By  on March 24, 1994

With the coffee bar craze in full swing, it's no surprise that tea salons should start cropping up in New York as well. One such spot opened about a month ago in the lower level of the Guggenheim Museum SoHo at Mercer and Prince Streets.

Called simply T, this tea salon and emporium is spacious and serene, with high tin ceilings, antique furniture, a 75-foot copper bar and the aroma of 150 kinds of teas.

The emporium in the front offers all the dried teas as well as accoutrements from teapots to cups and saucers and other related items. The adjacent lounge is where patrons settle in with a pot of tea or, at night, with spirits from the port, wine and sherry bar.

There's also a large cafe in the back of the room, where breakfast is served, featuring such unusual fare as Earl Grey biscuits, Irish oatmeal and Black Dog Granola from the Black Dog Tavern on Martha's Vineyard. Light cuisine is served throughout the day, including pastries and sandwiches such as tea-smoked salmon with cream cheese and watercress or tea and herb marinated roast zucchini and artichokes with goat cheese and arugula.

There's also a "Proper Tea" at 3:30 p.m., a "New Yorkers' Tea" at 6:30 p.m. (to accommodate the working world), and a late-night "Champagne Tea." It's open Tuesdays through Sundays from 8 a.m. to 2 a.m., and prices range from $1 to $3 for a pot of tea, to $22.50 for "Proper Tea."

"I think there's a perception that proper tea is just all the little blue-haired ladies dressing up and going out," said Miriam Novalle, the proprietor of T. "But it's really becoming very hip."

While this is Novalle's first experience running a restaurant, one could say she has a nose for this type of operation. Novalle is, in fact, a professional "nose" and was a co-founder and president of Herb Alpert's perfume company.

She employs her talents as a nose in the selection of the vast array of teas she stocks. Aside from the traditional varieties such as Earl Grey or Lapsang Souchong, T offers such novel blends as Berry Cocktail, a mixture of rose hips and a variety of berries such as cranberries and blueberries."Just smell this," Novalle says as she offers a tin of the brightly colored blend. "It's an infusion of fruits that's drunk in Belgium and Vienna. And when you're finished, you eat the fruit. But I don't think America is ready for that. People here would be complaining that there's stuff in the bottom of the pot."

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