Darjeeling Unlimited: Finding Superior Tea at NYU Law

Coffee is, by general assent, the lawyer’s elixir. But for those of us who hail from the Commonwealth—or were involved in college groups that required the copious consumption of tea—a lighter, less caffeinated (yes, less caffeinated) beverage is exactly what one needs to get by in law school.

Yet while our coffee options are well understood (i.e., Third Rail Coffee at all times and for all occasions), tea requires a more searching judicial inquiry.

Serving bad tea should be a felony.
Serving bad tea should be a felony.

Buying Brewed Tea

If you’re in a hurry and can’t make the stuff yourself, the local area has a number of acceptable options.

The Furman or Vanderbilt Cafes

Pro: It’s really close and relatively cheap ($1-$2).

Cons: Closes at 3:00 p.m.-ish, the tea bags are regular tea bags (containing tea dust—the dirt left over from leaves—rather than the tea leaves themselves), the water has a strange brackish taste, and the water dispensers don’t keep the water at the requisite boiling point.

This isn’t particular to these cafes, by the way; any Starbucks franchise (i.e., not a real Starbucks) seems to have the same weird-tasting, not-hot-enough water.

The Tea Spot

Pro: Proper loose-leaf bags and a variety of delicious flavors as well as fabulous ambiance and a location right smack-bang next to campus.

Cons: Frequently the flavors run out (the store was bereft of Earl Grey for nearly a month), and at $5 a cup it’s a wee bit expensive. Great for a date, not so much for study caffeine.

Kopi Kopi

Pro: Vends a strange, sweet Javanese brew of tea that’s surprisingly aromatic and perfect for recovering from a thunderstorm.

Cons: If you’re not into strange, sweet Javanese brews of tea.


Pro: One of the only chain loose-leaf tea vendors in New York, DavidsTea has a very, very wide variety of loose-leaf teas, some of which are available for brewing and taking away without having to buy loose leaf yourself.

Con: Limited seating if you want to study there, and (appropriately for a premium vendor) the tea is a wee bit on the pricey side.

Starbucks on Washington Square Park Corner

Pro: Starbucks has some of the least worst tea of a major chain: the tea bags have real tea leaves, there’s a pretty acceptable variety of the major tea groups, the water is at the proper boiling point, and the tea bag is put in before the water, which immediately places Starbucks ahead of most American restaurants.

One huge con: the line is awful, at almost all times of day. Moreover, the line is mostly comprised of undergraduates. Need I say more? There are, however, other Starbuckses tucked away nearby without this dilemma.

Brew your own tea

True tea fanatics—or, more relevantly, law students drowning in debt and living on a research assistant per-hour wage—do not content themselves with store-bought tea. They brew their own. This is a surprisingly easy and cheap alternative!

First, you need a good tea flask. I recommend the Bodum plastic flask, which is relatively inexpensive and is almost completely impervious to everything you can throw at it. It can leak from the lid, however, so be sure to store it upright in your backpack if you have books in there (since any visible water damage renders the book worthless for resale).

Second, you’ll need to acquire some loose-leaf tea bags. You can get 100 of these for $7 on Amazon.com. You’ll put loose-leaf tea in these, then put the bag at the bottom of the flask before filling the flask with boiling water. This ensures that the leaves don’t freely float throughout the flask; the plunger built into the flask typically can’t push 100 percent of the leaves into the bottom, and you don’t want to eat leaves while drinking your tea.

Third, you need some tea! De gustibus non disputandem, of course, but whatever your preferences you can find excellent tea at Harney and Sons, whose flagship store is just around the corner. I personally always like to sample tea before I buy it, which makes Harney’s a great option (DavidsTea is also great for this purpose), but I remain a loyalist of Tealuxe in Boston, which delivers for free if you buy enough. The Crème de la Earl Grey is especially excellent.

Finally, you’ll need good sources of boiling water. This needs to come from somewhere other than the Furman/Vanderbilt cafes, since the water there is both too cold and brackish (it also disappears after 3:00 p.m.-ish). Don’t use the microwaves! Instead, look out for hot water dispensers:

  • D’Agostino basement: Just before you get to the journal offices, you’ll find this fabulous little machine sitting unobtrusively in the corridor. The best water heater on campus, since it siphons off tap water and boils it while purifying it. Plus, it’s available 24/7.
  • Lawyering office in Furman basement: Standard water heater/cooler to the left, just as you enter the basement dungeon you got to know during your Lawyering memo critiques.
  • Third floor of Vanderbilt: When you reach the top of the stairs, take a left, head to the end of the corridor, then turn left again. Just before you reach the end of that corridor, take a right and you’ll see a little photocopier nook including a hot water dispenser. Perfect for the 10-minute class break.