These days, the financial district is is home to many things: broken promises, shattered dreams, fortunes lost. And practically nothing edible within spitting distance from Wall St.
However, there is a new way to drown your economic sorrows, at the few-months-old e-TeaHouse (29 John St., btw. Nassau and Broadway). What could be more appropriate, in these times, than bubble tea?
Bubble, or pearl milk (as it's known in China) tea is said to have originated in Taiwan in the 1980s before rolling into Canada and then to American Chinatowns on both coasts. It comes in a seemingly infinite number of varieties- black or green tea mixed with flavors like coconut, almond, mango or taro- and for the brave, a sunken treasure of chewy tapioca balls at the bottom.
I had it for the first time right when I moved to New York in 2000, and almost did a spit-take at the little cafe table: The sensation of sucking up gelatinous, black balls in a sip of hot, sweet tea just seemed terribly wrong. By the second cup, though, I was relishing having something else to do besides just drink tea- those tapioca balls were like the childhood favorite gummi bears matured into a hipper, chicer shape, and they were really fun to chew on, or jettison back out through the giant plastic straws while walking around Chinatown. (In fact, one of my friends could have won a gold medal for his remarkable accuracy and distance, if the Olympics ever had such worthwhile events.)
Even now, it's hard to find any decent bubble tea outside of Chinatown, so I was a bit wary of this new place- and its website did little to reassure me. A friend I haven't seen in ages was up for the adventure, though, so we ventured in.
It is a miniscule, brightly colored spot- not the most relaxing to sit in- but the service is attentive and the selections are notable for the location: my friend had a passionfruit green tea ($2.85), and I had the rose milk tea ($3.05), a flavor I'd never seen before.
My tea was quite nice- not too sweet, not too creamy, with a faint rose essence and soft, chewy tapioca balls.
There's a selection of traditional Chinese pastries, but the cookies on the counter looked more appealing, and they didn't disappoint.
It may be hard to believe, but there is a good deal to be had by Wall St.: $1 will get you four rich almond cookies, or a dozen thin, crispy coconut wafers.
It doesn't appear that they're house-made, but whoever is supplying the shop knows their sweets. The almond cookies in particular were ideal for dipping into the hot, milky tea, and justified calling the meal lunch.
On the way out, I noticed a sign offering a new special that I've not seen before- coffee bubble tea. In this country, I suppose you have to entice the non-tea drinkers somehow. Perhaps I'll convince my next victim to try it when I go back.
Still, my favorite bubble tea spot remains in the heart of Chinatown, where you can always see a free economy successfully at work. I'll reveal it someday.