I have been shopping at Pearl River Mart
, the Asian-import emporium in SoHo, since 2004. It wasn't until my latest trip that I realized that they have a tea bar on the mezzanine in the store. Pear River's Tea Bar is a sit-down area overlooking the vast first floor of the store.
The Tea Bar has an entire wall lined with shelves full of exotic loose leaf tea that you can sit and drink at the Tea Bar or buy by the ounce and make at home (sadly there are no to-go cups at Pearl River's Tea Bar). The loose leaf tea selection is amazing. They have every flower you can think of, including violet and 3 different kinds of rose buds. They also have a huge selection of green and black teas, and a nice assortment of flavored green teas.
I picked up 1 ounce bags of several teas to try, including fancy organic jasmine downy pearls ($5.25/oz.), pink rose buds ($4.25/oz.), Japanese sencha green tea ($1.00/oz.), rose hip ($2.25/oz.), lychee green tea ($0.95/oz.) and chamomile ($3.85/oz.).
The woman working at the counter welcomed me to open jars and smell each tea. I was overwhelmed with the selection, though they did not have my favorite (hard-to-find) loose leaf tea, white monkey paw.
If you're a tea lover, like me, and find yourself in the Chinatown/SoHo area, stop into Pearl River Mart and hit the Tea Bar. Be prepared to have your tea leaves blown away.