Franki Goes To: Harney & Sons

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It started with the Innkeeper of White Hart Inn, in Salisbury Connecticut. This man, named John Harney, was introduced to the tea business by an older gentleman, Stanly Mason. Mason was a tea merchant who sold tea from a company named Sarum Tea nearby the property of the Inn. Harney was inspired by the tea business after seeing his guest’s reactions when drinking Mason’s Sarum tea. In 1960 Harney took over the Sarum Tea company until he sold it almost a decade and a half later, to open Harney & Sons Tea. Their first established location is in Millerton, New York, just over the border of Connecticut. Their other location lies in SoHo, in New York City. In 2005, John Harney won Food Artisan of the Year by Bon Appétite Magazine And, almost three years after his death in 2014, Harney’s sons and grandchildren continue to run the highly-acclaimed tea enterprise, selling tea on all seven continents of the world.

Michael Harney grew up under his father’s guidance as he worked at the Inn throughout his grade school years. “I was the night Audit,”  he said, the person who runs or manages the front desk. Later, a Cornell graduate fascinated by wine, Harney flew off to Paris to further explore the wine industry. While working, and learning about wine, and spirits he also staged for Cognac, and then somehow found his way back to tea!

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“Buying the correct tea is an organizing principle for me in my business” Harney implied. To be able to sell tea all over the world, the Harney sons travel to Japan, Sri Lanka, India, and few other countries to source the highest quality product at least once per year. There are six types of tea which include white, green, oolong, black, herbal, and flavored. White tea is what its name implies, very light in consistency with sweet notes. Oolong is between earthy green tea and tannic full bodied black teas. Harney & Sons source their black and green tea from China the country known for the origins of tea growth and harvesting. The company’s two most popular black teas are top selling Hot Cinnamon Spice and Paris. He mentioned that people like Paris tea because “it’s comprised of fruity, vanilla notes with a bit of tartness from the bergamot, leaving a well- rounded flavor.” Other types of black tea Harney & Sons sells are Assam, from Assam, India, and Darjeeling tea, found in Bengal, India. It’s smaller tea leaves produces black, green, oolong, and white teas.

Herbal teas are considered tisanes, which is simply herbs steeped in hot water. Harney imports lavender from France and rooibos from African to use in their tisanes.  Japanese Matcha powder is a variant of tea that uses a different method of preparation. At Harney & Sons, you get to sit at the tea bar watching the baristas steep all varieties of tea making sure to use the right temperature water and timers to keep track of how long to steep the loose tea leaves. The experience is similar to sitting at a bar watching cocktails being shaken, stirred, and poured. But, to make Matcha tea, one must use a bowl, spoon, and whisk. After the hot liquid is added to the vibrant powder it becomes very pasty and thick until enough water is added for it to be drinkable.

The exciting aspect about tea is that it may be enjoyed anytime of the day as a hot or cold beverage, offering nothing but promising health benefit. Having a small tea party with your friends over Harney & Sons tea is a great way to “tea” off the afternoon.

By Francesca Zani

(Adapted from article in La Papillote, the CIA student newspaper)

Francesca Zani
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