It may have taken until the end of January, but winter has finally hit NYC. The Bellocq tea shop is just around the corner from the Design*Sponge office in Greenpoint, Brooklyn, but it was cold enough on Wednesday that Max and I were completely bundled up (there may have been some shrieking when the wind hit our faces) and ready for some hot tea. Since I’ve given up coffee, Bellocq has quickly become my favorite spot to visit. (See our tea shop tour here.) I’m always learning about a new way to use tea. (On my last visit, founder Heidi Johannsen Stewart taught me to add a little lapsang souchong to soup when it needs extra body.) So when we were looking for a drink that was warm and alcohol-free, we turned to Heidi. Heidi is absolutely passionate about tea, and she came up with a delicious tea recipe that is a little fancier than just dunking a tea bag in hot water. — Amy Azzarito
Bellocq Hibiscus-Ginger Warmer
Makes two 8-ounce drinks
Hibiscus is wonderfully refreshing and tart (and caffeine-free). The extra boost of vitamin C helps to bolster the immune system against the onslaught of winter colds and flus.
1. Put the sugar and 3/4 cup water in a small saucepan over medium-high heat. Bring to a simmer, stirring, until the sugar is dissolved. Add the ginger and clementine peel and remove from heat. Cover and set aside for 30 minutes. (The ginger-clementine simple syrup may be prepared up to a week ahead of time and stored in an airtight container.)
2. Bring the remaining 2 cups of water to a boil, add hibiscus tea and steep for 6 to 10 minutes. Strain the hibiscus and discard.
3. Add 4 to 6 tablespoons (or to taste) of the ginger-clementine syrup to the hibiscus tea. Divide between two generous mugs. Add rosewater, about 1 teaspoon or to taste.
4. Garnish with a slice of clementine peel.
Link to original article: Design*SpongePhotos by Max Tielman
Inspired by the Saveur 100 list, pierino started a lively discussion on the FOOD52 Hotline about your favorite food-related finds of 2011. We had a lengthy staff email chain that was pretty similar. So we took the highlights from both, tallied things up and put together a list of our own.
We didn't end up with exactly 100 items but we have a lucky number around here (can you guess what it is?), so we went with it.
And here it is: The FOOD52 "52"
Bellocq's twist on the traditional Bloody Mary adds an edge of smokey goodness to the beloved brunch tipple. The markets are loaded with amazing pickles, turnips, okra, spicy beans…these days. We skewer a myriad of delicious nibbles and into our Caravan Mary's they go.
For a tea lover, the arrival of Bellocq Tea Atelier to Greenpoint, Brooklyn's western shores was intriguing. In an economic climate where serious tea shops are dwindling, what would this recent London transplant to the banks of industrial Brooklyn offer (besides, apparently, dozens upon dozens of intriguing custom blends)?
[Photos: Liz Clayton]
Upon finding one's way to the almost-unmarked door of Bellocq's Friday-Saturday-only showroom, understanding is almost immediate: as a front-end to their wholesale and online tea business, owners Heidi Johannsen Stewart and her business partners Michael Shannon and Scott Stewart have created a feeling very specific to the teas they purvey. It's less like a food establishment than a rustic salon in which to discuss and experience tea (with an emphasis on the rustic—horseback riding is referenced more than once during my visit, including as a flavor note.)
And the teas themselves—from expectedly earthy pu-erhs to the woodsy custom blends to the selections of pure (unblended) teas—all lilt towards a particular profile of leathery, mushroomy, organic (in the truest meaning) flavors.
But it's the in-house blends, created by Heidi Stewart, that make up the backbone of the boutique (and by boutique I mean you can buy real fur tea cozies that look like Russian hats, yes I do.) From a background in New York restaurants and food styling, blending came instinctively to Stewart. "It's almost like creating perfume. Some things want to work together—they ask to go together." For Stewart, those things might include the passionfruit, rose, green tea and marigold of her "Etoile de L'Inde"blend, or perhaps the juniper and fir tip black tea blend "Noble Savage".
Their blending is based on a respect for the original teas.
Stewart stresses that their blending is based on a respect for the original teas, rather than used to mask low-quality teas with scent or disguise. They source their own teas (sometimes abandoning a tea for an entire season if they do not prefer it that particular harvest), and continue to build farm relationships which inspire their blends. Though they're clearly influenced by British tea culture (Stewart herself is addicted to "Bellocq Breakfast"), the world of fine Parisian blends is their muse as well. As well, of course, as the tea.
