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Press Release for Samovar Hayes Valley Door Opening Ceremony conducted by the SF Zen Center

Media Contacts:
Jesse Cutler, Samovar: (415) 655-3431 / [email protected]
David Perry, SFZC: (415) 693-0583 / cell: (415) 676-7007 / [email protected]
WHAT: Samovar Tea Lounge III: Hayes Valley
With Door Opening Ceremony courtesy of San Francisco Zen Center
WHEN: Saturday, March 7
1pm-1:30pm: Door Opening Ceremony
2pm-5pm: open-house tea reception: tea tastings, snacks, celebration gathering
WHERE: Samovar Tea Lounge: 297 Page @ Laguna St
DETAIL: Samovar Tea Lounge furthers its mission in expanding tea culture to San Francisco, by opening its third location just outside Hayes Valley just across from its landlord, the San Francisco Zen Center. The official launch party for Samovar III in what has come to known as “Hayes Valley” will include a Buddhist “Door Opening Ceremony” offered by the San Francisco Zen Center which will include ceremonial incense, chants, and wholesome ritual. Later, Samovar will provide tea tastings, snacks and sweets, and celebration of this newest tea-addition to San Francisco. The Zen Center will also be from 1-5 open for guided tours.
“We are so proud to welcome Samovar here to Hayes Valley,” said Susan O’Connell, Vice President of the San Francisco Zen Center. “ We look forward to finding many ways to collaborate. Zen Center shares their mission of creating peace, and we appreciate the quality of their offering, as well as the mindful way all of the staff engage with their customers. There is already a natural synergy. As people sit at the tables in the café, they may find themselves looking across the street at the door to the meditation hall – like frogs sitting on a lily pad. Perhaps some will take the leap towards Zen Center and enjoy our practice of sitting in community, and then return to the café for a soothing meal and cup of tea.
“Here at Samovar Tea Lounge it’s never simply business as usual. In other words, business isn’t just a profit-making mechanism, but rather a vehicle for the greater good,” said Jesse Jacobs, owner of Samovar Tea Lounge. “Making people feel good, feel healthy and attain happiness is our bottom line. And, challenging as it is, it’s equally rewarding and fulfilling to see our guests beam with joy and express their heartfelt gratitude. We take equal pride in employing a staff of people who love their work and feel their efforts make a difference in the world.”
About Samovar Tea Lounge:
The mission of Samovar Tea Lounge is to create peace through drinking tea. The tea experience that Samovar delivers solves the universal needs of humanity: community, vitality, and equanimity, values reflected throughout the Samovar experience: online, in-store, and offsite. Samovar believes that its success raises the energy of the environment, sustains it, forwards its evolution, and serves as a power of example for other businesses to reach for and enjoy equal success. The Samovar values stem directly from the experience of tea. Awareness, Beauty, Calmness, Community, Compassion, Efficiency, Energy, Fun, Health of body, mind, spirit, and earth, Honesty, Humility, Innovation, Kindness, Learning, Passion, Peace, Respect, Sensitivity, Service.
About the San Francisco Zen Center:
For nearly 50 years, San Francisco Zen Center has been teaching the Zen Buddhist principles of compassion and wisdom at its three locations in California. Today, it is one of the largest Buddhist communities outside Asia. In addition to the classes, retreats, workshops and training opportunities offered by Zen Center, we provide education programs for school children, training of future farmers in sustainable practices, and ongoing outreach programs for the homeless, those in prison, veterans returning from war, and people in recovery

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A New Samovar Blossoms in Hayes Valley


Samovar Tea Lounge III is now open!

As San Francisco’s oldest tea loung,e we have expanded into a new, third Samovar location. And we are really, really excited about it.

What’s old is new and what’s new becomes old.That seems to be the cycle of life. And now, after six years in business, we have opened in SF’s newest neighborhood, “Hayes Valley,” across the street from America’s oldest Zen institution, the San Francisco Zen Center. This oasis of a ‘hood is the perfect blend of zen and tea are now available for anyone near Hayes Valley, Japan Town, Civic Center, and Upper Market to enjoy. Shining in a bright red coat of paint, you can’t miss the spot: 297 Page St. @ Laguna St.

