George Kuan of PressTea Invents A New Breed of Tea Shop

PressTea founder George Kuan could have gone with traditional scones at his West Village, NYC tea shop. With his cousin, Richard Chen, he has ye olde school delicacies with Japanese style matcha loaf, desserts with real tea leaves within and a peculiarly tasty Ramenrrito option: a ramen stuffed burrito(!). You can’t say he isn’t an original.

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left: Richard Chen / right: George Kuan

What is a good comparison between your cup of tea and a regular tea in the strength?

Our tea is a unique blend that’s created in house and passed down from a family tradition.  It is more robust and intense in flavor, without any additional additives to the blend. It is significantly stronger than most other teas.

How would you describe the Ramenrrito to someone who has never tried it? I doubt anyone ever has eaten something like it.

The Ramenrrito was made meticulously with each layer of ingredients carefully sourced, prepared and combined together into a burrito to provide a high level of umami when eaten. It is a great combination of Spanish, French and Asian influences that is unique to its own and someone would have to try it to understand the flavor profile. It may be the start of a new genre of food items in itself. The understanding of creating delicious food starts with understanding the five different elements of taste (salty, sweet, bitter, sour, umami). The next order of items that is explored is understanding how to combine the food with the right level of texture from soft, hard, crunchy, chewy, creamy, etc., and how to balance out the entire dish to create a truly umami experience.

What happens in the stages from developing the crazy idea to knowing “yes, people really do like it!?” There’s a risk with an innovative food and fusion food in general that it can be be poorly received.

Yes, there’s a risk in an innovative food item, and from a emotional perspective, it is nerve wracking. I taste it, and I know it tastes good, but I realized it is only as good as what my customers say, not what I think will be amazing. I like to think outside the box when developing a new product with my culinary background and take a very pragmatic approach when it comes to customer feedback and reviews. I like taking risks in my culinary endeavors to break ground and be innovative. The ramenrrito was considered a success when we started getting significant repeat customers that would come back multiple times a week to eat it. And after over two months from the launch, our reviews for the Ramenrrito have been over 85 percent positive with 4 and 5 star ratings. But before this with the initial launch, I was very nervous about how it would be received and I am very appreciative and grateful for the results.

When someone wants to eat your tea-infused cookies, what is a good beverage companion?

In terms of our cookies, they pair well with all of our teas. For the upcoming cool weather, the earl grey cookie works wonderfully with a black tea. The chocolate chip walnut cookie pairs well with the caramel rooibos latte and the jasmine and green tea white chocolate chip works well with an iced green tea. For a twist, try our chai with our double chcolate dulce de leche cookie.

Can you tell us about your tea-spresso? How is it different than regular espresso, besides the obvious use of tea?

Our tea-spresso is pressed with our unique blend of tea and varies in taste, flavor and caffeine. The machine itself uses a proprietary internal mechanism custom made to “press” each of our individual teas. The combination of the proprietary mechanism and proprietary blend creates a shot that is deeply intense, robust and flavorful.

The black tea has hints of dark chocolate and is our boldest blend with the highest caffeine content (almost as much as a cup of coffee). Our chai tea is a black tea based chai blended with a myriad of spices; our chai drinks create spicy and savory treats, with less caffeine than the black tea. The jasmine green holds hints of floral notes rounded out with a slight earthy nuttiness, with a low level of caffeine. Rooibos is our herbal (caffeine free) offering with a heady earthy base on the tongue, with a gentle fruitiness that finishes off every sip.

Your tea and its products are fairly wild for a tea shop. What is traditional from your Taiwanese background in running the shop?

I like to think we are unconventional, and although Taiwan has some of the best green teas, our teas are made very differently from the proprietary blend to the pressing mechanism. Looking at what we offer, our pastries and food are also innovative and delicious. We like to be different.

Can people purchase your tea for home brewing?

We have many of our customers asking for our loose leaves, and our product development team is coming close to finalizing blends for take home purchases.

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