"We create with the base leaf in mind. It's not just a base for some synthetic flavor, we're using botanicals to complement the spirit of the tea leaves themselves," says Stewart, noting that the botanical ingredients used for blending are sourced from all over—farmers they know, people they meet. Which is no surprise—Stewart and in-house tea expert Ravi Kroesen are eager to talk and share, and the shop has a casual linger-and-sniff-and-taste vibe, with no retail packages to paw through. You have to get right up into the teas, some of which they are not at all afraid to delightedly describe to a customer as smelling "gamey". (There's a pink-veloury lounge adjacent, but sadly we are not invited back to down a few champagne flutes of "White Nixon" blend.)
And whether you think blends are your thing or not, there's no doubt they're innovative and sensitively conceived: the at-first startling "White Wolf" is so cedary and anise forward you worry you'll lose the white tea beneath, but as the tea opens up each constituent part arrives on your palate in its own time. There's the black currant, spearmint, star anise, tea, cedar. Herbal blends, like the "chocolate-kissed Rooibos" are a little on the daring side as well, and don't forget to sniff the "Charleston" blend and get lost deciding whether it's tea or perfume.
Pure teas are of good quality as well, from their small selection of oolongs I sampled a dry-honeyed, stone fruity Phoenix oolong, delicately flavored with an almost elliptical body and a slightly blush-colored liquor. Their Dragonwell eschews the nuttiness usually associated to the classic green tea, while Kroesen is a particular fan of the Ali Shan oolong.
Though Bellocq is new to the off-the-beaten path landscape it's recently inhabited (its previous London pop-up is currently mothballed for future considerations), the store is already building out further, making room and plans for more tea wares, retail space, and—if Kroesen gets his dream—a pu-erh cave.
Posted by Liz Clayton, November 15, 2011 at 7:45 AM
Now this is how I like to spend Friday afternoons. Never mind the black skies and pouring rain outside. We're safe in here, inside Bellocq Tea Atelier. Lisa and I met the proprietors - Michael and Heidi, at the 2011 International Gift Show earlier this summer. We've been meaning to stop by their Greenpoint Tea Atelier ever since.
A few weeks back, the Haven’s Kitchen team took a field trip out of the balmy summer rain and into the dreamy workshop of Bellocq Tea Atelier in Greenpoint, Brooklyn. Bellocq founders Heidi Johannsen Stewart and Michael Shannon welcomed us inside and immediately, we were taken by the warmth and beauty of the atelier. The unfinished wood floors and bold eggplant walls, offset by bright yellow tea canisters, made for a warm and tranquil setting to taste an elegant selection of Bellocq teas.
Heidi and Michael shared their story as we began a tasting of carefully blended teas. They told us how the atelier was born of sophisticated taste, an appreciation for producers and authentic products, and a love of fine teas. We smelled the various blends — inhaling deeply, we swooned over the intoxicating bouquets of beautifully rolled leaves, flecked with colorful herbs and flower petals.
We sampled a range of teas, expertly brewed for us at optimal temperatures, starting with Bellocq Breakfast, a blend of three black tea leaves. Heidi and Michael explained tasting notes and weighed in on which teas would benefit from milk or honey, which would pair well with a triple creme cheese, or which would gracefully finish a late evening meal. We then tasted two different chai blends — an intensely warm combination of red poppy flowers, green cardamon, star anise, ginger, clove and black pepper, and another more floral, summer blend of South African rooibos, cardamon, and ginger with rose, jasmine and marigold petals.
Among my favorites were lighter blends with floral and herbal components, like Siam Basil Lemongrass and Etoile de l’Inde — a tropical blend of organic green tea, passion-fruit, rose and marigold — unsurprising for an avid consumer of tropical-fruit-forward Sauvignon Blanc. An overall HK favorite was The Queen’s Guard, an aromatic blend of black tea, rose, and lavender, inspired by English gardens.
From the selection of Bakeri pastries on the communal tasting table, to the elegant packaging of bulk teas and tea samplers alike, the Bellocq Tea Atelier exuded elegance, sophistication, warmth, and sharing. We left the workshop feeling so inspired by the beauty of Heidi’s blends and the opportunity to share them at Haven’s Kitchen, that we almost didn’t mind the rain.