Given the current economic and political climate, we felt especially excited at the prospect of broadening the tea business in challenging times because of the goodness that the tea brings in especially difficult times: community, relaxation, health, social intimacy. There is perhaps more of a need for tea today than other time in recent history. And we are really thrilled to be here, alongside the Zen Center and all that that organization brings to SF.

What make this latest Samovar Tea Lounge special?

The Location
Being across the street from the San Francisco Zen Center, connecting the tradition of tea directly to the practice of sitting meditation makes for some really good chemistry. Of course you don’t have to be a meditater or a Buddhist to enjoy Samovar, but, as the mission the Zen Center is to cross all demographic boundaries to “…make accessible the wisdom and compassion of the Buddha…” just sitting across the street in the lounge sipping a Masala Chai, you can’t help but to feel a sense of peace from their strong neighborhood presence. And, the constant flow of zen students and teachers in and out of Samovar give you the chance to connect to some amazing people, doing really good things.

This space is situated in quiet, quintessential residential neighborhood outside the main commercial drag of Hayes Valley – giving you the perfect excuse to go shopping, and people watching, and then to escape…to a blissful cup of tea. Also, although it is tucked away, it is also incredibly central to the rail and bus Muni systems, the Bart, and, to walking from Market Street, Japan Town, the Fillmore, Hayes Valley, and Civic Center.

The Building Materials
Having the opportunity to operate two successful Samovar Tea Lounges over the past 6 years, we have had the luxury to see what works and what doesn’t in a tea lounge. This third location was the perfect chance to put into practice all the best elements. Here’s a partial list of what we were able to incorporate into the building of this location:

– Forest Stewardship Council certified wood flooring. All of our wood floors come from biodiverse, sustainably harvested timber, and than literally hand finished by artisans to create the functional, and beautiful aesthetic they embody.

– Tables and Bar – For all of our tables and bars, we went really, really, really local. Up in Marin a friend of ours salvaged some wind fallen redwood trees, 1200 year old trees to be exact. After getting seasoned for many years at his home, he finished them, and installed them – here at this location. Beautiful, natural, and from only 20 minutes away! We were especially excited about the tea bar. It’s the perfect place to taste tea, hang out and chat with us about he nuances of oolongs, or to bring a date. It’s a real bar, and yet only for tea!

– Electrical and equipment usage is all low energy consumption. Even the bathroom uses state of the art water faucet, hand drier, and lights!

– Metalwork is reclaimed metal from an old vinegar factory up in Northern California. The factory and vinegar is gone, but, the metal has remained and found a new home in beautifying and supporting this new space

The People
Our staff has been hired from a very large pool of applicants. We have a 4″ stack of resumes of people looking to work at Samovar, and this new staff at the Hayes Valley location made the cut. They are passionate about tea, live really interesting lives, love customer service, and are excited to be calling this new location their home away from home. How many other jobs out there have staff lingering around for three hours after the shift is done? Not many. Our folk love working here, and even when the work is done, they linger, sipping tea, talking about tastings, and crops and seasons, and hanging out with our customers. Thank you Samovarians for making our space so special.

Our History
First we opened during the peak of the Dot-Com bust, in a classic San Francisco coffee shop just outside the Castro, to serve the neighborhood with the salve tea offers. Then came the be-jeweled dome in Yerba Buena Gardens beneath this city’s skyscrapers, satisfying downtown workers, tourists, and convention-goers with an escape from the city’s frenzy.

And now, tucked in a quiet residential neighborhood across the street from the San Francisco Zen Center, comes this most exciting location yet. Please visit us and find out for yourself!

Samovar Hayes Valley is open….

Everyday: 10am-10pm

See you soon!

