photography by Tony Donaldson and Christopher Sawyer
Bless me Father, for I have sinned: yesterday, I ate tempeh bacon.
And I loved it. You heard me. I crave a good piece of meat as much as the next carnivore, and I've always harbored suspicions about protein-free establishments (visions of oat and watercress dance in my head). But doubters beware: thanks to techo musician-entrepreneur Moby, you may soon wave bye-bye to beef and embrace the bean. His New York City-based vegan/vegetarian teahouse Teany will have you on the PETA paint-tossing bandwagon in a heartbeat.
In the heart of the Lower East Side, the low-key Teany draws an eclectic crowd. On weekends it's packed with visitors from the nearby Lower East Side Tenement Museum and there's usually a wait for tables (there's only room for about 20 people). But during the week locals fill the seats, and you can sip your drink as slowly as you want without getting hassled by the mellow waitstaff. Bonus: the tables are cozy and close enough for some good eavesdropping (She wore last year's Prada? No!)
With a clean, modern design and more natural light than most city apartments, people flock to Teany to hang out, gab and chill. A rack of newspapers and magazines will keep you occupied if you're flying solo, or you can play peeping Tina. I eyeballed a slew of customers as they popped in and out for goodies to go. Around me, a couple of female fashionistas chatted over lattes, a woman typed furiously on her laptop and a college kid sat blushing as his parents quizzed the waiter about the tofu.
No one I talked to came specifically for Moby - they all cited the healthy food - but I'm sure their eyes were peeled for The Man. (Although I didn't spot him on my visits, a waiter assured me the singer eats there four to five times a week.) And no, he's not branding the shop with his tunes: I grooved to Bob Dylan and the Talking Heads while eating my lunch.
As the name (duh!) suggests, teas are the main attraction--hot, cold, infused and everything in between. Teany has 96 types of tealeaves from around the globe, including black, white and green. Java lovers can also get a cup of joe. And though this girl got a caffeine buzz, you can imbibe and enjoy a glass of wine (French, Italian and German offerings), beer, cider, sangria or Champagne (Piper, Veuve Clicquot or Cuvee Jean Louis). Teany serves one menu all day. Breakfast fare includes muffins, scones, bagels, granola and oatmeal, and for lunch/dinner you can choose among soups, salads and sandwiches. And I discovered that going vegan can actually help your (non-leather) wallet: all of the food is under $10.
I started with a pot of Monkey Picked Superior Tikuen Yin oolong tea (say that three times fast) from China, served in a Teany teapot and a big white cup and saucer. Once I got over my guilt about those poor monkeys picking each leaf for my drinking pleasure, I downed the entire floral-scented pot. My companion threw back a Teany Antioxidant Cooler - made with white tea, pomegranate juice and blueberries--and declared it sweet and tasty.
The Teany turkey club - their signature dish, a vegan version of a club sandwich - may convert you on the spot. Tempeh bacon, tofurkey that looks scary but tastes delish, faux mayonnaise called veganaise (made from tempeh), fresh lettuce and tomato are stacked between slices of toasted bread. The soup of the day, a huge bowl of chunky vegetarian three bean, could serve three regular people (or one of those contestants on The Biggest Loser). And don't miss the grilled cashew butter sandwich with bananas, maple syrup and apple butter, or the goat cheese and tapenade sandwich. Never again will you make goo-goo eyes at cold cuts.
Or skip the savory and head right to the sweet - the vegan strawberry shortcake is outrageous. I'm a little curious how they turn bean curd into creamy white frosting, but I'm buying into it. You can get non-vegan desserts, too, like the rakish-looking fallen chocolate souffle cake or the iced carrot cake. If you're feeling fancy you can play Marie Antoinette and have your own tea party. The tea service ($14 for one, $26 for two) includes a pot of tea, scones with clotted cream and jam, little tea sandwiches and sweets. Waiter, off with the heads of the annoying fashionistas! And you can take a little Teany with you - the tea and various accessories are all for sale in the store and at http://www.teany.com.
The week after my Teany visit I woke up wanting another hunk of that vegan cake. Next thing you know I'll have a craving for non-sausage sausage... off I go to the confessional.
90 Rivington Street
(between Ludlow and Orchard Streets)
New York, NY 10002
Open daily 9am-12am
(except Thanksgiving and Christmas)
Cash and major credit cards ($10 minimum)