, telescopes in selected guest rooms and 12,000 square feet of meeting space, including two ballrooms, the Ritz-Carlton - Battery Park offers a traditional English High Tea that ranks among New York City’s finest.

During English High Tea, a choice of a traditional tea menu as well as a “Power Tea” menu is available. The cooking techniques range from a diverse mixture of American, Asian, Italian and French. All the featured teas are from Taylors of Harrogate, including an exclusive blend made just for the hotel. While the Ritz offers some of the more traditional varieties of tea, including English Breakfast, Earl Grey, Mango fruit tea, Chamomile and peppermint tisane, they also offer some of the more rare types. Some of these include an Imperial Gunpowder Green Tea, which is described as, “When hot water is poured onto these rolled leaves they ‘explode’ by opening up to reveal pale green whole leaves floating in a delicate, clear amber liquor which has a wonderfully sweet aroma.”

The exclusive blend, Blue Sapphire Afternoon Tea, is from Sri Lanka. Light and delicate in character, and in honor of its distinguished origins, a few blue cornflower petals are added to the blend of flowery tippy orange pekoe.

The Ritz also offers Taylors of Harrogate’s original Yorkshire Tea, which is a high quality blend from regions such as India, Sri Lanka and Africa, and has a rich, refreshing taste. Another offering is the Hajua Estate Tippy Assam, which is grown in Brahmaputra Valley, in North East India, and picked during the second flush from July to September. This blend offers a strong, malty full-bodied flavor, a dark red color and wonderful aroma.

Allen Smith, the restaurant manager of the Ritz-Carlton - Battery Park said about their tea menu, “As much as my servers can explain the tea, just like when you are in a restaurant and there are too many specials on the menu and there is too much talking - you are not going to remember the difference between the teas. So, it is really good to have the menu list the types of teas and the tasting notes on them.” He added, “The last thing we want to have happen - just like wine - is for our customers to take a tea that they don’t enjoy and then feel embarrassed to ask for a different one. We really want them to make the right decision right from the get go and have the information available to them.”

The hotel likes to keep a number of classics on its menu, including black teas and a simple chamomile, but by communicating with the servers and by running reports each month, Smith is able to monitor which teas are selling and which are not. “We don’t want to have something sitting in inventory that we don’t move,” he noted. While the food on the hotel’s menu changes seasonally, the teas do not. However, they are not ruling out that possibility for the future.

In addition to the teas, the Afternoon Tea service is accompanied by a light fare. Several small tea sandwiches are prepared on order - as opposed to having many pre-made in the kitchen. The menu also includes different flavored scones, including banana nut and lemon poppy. These “tea breads” are encouraged to be eaten with either a Devonshire cream, lemon curd or a raspberry coulis. Last and certainly not least, is an assortment of mini pastries, fruit tarts, opera cakes and chocolate Mousse. All of the delightful teas and food are served on fine Lenox china.

Smith notes that his tea service customer base is usually family-oriented; they see a lot of mothers and daughters, as well as grandsons and grandmothers. Business associates are few and far between. “We have a little bit of a younger crowd. We have a decent bit of locals, where as in midtown, there are a lot of tourists. A lot of our neighborhood guests do come in for tea service, as well as a lot of husbands and wives,” said Smith.

The Ritz-Carlton - Battery Park does not promote its tea service, whatsoever. Smith mentioned that the Ritz is somewhat known for tea and that they rely on that reputation. “There’s not a Ritz-Carlton in the world that doesn’t offer tea service,” said Smith.

In regard to working with Taylors of Harrogate, Smith added, “I like the product; I like the packaging. I’ve never had a complaint about the quality of the tea. It’s always consistent; there is never any difference in quality. It’s always available - I’ve never had a problem getting it. For us, I’m sure I could go out tomorrow and get 15 more high-end, boutique teas, but at the Ritz-Carlton, we’re more about building a relationship with our vendors and having something consistent. We are very careful about who we buy from - in terms of everything.”

Whether you are a life-long native New Yorker or just in town for a short period of time, the Ritz-Carlton - Battery Park’s High tea is highly recommended for a traditional and satisfying tea experience.

Tea & Coffee - November/December, 2005


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