I was raised in a house with very little discipline. My parents insisted they were not hippies, but considering one lived in a cabin at Lake Tahoe, the other on a houseboat in Hawaii, and that they spent a few years hitchhiking all over the Rocky Mountains and the Pacific Northwest, I have my doubts.
Not surprisingly, such free spirits weren't big on making anyone do anything.
It was great.
But occasionally, when I have something I feel like I have to do, I just won't be able to do it. And I give up trying almost instantly, which is what happened a few days after my traumatic Starbucks tasting. I had such big plans to taste tea in all the other big fast-food chains, but I found myself standing outside a McDonald's on Lexington Avenue and much to the annoyance of the crushing lunchtime mob on the sidewalk, I literally could not force my legs to step inside.
I had even fantasized about the ensuing purge after such a Spurlockian tasting, in which I'd treat myself to a real, pure cup of green tea. But why go through such torture before the reward?
I kept walking up to one of the best cafes in the city, and quite possibly, the entire country- where else can you get such a perfectly made bowl of matcha ($2.50) but Tafu (569 Lexington Ave., on 51st St.)?
I don't know how this little gem, hidden in a back lobby of a Double Tree Hotel, has managed to stay in business over a year, but I'm incredibly thankful it has. It only serves Japanese green teas and desserts, but it does so with impeccable precision. I've written about it before, but I can't say enough good things about this place.
The sweets offerings change with the seasons, and most have tea as a main ingredient, resulting in fabulous pairings with whatever you're drinking alongside.
After the matcha, I settled on a pumpkin wabi-sabi cupcake ($1.80) and a hot caramel-matcha latte (or kuromitsu, $6), strictly for comparison. This is what a blended tea drink should be: sweet, milky and a pleasant hint of vegetal bitterness, all playing off each other with every sip. It somehow manages to feel like it's good for you, even as it tastes better a pillowcase full of Halloween candy to a 5-year-old.
A latte here is almost twice as much as what Starbucks charges, but it's worth it to get the taste of real matcha, not some ersatz tea concentrate, prepared by people who actually know how to handle the leaf.
If you've never had matcha- or if you have but think you don't like it- please, try it here. It may just change your mind.