September 18th, 2011
I can live quite happily without most indulgences, but the occasional tin (or two) of Kusmi Tea is one that I would be loathe to forgo.
I first tasted Kusmi’s Russian Evening Blend a few years ago at a cafe in Hell’s Kitchen. It was so enticing: complicated yet delicate, with a faint top note of roses. Having never seen the Kusmi brand before, I took the tag from the tea bag and carried it around in my wallet (it’s still there, knocking about in my change purse) so I’d remember the name. I resolved to look for a box on my next trip to the local coffee shop. To my surprise, they didn’t carry it. Neither did any of the grocery stores in our area. Yes, I know grocery stores rarely carry really good tea, but even the SoHo shops didn’t have it!
I mentioned my quest to an accomplice who also loves tea, and happens to be descended from Russian Nobility. He told me the story of the Kousmichoff family and their legendary tea house, begun in Russia in 1867 and later moved to Paris when it became politically expedient. I won’t attempt to recreate his version here, as I could never do it justice. Instead, I’ll point you to the official Kusmi Tea web site. By this time, my curiosity was thoroughly piqued. So I made it my quest to find a source in New York City. I eventually learned that only one shop (at that time there was but one — now there are more) in the City carried the Kusmi line.
McNulty’s, pictured here at Christmas, courtesy of someone who posted this photograph online, has been a mecca of the West Village since 1895. The interior furnishings are as old as the store — and equally charming. And they carry a full selection of Kusmi Tea, either loose in tins, or sewn into little muslin bags.
Russian Evening remains my favorite, taken either plain, with a little honey and lemon, or with a swirl of cherry preserves. I am also very fond of Russian Morning — a smooth and smokey blend beside which the average Irish Breakfast tastes like peat moss — best with a drop of cream. Now that I have my dear little single-serving teapot, courtesy of Miss R. K.’s recent sale, it will be even easier to brew a cup of Kusmi.