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Passage to Peace, Exploring Tea Culture – Today

Tea is hot!
And no one steeps patrons in the ancient and enduring properties of tea like San Francisco’s Samovar Tea Lounge. In this compelling podcast, owner Jesse Jacobs explores the reverberations of how one cup of tea serenely enjoyed influences peace throughout the world. Visiting with modern Tea Masters, Jacobs uncovers the mysterious roots of today’s highly sought-after tea experience and sheds light on the dark elixir’s calming effects….

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Tea Ritual

Tea Ambassador Les
Tea Ambassador Les

Many of you see me, Les Leventhal, at Samovar (the 18th & Sanchez location) on Saturday afternoons eating the amazing food and drinking tea but do you really know what I’m doing there?????

Over two years ago, I started teaching an 11am class and this class ends my “work” week.  So, I come to Samovar to transition my spirit and soul from one freedom to another.

The staff at Samovar is amazing.  No matter how busy it is (and it’s busy all the time now), they are always so friendly and helpful and I really get that my comfort and experience there is of great concern to them.  I really feel at home there.

Some weeks I like to make my transitions with a hot cup of chai and other times I enjoy the many soakings of an Oolong.  Wuyi is my favorite (yes, I need more hot water when they ask).

There was a time when I would go alone to decompress and enjoy a meal that not only nourishes my belly but soothes my soul.  With this cold weather have you tried the Pumpkin Miso Soup?  If I know there’s dinner plans for later on that Saturday evening, I usually go for one of the salads – my favorite – Portobello Mushroom Salad (did you know you can get a side order of extra veggies if you’re very hungry?).

Now, every Saturday, for the past year or so, I’m there with friends and family.  We love to sit outside (weather permitting) and many times the original group that sat down grows from friends walking by that decide to sit for some tea.  So, all of a sudden there’s this community around tea.  I wasn’t really looking for it.  Like I said I was decompressing from the week but now, I so look forward to that part of my week, every week.  It’s become a place to catch up, slow down, and reconnect with myself and others.

Some Saturdays, I want to stay slow and go for the non-caffeinated teas.  The Shizandra is ridiculously delicious and the iced Aloe is almost like having a dessert, which is similar to a lot of the conversation that takes place.  Everyone gets so busy these days, that slowing down for a pot of tea provides enough time to go beyond the usual quick hi how are you.  You can actually engage a conversation and allow it to go in the many different directions that conversations can go when friends choose to sit down together and spend some good quality time.  Samovar really provides the space and the right blend of food choices and the right teas for this to occur.

Wondering what’s on my tea shelf at home?  I had to go check because I forgot a few:  Organic Wuyi Dark Roast, Organic Orange Ginger, Organic Earl Red, Chillout Blend, Peppermint Lavender, Organic Jasmine Pearl, Kemmum, Samovar Russian Blend, Lychee Black, Wei Chi Cha (which one day I am going to make ice pops out of), Ocean of Wisdom, Blood Orange Puerh and Samovar Masala Chai (which I’ve tried numerous times to replicate what they do even with their “secret ingredients” and I just can’t figure it out).

There’s really just one thing missing for me and that’s Chai-scream.  I figure I’d start a bitty campaign here and you never know – it’s Samovar – anything is possible.

So come stop by on a Saturday afternoon, say hi, talk tea, talk about anything you’d like – the conversations always stretch far far out into the universe about all things we know and don’t know but ponder.



If you’d like to get more information about Les, you can go to

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A Japanese Tea Gathering at San Francisco’s Urasenke Society

Christie Bartlett, Founding Director of Ursaenke Society, San Francisco talks about the history of Urasenke, why tea gatherings matter today, and the ripple effect of “peace through a bowl of tea.”
– What is a “tea gathering?”
– Spontaneity through structure and the art of tea
– Slowing down time, appreciating fleeting moments
– Sipping tea to free the mind, cleaning tea utensils to clean the heart
– The role of a tea gathering in creating world peace

Check out the tea in this video… Matcha.

* Special thanks to Toshiko, for making the tea!

