Let’s talk about tea. Tea is like the cousin of coffee (in the general aspect), both can be caffeinated, great flavors and both can be prepared as an espresso and latte. Yes, you read correctly. Both indeed can be prepared in an espresso and latte style. Thanks to George Kuan of Press Tea, this unique new genre has hit New York City.
Press Tea is a café style eatery located in the heart of Greenwich Village in New York City. In traditional café style, Press Tea serves tea and pastries, but what makes this café so different is the types of teas, the tea infused pastries, paleo diet options and most recently, their lunch and dinner menu. The Asian inspired café has become a hotbed in New York City’s fast paced environment.
After entering the space, I noticed how tranquil and quiet it was versus the busy streets of Greenwich Village. The café was decorated using very calm colors such as a greyish-blue, egg shell, brown and orange. Some of the walls featured an antique Asian style wall covering that looked great next to the wood tables. Like many restaurants in “the city”, the space can become extremely packed at any given second and very relaxed in the next.
Behind the counter, the staff moved quickly to prepare some of the signature dishes such as the Ramen-rritoTM, the Asian style burrito filled with ramen, meat (pulled pork, pork belly, New Zealand grass fed beef and chicken), salsa, and roasted veggies. After reading the full menu, which consisted of other dishes such as traditional ramen, crispy tacos and scallion pancakes, I knew I had to try the Ramen-ritto. I did not eat, but devoured the Asian pulled pork ramen-risotto with roasted scallion ginger sauce, roasted peppers, Asian corn salsa and mixed greens.
The “burrito” was savory and sweet and extremely filling. Before tackling the Ramen-rrito, I thought it would probably be a sloppy mess. The thought of ramen falling out everywhere came to mind. But I was wrong! It was actually one of the neatest burritos I’ve ever had, which is surprising because sometimes burritos are NOT my friend when it comes to mess. The good thing about the Ramen-ritto is that you can taste every single flavor from the ramen to the roasted peppers.
To wash the “burrito” down, I tried the strawberry chai lemonade or what I like to call it, AMAZING! The blend was very refreshing and perfectly complimented the Ramen-rrito.
After dinner I had the opportunity to meet the man behind this new genre of tea cafes, George Kuan. When George arrived to the cafe, he quickly walked in and dropped off supplies, meats and pressed tea. He then glanced over and ran to where I was sitting to greet me and ask if he could have a few more minutes. After agreeing, he dashed back out to his car to get the rest of the supplies. This man was on a mission! After everything was delivered we sat down to chat about the café, the concept and the plans for expansion.
Phaon Spurlock (PS): How did you come up with the concept of Press Tea? What inspired you?
George Kaun (GK):
Prior to opening Press Tea, George had three other businesses before he decided to go into into invest banking. After his stint in investment banking, he took a year off to do things that wanted to do, such taking random jobs, going to culinary school and even driving a black car! “I’m not a corporate person, it’s not for everyone. Some people enjoy it, some people feel caged up.” He mentioned that previous to his year off he felt limited because of his strict Taiwanese upbring. Although he grew up in America, he mentioned that his parents were strict and wanted other plans for him such as being a doctor or lawyer. “I’m more liberal and free spirited.” George expressed that the first three businesses he attempted were all for money. “I wanted to get back into doing a business that I was passionate about. Life is the pursuit of happiness.”
The Tea Aspect
George told me of his summer trips back to Taiwan where his grandmother would dry her own tea leaves to make several different blends. He reminisced about the taste, how fresh it was. He added that the pH levels in the soil contributed to the taste.
Out of a conversation with his cousin about why tea in America tastes so differently, Press Tea was born.
Changing the Perception
George expressed how tea is a large part of Asian culture and how it is consumed pretty much with every meal. “It is both social and individual.”
“We want to portray tea as bold, robust and flavorful. We want people to know that it can be as robust as coffee.” He notes that their black tea can give you a jolt of energy as powerful as black tea, but with more of a gradual increase in energy.
“We want to create a new model of understanding on high end tea that is different from everyone else. We are trying to define our own segment. Our tea can be paired with anything.”
Before opening Press Tea, George and his colleagues spent 3.5 years finding tea leaves alone.
“We test the soil. That is a huge factor in getting great tea! The nutrient content makes all the difference.”
A New Option
With a new lunch and dinner menu ready, George and team creates great non-genetically enhanced food that can be paired with the teas. To make sure that their meats are premium and non-enhanced, George gets their grass fed beef from New Zealand where they have stricter laws on enhancing food. “The taste and flavor is so clean. We spend the extra money to get the best ingredients.”
PS: What is your favorite flavor?
PS: I hear that you are planning on expanded, can you give me some background on your plans?
GK: We are planning to open another location in Manhattan next year and eventually expand out to the other boroughs and New Jersey.
PS: What is a normal day for you?
GK: (laughs) “There is no normal day, just one big convoluted mess each day.” His mornings starts at 6 am and ends at 10pm. He spends his day picking up meat, talking to vendors, making ramen, helping bake pastries, blending the teas, delivery and even taking out the garbage. “As a business owner you have to be able to do it all.”
PS: As an entrepreneur, do you have a good sense of work life balance or does the café takes up most of your time?
GK: (laugh) “Work, work, work. When you are working 19 hours day, you can’t do anything else. This is it until everything settles down. We are launching a new food line.”
Wild Card Questions
PS: What is your current favorite song?
GK: Guns N’ Roses – Paradise City
PS: What is your favorite clothing brand?
GK: Anything without large logos.
PS: What is your favorite destination?
GK: Galapagos Island
PS: If you could have dinner with anyone, dead or alive, who would it be?
GK: Mother Theresa. I want to learn from her strength and capacity for compassion.
PS: What is a typical Friday night for you?
GK: Testing tea leaves, training staff and occasionally an hour of The Walking Dead.
To learn more about Press Tea, visit: www.presstea.com
For more information about George Kuan, visit: http://www.menshealth.com/
167 7th Ave S
New York, NY 10014
Phaon K. Spurlock is the Editor-in-Chief of LuxuriousPROTOTYPE Online Men’s Lifestyle Magazine. The magazine presents a luxury perspective to everyday lifestyle topics and interests. He can be found at @Phaon on Twitter and Instagram.