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Herbal Blend Tasting

Herbal Blend Tasting

Samovar Tea Lounge has some of the most delicious Herbal and Tea Blends out there. Have you ever wondered how Samovar chooses which teas and herbals to serve?

Join Jesse Jacobs and Erick Xicum as they taste variations of 3 herbal blends and decide which botanicals will win Samovar’s seal of  approval and be sold and served at Samovar Tea Lounge. The three (soon to be for sale) herbal blends featured in this tasting are 1) Rooibos and Yerba Maté Blend 2) Wei Chi Cha Herbal Blend and 3) Kukicha Twig Tea and Yerba Maté Blend

Learn about how Samovar evaluates and tastes teas by observing 4 characteristics:
1)The aroma
2) The body
3)The flavor
4) The aftertaste

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Tea and Chocolate: Pairs Samovar Teas with Chocolate

Liquid Chocolate from TChing.comTea and chocolate: Some marriages are made in heaven
posted by Robert Wemischner on | 06.24.09

It’s not surprising that tea and chocolate make good tasting partners. Although the cacao plant’s terroir and the tea plant’s terroir only overlap north and south of the equator, the saying “what grows together goes together” is at least partly true.  (Cacao grows within 20 degrees of the equator while tea is cultivated up to 43 degrees north and 30 degrees south of the equator.)  As a recent tasting revealed, “theobroma” – aka the food of the gods (and mortals too) – proved to be a fitting and sometimes even stellar partner with a wide variety of teas served hot enough to melt the chocolate luxuriantly on the tongue.

The plan was to taste six chocolates straight from their wrappers from five different manufacturers – three U.S. producers (Theo, a bean-to-bar producer based in Seattle that sources beans from Madagascar and the Ivory Coast and two Hershey-owned subsidiaries, Scharffenberger, cacao origin unspecified, and Dagoba, using cacao from Dominican Republic) and two other companies (Kallari, an Ecuadorian producer using organic beans, and long-established Valor, based in Spain, sourcing beans from Ghana, Panama, and Ecuador).

The teas were courtesy of Jesse Jacobs of Samovar Tea Lounge in San Francisco.  My intention was to pair each of the chocolates with each of six different tea types:

1. Downy Sprout white tea from China, which was completely overwhelmed in this dark chocolate setting (I am convinced that few, if any, white teas should be consumed any way but alone)

2.  The single-flavored variety, Jasmine Pearl green, which stood up beautifully to the creamy richness of the Kallari 70% bar, contributing its layers of luxurious floral personality to the inherent caramel, nutty notes in the chocolate

3.  Hika Sencha from Kagoshima, Japan

4.  Wuyi Dark Roast oolong from Fujian, China

5.  Ancient Gold, a malty black tea from Yunnan, China

6.  Maiden’s Ecstasy Pu-erh from Yunnan, China

There were some surprises, with the standouts showing a well-balanced dialogue of flavors and mouth feel.  Memorable pairings included the following:

•   Kallari with the oolong, which accentuated the positives in both the tea and the chocolate

•    Japanese Sencha, which benefited from a preliminary washing of the leaves in room-temperature filtered water before the brewing proper.  Its most compatible partner was the Theo 75% dark chocolate bar (total percentage of cocoa solids and cocoa butter) using beans from the Ivory Coast.  Despite a slightly gritty texture (probably due to a deliberate shortened conching time during processing), the chocolate’s citrusy notes prevailed and, in fact, persisted when tasted with the Yunnan black as well.

•    Pu-erh came into its own with the Scharffenberger extra dark 82% bar, which suggested caramelized citrus rind, a kind of marmalade essence that lingered long after the last bit of chocolate disappeared from the palate.  Only strips of candied orange peel dipped in this chocolate would have made a better pairing with the tea.

So many teas, so many chocolates, so little time…

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The Whole Leaf Magazine Features Samovar Tea Lounge

Samovar Hayes Valley
Samovar Hayes Valley

You can’t take it with you: The not-to-go teahouse model

By Nadine Goff

Below is an excerpt from Nadine Goff’s article, which features Samovar Tea Lounge. Goff writes about tea houses that encourage customers to sit and stay awhile rather than take tea to go. which featured Samovar Tea Lounge.