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David Lee Hoffman, Tea Pioneer: Part I

David Lee Hoffman: Part of the beauty of tea is you can get so many different tastes and sensations with it. Almost emotion, each tea has a different emotion and personality. And you could shape that personality, you could play with it, depending on how you steep it, and the water, and the temperature, time, and the quantity of leaf you put in, it all has a contribution to the shape that you want to give that tea. Continue reading David Lee Hoffman, Tea Pioneer: Part I

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David Lee Hoffman Sipping Peace: Part II

American tea pioneer David Lee Hoffman discusses puerh, the Slow Food tea movement, and the benefits of organic, handcrafted family-made tea.
– Living with tea kings, learning to taste fine tea
– How To: Artisan tea crafting and family operations, and secrets
– Making American Handcrafted Puerhs
– Slow Food and the Fair Trade movement and tea
– Culinary pleasures of tea and living slowly
– Tea as an affordable path to world peace

Teas in this video… Puerh , Ancient Tea

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Organic Tea in Japan: Challenges Today

Ayumi Kinezuka visits us from Japan to talk about her organic tea farm in Shizuoka, and the challenges facing small artisan Japanese tea farmers today.
– Meet the family: an entire production from a small family operation
– Where are today’s generation of organic tea farmers? Challenges with aging tea farmers means fewer farmers making high-grade Japanese green tea
– Big beverage companies offering bottled green tea replaces Slow Tea
– Big business lacks microenvironment knowledge to manage small organic farms
– How can a consumer make a difference

Check out the Teas in this video…Organic Tea, Green Tea, and Fair Trade Tea.

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Slow Tea with Alice at Modern Tea

San Francisco tea-entrepreneur and owner of Modern Tea, Alice Cravens discusses her Slow Food Farmer’s Market philosophy, discussing challenges and opportunities to growers, distributors and sellers of organic food and tea.
– Organic, seasonal, artisan food philosophy at Modern Tea
– About the Slow Food Movement and why it’s important
– How to make a difference: visit a local farmer’s market
– Fair Trade Today, challenges and opportunities
– The environmental impact of importing tea to America

Teas in this video… Fair Trade Tea and Organic Tea.

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Tea with Winnie at Teance

Winnie Wu, owner of the Bay Area famed Teance, tastes Phoenix Oolong and talks about the evolution of tea in America and China and the cultural benefits to all.
– Tasting Phoenix Oolong, artisan, hand made Chinese tea
– The Teance tea bar: tasting tea at the tasting table
– Changing tea cultures in Asia: from artisan tea to tea bags
– Future of tea in America
– Physiological benefits of tea
– Why we are embracing tea culture today

Teas in this video…Oolong, Samovar’s Pheonix Oolong

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Tea with Norwood Part I: Brewing Enlightenment

Part I of Jesse’s Visit with Bay Area tea luminary and author of the famed “Tea Lover’s Treasury,” James Norwood Pratt. Norwood Pratt takes time to brew Lu Shan Chinese green tea and chat about tea’s history.
– Brewing tea at Norwood Pratt’s house
– Lu Shan, “Cloud and Mist” tea and what makes it special
– Buddhism and tea: an intertwined history
– Chinese shade grown tea, in a sea of “clouds and mist” makes an artisan tea
– The nature of reality, and drinking delicious tea
– Crafting your enlightenment poem…

Get Norwood’s Temperature Variable Tea Kettle.

