Checking out the monthly tea tasting at The Whistling Kettle

whistling kettle tea tasting composite

By Casey Normile

I think drinking tea should be more of an affair. Once in a while, it should have a sense of occasion. And for that, there's the monthly tea tasting event at The Whistling Kettle in Ballston Spa.

"There are more tea drinkers than just a few years ago - those who want to expand their horizons or try something new," explains owner Kevin Borowsky.

So for those feeling adventurous, or just curious, the restaurant stays open late one Friday a month and offers a sampling of rare exotic teas from around the world.

At each event they put together a list of teas not available on their menu for you to sample. And to sweeten the deal, they also include their "afternoon tea" menu: a three-tiered meal of two savory dishes of your choice and one sweet. All together it's $19.95 per person.

After attending a recent tasting, here are five things to know about the events...

1. You can go alone
If you're the only tea drinker in your group of friends or you just can't find a wingman on a Friday night, don't let that hold you back. Some of the tables had groups, but about a third of the tables were people enjoying their tea by themselves.

whistling kettle tea tasting menu

2. The teas really are exotic
If you're more of a Lipton person than an oolong person, then get ready to step outside your comfort zone. Our menu for the night included a rarely-heard-of "yellow tea," a white tea, a genmaicha, an oolong, and an herbal tea called Reiki. They came from all over the world and, to be honest, some were... grassy. They were balanced with the soft oolong and the fruity Reiki, but English Breakfast drinkers would definitely be expanding their horizons.

3. There's a "spittoon" -- don't be afraid to use it
We didn't find out until the end of our meal, but the empty carafe on the table is meant to be a spittoon for your tea. That way, if you don't like the tea or simply can't have that much caffeine after 6 pm, you can still sample without drinking the whole cup.

whistling kettle tea tasting tea closeup

4. The teas are rare -- if there's one you like, buy it
I debated for a while whether I should purchase the Vietnam Tung Ting Oolong or not. At $16 for a quarter pound, it wasn't the most expensive tea on our menu that night, but it did seem like an unnecessary expense. But then I realized I had never seen the tea anywhere else and didn't know when I would see it on a menu again. So I splurged on the rare tea with a funny name.

5. The tastings are very popular
Ever since Whistling Kettle re-launched the event last fall (to include dinner), every tea tasting has sold out. They book approximately 50 people for the night and those spaces fill up quickly. Borowsky suggests joining the email list. It's the easiest way to find out as soon as the next tea tasting is scheduled -- and you can sign up right away.

The night is relaxing, fun, and not a bad way to start your Friday night (or end it, we left at 8:15 pm). If you're new to tea, the staff is knowledgeable and they encourage you to discuss which teas you like and which you don't. They aren't hurt if you tell them, "I just didn't like that Kenya Nandi Safari White Tea. It didn't taste like anything."

Earlier on AOA: Capital Region spots for tea snobs

Find It

The Whistling Kettle
24 Front Street
Ballston Spa, NY 12020

Say Something!

We'd really like you to take part in the conversation here at All Over Albany. But we do have a few rules here. Don't worry, they're easy. The first: be kind. The second: treat everyone else with the same respect you'd like to see in return. Cool? Great, post away. Comments are moderated so it might take a little while for your comment to show up. Thanks for being patient.

The Scoop

Ever wish you had a smart, savvy friend with the inside line on what's happening around the Capital Region? You know, the kind of stuff that makes your life just a little bit better? Yeah, we do, too. That's why we created All Over Albany. Find out more.

Recently on All Over Albany

Today's moment of construction

We happened to be near the Albany convention center site Friday so we stopped by to gawk at the progress of the construction. And gawk... (more)

Warehouse District wine bar, new supermarket among plans up for review in Albany

A plan for a new wine bar in a space along Broadway in Albany's Warehouse District is among a group of notable projects on the... (more)

Stuff to do this weekend

Just in time for Valentine's Day -- or maybe President's Day -- winter has decided to make a return to the Capital Region. Temperatures could... (more)

Morning Blend

Colonie murder/suicide investigation State Police said Thursday that an investigation has concluded that Colonie Police Officer Israel Roman shot his wife, his 10-year-old son, then... (more)

Breaking down the Albany High School vote

Updated Friday morning with better maps. The vote on the reformulated $180 million plan to rebuild/expand Albany High School has gotten a lot of attention... (more)

Recent Comments

I voted yes, but I think there has to be a revote. if not, then the school board is saying that votes don't matter, all that matters is that we got what we wanted. I think that is a very dangerous road to go down. They need to do it right and make sure everyone who is eligible to vote has the opportunity to do so. There were enough problems to easily say that people were denied the opportunity to vote. We don't want that hanging over our heard during this important project.

Warehouse District wine bar, new supermarket among plans up for review in Albany

...has 4 comments, most recently from JayK

Checking out Blaze Pizza

...has 9 comments, most recently from derryX

Recommendations for cleaning services?

...has 6 comments, most recently from Kellen

Breaking down the Albany High School vote

...has 5 comments, most recently from Dave

What if tearing down I-787 could actually improve traffic?

...has 38 comments, most recently from JayK