“… When Jesse Jacobs, owner of San Francisco’s Samovar Tea Lounge, opened his first location in 2001, he thought of teahouses as the tea equivalent of the local coffeehouse, so he offered takeaway service. But he says he soon learned that in order to survive, he needed to change his business model—including eliminating takeaway service. ‘The average person doesn’t know much about tea and needs more knowledge,” he says. “We needed to educate people about tea and value.’

Jacobs notes that it was difficult to persuade customers to pay $3 to $10 for loose-leaf brewed tea in a paper cup when they were comparing the price to a $1.50 tea bag in a paper cup filled with hot water. ‘We needed to create a rich, robust experience to justify the price and bring people back to Samovar,’ he says. One way to do this was to serve tea in an authentic form (loose leaf, properly brewed) to customers who were sitting down. Another way was to educate them about the possibilities for multiple infusions.

In the past three years, Jacobs has opened two more Samovar Tea Lounges in the San Francisco area. Although each location features a different physical structure, they share a similar design aesthetic that Jacobs describes as  ‘slightly Asian with modern functionality.’…”

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Samovar Hayes Valley added to Google Maps Favorite Places

Samovar regular, Sean posing pretty with our Google Maps Favorite Places pin sign outside of Samovar Hayes Valley
Samovar regular, Sean posing pretty with our Google Maps Favorite Places pin sign outside of Samovar Hayes Valley

Samovar is excited to announce that the founder of, Kevin Rose selected our new Hayes Valley location as one of his “Favorite Places” as part of Google Maps latest initiative.

This month, Google Maps launched a new international campaign pinpointing local celebrities’ favorite haunts, highlighting venues such as restaurants and clubs recommended by luminaries based in each chosen city (i.e. New York, London, SF, etc).

San Francisco features locations selected by such celebs as Gavin Newsom, Alice Waters, Grant Washburn, Tiffany Shlain and several others.

Thanks Kevin!

Read more about Google Maps Favorite Places Pin Signs

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Jodet in Taiwan: Part IV

Jodet, a flower in the middle of a tea field.
Jodet, a flower in the middle of a tea field.

The next day was the most exciting tea-adventure of my entire life. Many hours of oolong processing took place in Mr.Chen’s factory, but Lorraine and I also traveled through some dangerously unpaved roads to the most picturesque-perfect tea gardens I have ever seen.

Roads on which you see covered over beautiful crisp fog and neatly trimmed tea bushes in extremely high elevation mountains in Fujian Province. We traveled and traveled, and suddenly, it was as if we were transported into tea-heaven.

I was speechless at how well-maintained these gardens were. It was a dangerous endeavor for us, but for Mr.Chen and his team, this was the norm. Fairly impressive, as I now appreciate tea on a whole other scale.

Tea Heaven
Misty Tea Heaven

Some of the actual processing of the oolongs took place by Mr.Chen’s employees while we were traveling through the tea jungles. Mr.Chen surprised us with the adventure in between the day (since we had spent the majority of the time tasting tea, filming, shooting photos and processing). At times, it was challenging to completely understand what was really taking place in the process, with the language barrier between our translator Rebecca.

Visually from what we witnessed first and foremost was that there were several machines used to create the final process. All those words that I had once studied about tea were finally coming to life: pack rolling, dry racking, kneading, bruising, oxidizing, drying, rolling. Wow.

In my next blog post, I will focus more on the educational aspects of how and what was done in the process of creating the oolong we hand-picked in the gardens. I’m excited about sharing all the great visuals and information, and I hope that those who are reading this can also enjoy the experience and memories I brought back home from Nantou.

~Jodet for Samovarlife

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Sharing Tea and Making Peace in Vietnam

Paul Greeting Red Szao Women in Northern Vietnam
Paul greeting Red Szao women in Northern Vietnam

What in the world does a warm cup of water and some herbs have to do with uncovering Life’s meaning? Or fostering peace amongst the people of planet earth?

