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If you’re like me, you don’t do well in the morning. Getting up early for anything other than work is a real chore. That’s how I felt this past weekend when I woke up way too early on a Sunday morning for the 10th annual NYC Coffee & Tea Festival in Greenpoint at the Brooklyn Expo Center.

Begrudgingly, I arrived still half-asleep for the festival’s VIP hour at 10 AM, but I was immediately perked up by the many different aromas. Time to get some coffee…

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With more than sixty exhibitors and over 100 tastings offered, it was difficult to decide where to begin. I started with a hot cup of Cortado from Brooklyn’s own Toby’s Estate Coffee Roasters. It definitely got my attention. Toby’s also offers a ‘brew school‘ at their Brooklyn café, run by their team of ‘coffee educators’.  They hold regular public cuppings, along with private classes, where they teach the art of extracting, brewing, and cupping. I’ll have to check that out.

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Now that I was awake I needed a bit of energy, which was graciously provided to me by TerraNut.  Their NutPunch really packs a wallop. I literally felt the energy seeping into me as I ate it.  Similar to the consistency of a sesame Halva, it was absolutely delicious.

Back to coffee, I decided to try Café Grumpy’s espresso, which I really liked. Voted the best coffee shop in Chelsea and Hell’s Kitchen last year by Time Out NY, I’ll be going for a visit soon.

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Perked up to the max, I thought I’d take a break and try some teas. Dona Chai’s tea concentrate is a real winner. Delicately crafted using fresh ginger that is cold pressed, their brewing process begins with whole spices that are ground fresh for each batch to maximize flavor, depth, and purity. Every cup has notes of each flavor: cinnamon, cardamom, vanilla bean, cloves, black peppercorns, cold-pressed ginger, and organic, loose-leaf black tea. All you need to do is add your own favorite milk.

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Moving on I sampled Fashionista Tea’s offering, which was really smooth.  All organic teas and Fair Trade wherever possible, I guess I know what I’m getting my mom for Mother’s Day. That, and a box of liquor infused cupcakes from Full Spirited Flavours. My absolute favorite tasting of the show, their Limoncello will definitely rock your taste buds.

For nearly 30 years Carole Algier had been a glass artist running a successful business with her husband John. But, in the recession when people began cutting back, the stained glass window treatments for which she’d become famous became luxuries. In 2009 she was about to lose everything, including her house, so she closed her studio. Over the years, Carole and her sisters Sue and Kathy had always talked about starting a food-related business together. That’s when Full Spirited Flavours was born. Their cakes are serious business. Recently featured on the Rachael Ray Show as her snack-of-the-day, I couldn’t stop eating them. All three of the sisters, as well as Carole’s hubby John were there. Really nice, down-to-earth folks, it was a real pleasure meeting them.

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My girlfriend then brought me over to the Cheeky Monkey booth. Another truly nice guy, Amos (and his wife Leah), let us try their three different tomato dipping oils: the Original (sweet garlicky goodness), Politely Spicy, and Solidly Spicy.WoW! Absolutely the right way to finish the morning. The Solidly Spicy is damn good. Leah said she created the product line while just ‘mucking about in the kitchen‘. Talk about your dilly-dallying paying off. AWEsome!!

Before we left the show we checked out Taproot Organics, one of my girlfriend’s favorite places to buy organic soaps and scrubs from. The owner was ultra-friendly and walked us through his entire product line. His coffee scrub smells delightful and the shea butter balm called ‘Joint Therapy’ really felt nice and started working right away on my elbow which I had banged earlier. He actually invented it after his surgery when he got a metal rod in his arm. Quite an interesting character.

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Loaded up with enough caffeine to keep every kid alive through all 9 Nightmare on Elm Street films, it was time to head home. I haven’t been this focused since, well, never. I think I’m gonna start my first novel. Maybe take up watercolors. Lord knows I don’t think I’ll ever sleep again…

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– Michael Riegelman

VENDOR LIST:

Ajiri Coffee & Tea Co., Andrews & Dunham Damn Fine Tea, Anita’s Biscottis, Aqualife, Artwork on the Run, Ateaz, Bare Tea & Nektar Naturals, Bartlett Dairy & Hudson Valley Fresh, Bee Raw, Brooklyn Tea Co., Bruce Cost Ginger Ale,Café Grumpy, Capital Teas, car2go, Cha Do Raku, Chai Diaries, Chai Mookie Teas, Cheeky Monkey Foods, City 2 Shore Gourmet, Cup for Education, Cutco Cutlery, Cynthia Gold & Joanna Pruess Book Signing, David’s Tea, DonaChai, El Voyage, Everlasting Tea & Heart of Tea, Fashionista Tea, Firsd Tea, Full Spirited Flavours, Green Mountain Energy, Hario, Harney & Sons Fine Teas, Health & Tea, Hernan, illy issimo, In The Raw (Cumberland Packing), Jailhouse Coffee, Javazen, Jessy’s Pasteries, Joseph Wesley Black Tea, Kanlo international, Kevin Gascoyne Book Signing, La Belle Crepe, Libre Tea, Lov Organic (Kusmi Tea), Manuel Caffe & San Remo (US Imports), Miss Tea Organics, My Zen Tea, Nature’s Guru, New York Gourmet Coffee, NY Times, Owl’s Brew, Prince Alan Teas, Ralph & Charlie’s Juice, Scentsational Scrubs, SerendipiTea, Silver Needle Tea Co., Silverleaf Resorts, Sodterra, Taproot Organics, Taste Artisanal Market, Tastefully Simple, Tate + Lyle (Domino Foods), Tavern Café, Tea & Whimsey, Tea of Life, teapigs, Teascapes, TeaVeda (The Veda Co.), Terranut, The Meaning of Tea, The Subtle Tea Company, The Tea House Times/TeaCourse.com, Toby’s Estate Coffee, Vitamix, Wandering Bear Coffee Co., Waterfall Teas, Wildeflowers,Yu Teahouse, Zest Tea, Zhen Tea.