• Benji Sills

Room for Tea

Updated: Feb 25, 2020

During the winter chill, many of our favorite activities to flee indoors for are pop-ups: bubbly, colorful, interactive and fleeting. Pop-ups are great ways to continually enjoy the shifting landscape of your city. As New Yorkers, Paige and I have a never-ending supply of temporary entertainment and today we want to flash back on one of our favorites: Room for Tea.

This TriBeCa pop-up started with a twist on a traditional feature. Most pop-ups feature a ball pit of some sort, but Room for Tea began with a lobby brimming with bulbous pink bouncy balls (presumably designed to evoke boba). There was also a massive bubble tea statue in the center of the room to remind you where you were. Goofing off was encouraged: the walls were outfitted with a variety of basketball hoops for impromptu challenges and a number of inexplicable shopping carts littered the room as well. Paige and I took full advantage of these features, concocting a number of wacky competitions to maximize our time there. On the way out we chatted with the room’s dejected attendant, who every few minutes had to wander into the next room to fetch all the escaping balls.

Once cleared of rogue bouncy balls, the next space appeared to be a laundry room exclusively for red carpets. Hanging from the ceiling and strung around in structural arches were large sheets of scarlet fabric. Despite having entirely lost the theme by the second room, this largely irrelevant space was plenty of fun for photos and an impromptu game of hide-and-seek.

The hallway of the next space allowed for several photo opportunities, one of which was a scenic mountain vignette that outlined a window. Through this window you could see into a small nook where a VIP tea-tasting session was being hosted. Paige and I had opted out of this special add-on as it was quite pricey and ironically, I don’t particularly like tea. What we did do was spend a significant amount of time snapping photographs in a 3D cube. The cube was tiled with green and white on five sides (the last being left open so we could climb in). I was insistent I wanted to make it look like the cube was a ditch and photos were being taken top-down, so Paige and I experimented with a number of uncomfortable positions to seemingly defy gravity.

Maybe the most popular part of the exhibit was the lantern room. We were asked to don over-shoe slippers (the sort of communal outer sock you might expect in a sacred temple) and entered into a small room, carpeted wall-to-wall with bamboo mat. Wall-to-wall is generous as only one side of the room was the building’s own concrete - the other was a temporary wooden divider which the staff begged us not to lean on. We later saw a perfect qualifier of this rule when somebody bumped the wall slightly and a chunk of ceiling caved in.

Forgiving the occasional minor decapitation, this room was extremely fun. A large variety of paper lanterns hung from the rafters and the floor was littered with cloth flower petals. This lead to the inevitable scenario of every person tossing handfuls of petals around the room, desperately trying to capture an appealing slo-mo. If you ran short of flowers, there was no shortage of hair on the floor to use instead.

Out through the far end of this room, we found steps up to a secret second floor. The room was a mishmash of neon signs, jumbled randomly around the space. People stood around confused, as if awaiting explanation on how to use this room. Paige and I jumped straight in however, taking a variety of photos with the garish displays. There was also a fake bus stop provided for a photo op, as if New Yorkers need another opportunity to wait around for a bus that will never show up.

We descended the stairs and exited through a scent hallway, which encouraged passerby’s to sniff the labeled panels on the wall for a whiff of the corresponding tea flavors. It was a cool feature hampered slightly by the visibly sticky drip patterns of scent spray. At the far end of the hallway you receive one last treat, a bubble tea of your choosing. We opted for milk teas (which are more aptly cups of sugar with vague hints of tea) and sipped them happily, content that we hadn’t been crushed by the ceiling and would live to see another pop-up.

Unfortunately, Room for Tea is currently closed and doesn't appear to be opening any other locations at this time. Stay tuned for more great pop-ups you can see around town!

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