Discover how the power of Tea Ceremony turns simple, ritualized acts into transformative, life altering experiences.

Sixty kilometers east of Hanoi, our metal, flat-bottomed skiff plied the muddied shallows of the Yen River, past the foot of the Mountain of the Perfume Traces. A short way up from the river sat the Perfume Pagoda, one of northern Vietnam’s most popular sites of worship during the Tet Holiday season.

Tet is Vietnam’s lunar new years, a popular time for families to get together for meals, fellowship and prayer. The Perfume Pagoda, Chua Huong Tich, dedicated to Quan Am, the guardian Spirit of Mother and Child, is one of several shrines built into the limestone caves of this lush, mountainous region.

Vietnam Tea Boat
The beauty of the Yen River

Our short glide up the river left my friend and guide, Tuan, relaxed and happy.  I thanked our pretty oarswoman, Tuan translating, and we disembarked.  Before getting on with the next leg of our pilgrimage to the pagoda cave, Tuan suggested a ‘comfort stop’, his term for a short rest, beverage and snack.

A cool breeze rippled the river and sent the moored sampans bobbing. We walked a few minutes before arriving at a rough and ready little market where Tuan found us a wobbly table in a tarp-covered, makeshift restaurant, filled with the infamous, Asian low plastic stools.

On this late morning, I was the standout white guy, the token American who within minutes had drawn a small crowd of village children, gawking, laughing and pointing, amused at me as if I’d come in dressed as a clown. While my Vietnamese vocabulary extends to a few dozen phrases, I take pride in my ability to at least imitate the language’s six tones.

If I was to be the morning’s entertainment, I figured why not play it to the hilt? I hit the youngsters with a few of my best lines: “I swam up river. No boat! No boat for me!”

Tuan and I did a Laurel and Hardy shtick, where he’d whisper my fun observations back to me in Vietnamese that I would then parrot back to the crowd.
“Where are you from?” one boy asked in English.
“I am from Wei!” I bluffed, giving him the name of a seaside city on the central coast.

Tuan, familiar with my routines, set about ordering a few dishes of sautéed vegetables and tofu, rice, pho, a thinly sliced meat and rice noodle dish, and Vietnamese coffee. I’d come to love this sweet concoction of condensed milk, sugar and chicory flavored coffee beans.

Out of nowhere, a middle-aged man with a husky build and a scowl imposed himself on our languid meal. Plastic stool in hand, he plunked down opposite our spot, leaned in and began upbraiding me in rapid-fire Vietnamese, his spittle adding an un-welcomed new flavor to my pho. Too overwhelmed by the intrusion to respond, I darted Tuan a look that said, “Am I in trouble here?”

Tuan too was speechless. I couldn’t understand a word of the Vietnamese, but when he began pantomiming gunfire, it was hard to misread his play by play of what I guessed to be U.S. violence against his countrymen during the American War. He didn’t look as if he was going to heave my bowl of pho in my face as much as let my American ass fill a need to unburden some seriously pent up anger.

“He’s talking about the war with America. He’s talking about the past,” I say to Tuan.
Tuan nodded.
Our aggressive, uninvited guest’s diatribe begins to lose momentum, an opening I took to respond.
“Tell him,” I said to Tuan, “the past is called the past… because it’s in the past.”
The angry man’s face drew a blank and he stopped screaming at me. He rose, withdrawing from our table as abruptly as he’d appeared. The children recoiled a bit but lingered, all traces of smiles and mischief gone from their faces.

What was left of my meal was nudged to the side, as I turned to Tuan to get the check in hopes of retreat. I feared I hadn’t seen the last of our visitor. When the waiter came, I handed my wallet to Tuan who fished out enough money to cover our tab. I felt a bit too jarred to even bid the children adieu. I just wanted to get out of there, when the man reappeared suddenly, marching toward us.

Tuan enjoys peace shared over tea.
A peace offering - tea for three

To my relief, I saw that it wasn’t a firearm or machete he held in his hand, but what looked to be a turquoise teapot and three small cups.

