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Bittersweet: Amai Tea and Bake House's Last Days

When I was recently tipped off by my friend Not Martha about the bittersweet story of Amai Tea and Bake House, I was immediately intrigued. 

On the weblog lovescool.com, you can read the story of the cafe, from the point of view of the owners, including this sweet mission statement:
Both Kelli and Andrew have always had a dream of opening up a bakery (a restaurant in Andrew’s case, but close enough). They are not afraid to say that they are still amateurs in the pastry world. But in a way, Lovescool is a documentation of a journey to discover what sweet things are out there, why people love them so much, and perhaps what it takes to start something new. And the fact of the matter is, the world would be a lot better if it was just a touch sweeter.

Their dream of opening a cafe was realized in October 2007, when the shop opened its doors at 171 3rd Avenue. They garnered accolades from the likes of the New York Times and Time Out New York; the cafe seating was frequently all taken, with lines going out the door. However, it wasn't enough to make it all work, as owner Kelli said in a letter last week on her site, citing that largely because of the failing economy, the shop would be closing its doors on April 19, 2009.

Of course, having read this, my immediate reaction was sadness that I had never tasted their sweets--and so I put my favorite NYC Gumshoes, Phil and Matt, on the case.
Here were their thoughts:
From Cake Gumshoe Phil's Spy notebook:

They were nice, but a bit mournful. People kept remarking about them closing.


Got a green tea cupcake and a peanut butter chocolate. The green tea tasted a bit bitter--definitely an acquired taste for a cupcake, not awful though. The peanut butter had a good balance of sweet and salty--erring on the sweet side.

Also got some "tea cookies" although should have had them with tea- very dry. The green leaf one is green tea. The square is white tea strawberry (definitely the best) and the other is almond chai.

At this point Amai's future is unclear, but we're all very happy that we got to experience a little piece of their story.
If you're in NYC and would like to visit, then make haste--their last day will be Sunday, April 19. Amai Tea and Bake House is located at 171 3rd Ave., New York, NY; (212) 863-9630; online at amainyc.com.


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Reader Comments (6)

what an interesting place to visit

April 18 | Unregistered CommenterSnooky doodle

How sad! Now I'll never get to visit them either!

April 18 | Unregistered CommenterY

Super interesting place to visit and try some of their delights.. yum :)

April 20 | Unregistered CommenterRicardo

I've ordered some of their stuff online and they were delicious. I like their green tea cookies as well as their earl grey ones. Looking forward to their cookbook!so sad to see them go.

April 20 | Unregistered Commenterveron

Oh, this makes me so sad. I don't want bakeries to close, I want them to thrive.

I live right around the corner and only realized this morning that they were closed when I went to pick up a little muffin and a cup of tea. I was so sad to see the papered-over windows and the little sign saying they have shut down. I didn't go there all the time, but probably about once a month and more often in the summer. My favorite items were their fig and granola muffins and their peach muffins. They were the definite stand outs -- by far the best muffins I have ever had. They were very light and fluffy and a nice small size that was perfect for a light breakfast. My favorite cookies were the white tea and strawberry, the lemongrass and ginger, and the earl grey tea. They would also make delicious fresh quiches with vegetables form the nearby Union Square greenmarket. The neighbourhood is definitely poorer for this place shutting its doors. I really hope they open up somewhere else and can make a business plan that works. It's clearly only the business side that needs work as the baking was really great!!!!

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