If you’re cheering on the tulips that toughed out New York City’s latest round of snow and ice, you might also want to hightail it over to the eastern edge of Greenpoint to check out Bellocq Tea Atelier‘s new selection of spring teas. Ring their door bell on West Street to dive into a fresh crop of Chinese green teas, which tend to be the first to arrive on the scene—many aren’t even up on their website yet. (You might be lucky enough to score limited quantities of pre-Qingming teas—first picks of the season that show up before the Chinese festival that traditionally honors ancestors in early April.) Last spring’s varieties like Liu An Gua Pian or Tai Ping Hou Kui can also be found, calling up everything from sweet pea and asparagus to bamboo.
Now is also the time to explore the wild world of pairing tea with cheese, which bears similarities to wine and cheese tasting. (Bellocq introduced me to this concept at an event they hosted with the French Cheese Board several years ago.) Green teas fall on the lighter end of the spectrum, like white wines, and exhibit some of the same characteristics. Consider a Liu An Gua Pian with a young Camembert from Old Chatham Shepherding Hudson Valley. The tea brings out grassier notes in the cheese; the creaminess of the cheese rounds out a slight bitterness in the tea.
Hudson Flower, aged in caves at Murray’s Cheese with lemon thyme, hops and rosemary is another seasonal standout that marries well with delicate, floral high mountain oolong teas or similar lowland varieties, such as the fernlike, almond butter-y Graceful Hill from Te Company. Many first flush Darjeelings will also start rolling in over the next few weeks—first plucks of the season that tend to offer up uncommonly light, citrusy notes for black tea. For a classic combination inspired by traditional afternoon tea fare, try a crisp first flush Darjeeling with a Kunik triple crème from Nettle Meadow in Warrensburg, NY, where cows, sheep and goats feed on wild herbs, garlic and raspberry leaf. You can sample this particular duo and a range of other tea and cheese pairings at the Brooklyn Kitchen on March 28.