Behind nondescript metal doors in Brooklyn’s industrial-chic Greenpoint is Bellocq, an exquisitely fragrant tea atelier-cum-tasting studio bursting with artisan blends, earthy Pu-erhs and fine pure teas all sourced from high-elevation gardens around the globe.
Started as a passion project between friends Heidi Johannsen Stewart and Michael Shannon – who decamped to London in 2009 to set up a year-long tea pop-up at the former Antiquarius on the King’s Road – Bellocq found its permanent home back in the US in 2010. “We love that tea can be a creative vehicle to tell stories and that it also allows for moments of pause,” says Stewart. “For just a short time, while savouring tea, you are very present. That’s the ultimate luxury in this busy day and age.”
The former woodworking space has been reimagined by Heidi’s husband and Bellocq partner Scott Stewart of noted Brooklyn design firm SAAW, who has combined plum Venetian-plaster walls with wide-planked wood floors salvaged from Pennsylvania, exposed bricks and beamed ceilings. A fireplace is a further enticement for clients drawn from Europe, Australia and South Korea – as well as celebrity sippers such as Oprah Winfrey – enticing them into the atelier’s warm embrace. “The whole aesthetic was inspired by the Middle Eastern room at The Met,” explains Shannon. “We wanted to make people feel comfortable enough to linger, sample and learn.”
The 120 tea varieties on offer are arranged according to style and country of origin and can be bought in Bellocq’s signature sunflower-yellow tea caddies, but also by the bag, in smaller traveller caddies and in bulk. Bestselling blends include The Queen’s Guard (from $17 for 3oz), a black Ceylon tea with rose petals, lavender and cornflowers, and Le Hammeau (from $15 for 2oz), combining lemongrass, lemon verbena, chamomile, lavender, rose petals, mint and sage. Provocatively pungent is a smoky chai called Fireside Chat (from $15 for 3oz); National Parks Department (from $18 for 2oz) is a full-bodied Indian tea mixed with juniper berries, cedar fir tips and wildflowers intended to transport you to ancient woodlands; and the soothing Ashram Afternoon (from $15 for 2oz) is a tulsi herbal blend evocative of Goa.
Bespoke blends – each lovingly created by Stewart and Shannon in an adjacent space – can be found at Manhattan’s Neue Galerie (“we created Alpine Dream for them”), Dover Street Market in New York and via Tiffany & Co. Accessories at the atelier, designed by Bellocq to “complete the tea ritual”, range from a Hasami porcelain tea service ($175) and Dowager Empress Yixing teapot ($125) “perfect for a richly roasted oolong” to sculptural, handwoven brass and silver basket tea strainers ($12 to $25). Chunky candles ($86) are inspired by fragrant tea blends, including green Majorelle Mint and the white peony and grapefruit peel-tinged White Nixon.
The duo delight in educating customers about everything from the best tea-growing estates in Darjeeling to Japan’s finest matchas, as well as the art of brewing, food pairing and proper storage. “We want to invite people on a journey through our teas,” says Shannon, “and foster a sense of wonderment through the senses.”