Excerpt from Bruce Richardson’s Article in Fresh Cup Magazine, “San Francisco, America’s Gateway to Tea”
Not all tea experiences in San Francisco are either Asian or contemporary. Traditional European-inspired tea experiences are still popular occurrences at the palatial hotels such as The Ritz- Carlton, The Fairmont, The Sheraton Palace, The King George and The Renaissance Stanford Court. The city also holds a wealth of British afternoon tearooms catering to ladies in hats and serving tea with all the petit fours and lace you can imagine. However, this style is giving way to what some call “California nouveau,” a tea experience that centers more on the leaf and less on the cliche?.
Samovar Tea Lounge is a prime example of how tea is putting on a new face in America by combining the best of several tea and dining cultures. At the original location, straddling the Mission and Castro districts, you’ll find a mix of young professionals, col- lege students and neighborhood regulars who drop by every day to enjoy a pot of tea and pastry or a light meal. Russian, British, Chinese and Japanese tea service are all offered in this eclectic setting. Nowhere else will you see a guest enjoying a bento box accompanied by a bowl of green gyokuro tea sitting next to a diner drinking a pot of lapsang souchong and nibbling away at a three- tiered stand of English afternoon tea sweets and savories.
The popularity of the hospitable Samovar has spawned a second location in Yerba Buena Gardens, just steps from the Moscone Convention Center. As is true of any outstanding teahouse, the emphasis here is on the tea. From aged earthy pu-erh to flowery Earl Grey, there is a tea on the menu for every palate. Each is brewed and served according to tradition. Packaged teas bearing the Samovar Tea Lounge logo are the favorite take-away item at both locations.
San Franciscans may not realize what an extraordinary wealth of tea-drinking opportunities they have at their doorstep. With
its multicultural neighborhoods, diverse shops and ethnic restau- rants, this blended metropolis offers unique tea experience after unique tea experience. The ancient brew has become infused into the life of this city unlike any other in the United States.
In “The Way of Tea,” Sauer issues an invite: “I cordially offer you this invitation to our local tea party, whether a Chinese tea
tasting, an afternoon tea at luxury hotel, an austere Japanese tea ceremony, or a night out with friends at a tea nightclub. You
can bring a hat, a kimono, a fan, a bird, a book, or a pair of white gloves. Or just come as you are. You’ll fit right in. I promise.”
It remains true, as Pratt has written: “A love of tea inevitably engenders friendships around the world and any one writing a
book about tea is wise to live in San Francisco, where friends from around the world may be discovered living next door.”
50 Fresh Cup Magazine. freshcup.com
Jesse Cutler, Samovar: (415) 655-3431 / [email protected]