Saturday, May 8, 2010

Book Review: Tea and Sympathy: The Life of an English Teashop in New York

There's a lot of Britain wrapped up in this tiny New York teashop. It's the tea version of Cheers. Longtime waitress Anita Naughton captures the atmosphere, including behind-the-scenes escapades, in her book Tea and Sympathy: The Life of an English Teashop in New York.

The only thing missing is the aroma of fresh scones baking in the oven. Not to worry. With over 60 recipes included (with notations) by owner Nicola Perry, you can be cooking up all your favorite Brit dishes in no time.

Written with wit and humor that inspires laughter and touching moments, I immediately felt part of the Tea and Sympathy (sometimes dysfunctional) family. The book follows its rise from obscurity to fame. This is the place where Brit's and teashop fans gather in NYC (and everyone knows your name).

With only ten tables the room is small, casual and noisy. You never know who might be sitting next to you. Anita recalls one time when a group of Buddhist monks walked in. It turned out to be the Dalai Lama.

When I lived in Pennsylvania I always included Tea and Sympathy on my visits to Manhattan. My former mother-in-law (a Londoner) thought it was the best teashop in the states.

On my last visit two years ago, I had a tea party there with Paperback Swap friends who swap tea with me monthly.

The teashop has rules for all customers to follow (which the book explains). It may seem off-putting to first time guests but stiff upper lip. Owner Nicola Perry says we all need boundaries. Well said.

Rob's Rating: 4/5 with recipes being 5

This year Tea and Sympathy is celebrating it's 20th anniversary. Be sure to visit their website for information on menu, prices, location and more. If you include Tea and Sympathy in your NYC plans, be sure to let me know.

I also have a list of my top 10 things to do in New York City which I wrote for the NYC Reading Challenge. Speaking of which, this book fulfills my reading requirement.

Tea and Sympathy: The Life Of An English Teashop in New York by Anita Naughton, with an introduction and recipes by Nicola Perry. G.P. Putnam's Sons. 2002. ISBN 0399149376.

FTC Advisory: I was promised all the tea in China for a positive review. Joke. I purchased a used copy of this out-of-print book from an Amazon seller.


  1. I love this book. I've made the Victoria Sponge many, many times. It is wonderful. Oddly enough I never think to actually go there when I am in NYC. I am going to have to rectify that.

  2. Aloha Thomas,

    Thanks for the tip on Victoria Sponge. I'll give it a try. You'll have to visit T&S when in NYC. There's also a good place for Fish and Chips several door down.

    Best Wishes from Rob

  3. This book sounds wonderful Rob, and so does the NYC stop.

  4. I have a friend who's parents are British and when he comes to visit it's pot after pot of strong black tea. No silly flavours and any assortment of biscuits to go with the tea. We even get out the small tea set and make milk tea for his son.

  5. You just had to mention scones...I love scones!

    And how wild to have waited on the Dalai Lama. I once waiting on Kevin from the Wonder Years, and Steve Perry (of Journey fame)...but I would've much preferred the Dalai Lama!

  6. What an interesting book choice for the NYC Challenge. I live in NYC and have always heard about Tea and Sympathy but have never been there (walked by but never went in) - I will have to stop by one day soon!

    Thanks for spotlighting it!


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