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Tea with Norwood Part II: Rediscovering Ancient Realities

Part II of Jesse’s visit with Bay Area tea luminary and author of the famed “Tea Lover’s Treasury,” James Norwood Pratt. Norwood Pratt takes time to brew Lu Shan Chinese green tea and chat about tea’s history.
– Brewing tea at Norwood Pratt’s house
– Lu Shan, “Cloud and Mist” tea and what makes it special
– Buddhism and tea: an intertwined history
– Chinese shade grown tea, in a sea of “clouds and mist” makes an artisan tea
– The nature of reality, and drinking delicious tea
– Crafting your enlightenment poem

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Moroccan Tea Culture

Mostaffa and Omar brew traditional Moroccan tea and espouse on the harmonizing effects of Moroccan tea, Moroccan culture , and food- for all to embrace.
– How to make traditional Moroccan tea
– A gathering of family and friends around the Moroccan tea table
– Moroccan tea culture and the growing American tea culture
– The diverse ethnicities of Morocco and the unifying effect of tea

Teas in this video…Moorish Mint

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Robiraki: Celebrating Tea New Year

Christine in Kimono
Christine in Kimono

With all the New Year’s celebrations of the last couple months, I thought I’d write about a more obscure and subdued New Year’s celebration that I attended: Robiraki. You may never have heard of Robiraki because it usually takes place in November. November, in the world of Chado, the Japanese tradition of tea preparation, is the month of the first tea of the winter season.

Robiraki is very much the Tea New Year for practitioners of Japanese tea. Two exciting things happen in November:
1) The tea that was picked, processed, and put into storage to settle in the Spring is unveiled and turned into Matcha (powdered green tea). And…
2) The hearth upon which the water is boiled for making tea in the Japanese tearoom goes from resting above ground for the warmer months, to being in the ground for the winter. So, the furo (literally “wind hearth,” or brazier) season changes to the ro (sunken hearth) season.

Robiraki is simply an excellent opportunity to gather friends together to celebrate the changing of the season and to finally sample the year’s Matcha harvest.

Where I live, in San Francisco, we don’t have the blessing of obvious season change. No crimson and golden fall leaves, no white (or yellow) snow, our summer days come in patches throughout the year… so its really nice to have an event like this to mark the passage of time.

This past November, the San Francisco chado students celebrated Robiraki at the Urasenke Foundation school of chanoyu. It was a blustery, rainy day, the kind where rain is coming at you from all directions. Arriving at the school with umbrella and ankle-length raincoat, I was transported into another, much dryer world.

The space had been prepared so beautifully. On display, in a hollowed out gourd, were all the instruments used to build the fire: a beautiful brown and gray feather from a female peacock, large cylinders of charcoal, small sticks covered with some white substance for kindling, the iron rings for carrying the kama (caste iron cauldron), and a wild boar-shaped incense container.

Guests came from all over the Bay area, including the Urasenke teacher at Green Gulch Farm Zen Center in Muir Beach and two of her students. After settling into the quiet and dry dream world of the tearoom, we were served the zenzai, which was unlike anything I have ever had before: it was like a sweet red bean soup with whole red beans and the most delicious toasted mochi floating in it. It was such a treat!

In the tea room, the tokonoma (art alcove) had a gorgeous flower placement with a branch of orange and red leaves that looked like maple (but weren’t) and a very unusual pink Camellia that Christy Sensei searched far and wide for and finally found in a secret garden in Berkeley.Once the ro season has begun, we no longer see the wild flowers of spring and summer in the tearoom (even though we still find them in SF), now the only flowers are of the evergreen Camellia.

The scroll that hung in the tokonoma had bold characters that said MU JIN ZO, which means the Inexhaustible Treasure House– a sentiment that moved us to reflect on the inexhaustible treasure house of our lives.

For Robiraki thick tea (koicha) is served. This was only my second time drinking koicha and I have to say that it is definitely an acquired taste. To prepare it, it looked like the host poured in a whole 20 gram natsume (tea caddy) into the tea bowl (cha wan). Then she gracefully mixed the powder with boiling water using a bamboo whisk (chasen).

A higher grade, sweeter leaf tea is used for koicha than for the thin, frothy tea (usucha) that we serve at Samovar and learn to make as chado beginners. I was thankful for this sweeter Matcha because the koicha was potent enough without having too much bitterness to it. It was really something else: the consistency reminded me of hot fudge, and coated my mouth like smooth, thick, Matcha syrup.