It was the same man and it wasn’t. His entire demeanor had changed. I still couldn’t understand his words, but his voice was filled with warmth. He pressed on my shoulder to sit me back down. A man who had spit on me 10 minutes earlier was now pouring me a cup of tea. Following a formalized action that said, “I’m over it”, he filled my cup and called to the waiter, who brought over a plate of cassava sweets.

We each introduced ourselves. Photos came out of wallets. Surprisingly few words were exchanged, mostly nods and a feeling of goodwill. Each time I finished my cup, which only required two good sips, my new comrade quickly refilled it. Our plan to reach the Perfume Pagoda felt deferred. Whatever healing might come from visiting a Buddhist shrine was taking place right here, now.

~Paul T. for

Samovar’s Ceremonial blog contributor, Paul T. reaches for Monkey Picked Iron Goddess of Mercy, Kuan Yin’s classic elixir, to ease the monkey mind and loves getting the job done with assistance from the smoky buzz of Samovar’s Russian Blend.

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Samovar Tea Lounge Voted “Best Cup of Tea” in San Francisco Magazine’s “Best of the Bay 2009”

logoSamovar Tea Lounge is proud to announce our first place win for “Best Cup of Tea” in San Francisco Magazine’s “Best of the Bay 2009” Reader’s Poll. To view a full list of winners, please visit:

By the way, this is our 2nd year voted best tea in San Francisco 2008 – 2009.

Voted Best Cup of Tea in San Francisco, California,  USA
Samovar Tea Lounge: 297 Page St., San Francisco, CA

730 Howard St., San Francisco, CA

498 Sanchez St., S.F., San Francisco, CA

Or visit our online shop at:

In celebration of Summer, our favorite teas for icing and mixing are 20% off until July 14th, 2009 with the coupon code: CHILLTEA20. Start Shopping Now:

Jasmine Pearl Green Tea
{link:}Jasmine Pearl Green Tea{/link}
Osmanthus Silver Needle White Tea
{link:}Osmanthus Silver Needle White Tea{/link}
Lychee Black
{link:}Lychee Black Tea{/link}
Yunnan Golden Bud Black Tea
{link:}Yunnan Golden Bud Black Tea{/link}
Monkey Picked Iron Goddess Oolong
{link:}Monkey Picked Iron Goddess Oolong{/link}
Blood Orange Pu-erh Tea
{link:}Blood Orange Pu-erh Tea{/link}
Moorish Mint Herbal Tea Blend
{link:}Moorish Mint Herbal Tea Blend{/link}
Orange Ginger Herbal Blend
{link:}Orange Ginger Herbal Blend{/link}
Lobocha Sencha Green Tea
{link:}Lobocha Sencha Green Tea{/link}
Lapsang Souchong Black Tea
{link:}Lapsang Souchong Black Tea{/link}
Rooibos Herbal Infusion
{link:}Rooibos Herbal Infusion{/link}

See all of our teas and tea ware in our online store

Also we are having a 40% off our hand made Pu-erh Tea Cup while supplies last

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Stir It Up: Tea Punches – Something Cool for Summer

Fruit and Tea Punch
Berries, Citrus, Mint, and Tea

Tea and punch have a long history together. Some say punch originated in India, where it was made from five key ingredients. (In

Hindi, the word for five is “panch.” Many think this is where the word “punch” originated.)

These five key ingredients were: lemon or lime juice, sugar, water, liquor and vaguely defined “spice,” which could mean something we currently think of as “spice” (like nutmeg), something we would probably shun today (like a whale secretion that’s only used is perfume these days), or (yes, yes) tea.

Continue reading Stir It Up: Tea Punches – Something Cool for Summer

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Santigold Hypes Samovar Tea Lounge in Blackbook Magazine

Santigold, Samovar sends the love right back!
{link:}Santigold, Samovar sends the love right back!{/link}

Indie-pop songstress Santigold hypes Samovar Tea Lounge in Blackbook Magazine; selecting Samovar for “What restaurant would you eat at every day if you could.”

Santigold says, “…right now I like this place called Samovar Tea Lounge in San Francisco. They should bring it to New York!”


Read more of Vanita Salisbury’s June 11, 2009 interview at