Within moments my body felt the effects of such a concentrated dose of caffeine, catechins, vitamins, and anti-oxidants. Needless to say I was kookoo that evening… very, very jacked up.

Once everyone had had their share, we finished the Robiraki by admiring the utensils used to prepare the tea and the bowls used to serve it. That is one of my favorite parts of tea “ceremony;” the appreciation of all the attention to detail and careful selection of items by the host and recognition of the craftspeople who made the beautiful things that have been shared.

When I left the tea room, night had fallen and the rain had let up a bit. The first tea of the winter season coincided with the first rain. Things are in sync in the world of tea.


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Ryokucha Green Tea has Just Arrived from Japan… yum!

blogryokuchagreenteaFresh Ryokucha has just arrived.

Creamy, full bodied, matcha infused, malty, smooth & sweet, and with a mildly grassy finish. That’s Ryokucha, our special house-blended staple, and the ingredients are fresh from Japan.

This tea has a very complex taste, but a very simple effect: It feels good!

Ryokucha green tea is so popular because it’s easy to brew, tastes so pleasing, and is perfect for drinking all day long. Like a meal for breakfast, a pick-me-up midday, and a cozy soother for the evening, this tea has been a staff and customer favorite since we opened.

Ryokucha is Samovar’s version of Genmaicha, the beloved traditional toasted rice green tea, but ours has a twist! Click here to find out more about Ryokucha.

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Jennifer Sauer’s Interview with Jesse of Samovar (Part 2)


Jennifer Sauer, photographer, Bon Teavant, author of Way to Tea, (the beautiful guide to tea culture in the San Francisco Bay Area), shares her audio interview with Samovar founder, Jesse Jacobs.

Listen to the interview at Sauer’s website Bon Teavant.

Media Contact:
Jesse Cutler, Samovar: (415) 655-3431 / [email protected]

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Jennifer Sauer’s Interview with Jesse of Samovar (Part 1)

Tea Guy Jesse Jacobs
Tea Guy Jesse Jacobs

Jennifer Sauer, photographer, Bon Teavant, author of Way to Tea, (the beautiful guide to tea culture in the San Francisco Bay Area), shares her audio interview with Samovar founder, Jesse Jacobs.

See the original post at Sauer’s blog Bon Teavant

Media Contact:
Jesse Cutler, Samovar: (415) 655-3431 / [email protected]

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Samovar Tea Lounge: Tea culture and leadership in difficult times

Tea culture and leadership in difficult timesBon Teavant, Photographer, and Way To Tea Author,  Jennifer Sauer writes about tea, community, and leadership in these economically challenging times. Sauer looks to Samovar founder, Jesse Jacobs for his insight into tea…beyond the leaves.

Check out her blog and complete article

“Our communities look to us for sanctuary, community, compassion, and the opportunity for sharing ideas, dreams, and sorrows during these trying times.  Tea culture is the perfect vehicle for meeting the deeper needs of our friends, family, colleagues, and customers.

Jesse Jacobs, owner of Samovar Tea Lounge, is exactly this kind of community leader. As a testament to his success in this role, he just gathered the investment capital to open his third tea room.  I wondered, “How is this guy so incredibly successful in such a frightening and dismal economy?”  I had to find out for myself, so I interviewed Jesse.  What I found is that Jesse has a very strong grasp of what tea can provide our community beyond water and leaves.  His special understanding of what tea can do for people draws crowds magnetically to his charming and serene tearooms.  His depth and integrity are worth noting, and in fact, are the driving force behind his great success.
Tea culture is the antidote to solitary striving. It is a vehicle to community and sanctuary, to the kindness and compassion that help us survive and moreover, to thrive, even in the face of seemingly insurmountable odds.  As leaders of our community, it is our job to provide a safe haven for those needing solace, a good place to laugh or to cry, and to brainstorm new solutions to triumph over fear and difficulty. This is a part of our path and destiny as tea people.  In this era, we can shine.”

Media Contact:
Jesse Cutler, Samovar: (415) 655-3431 / [email protected]