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(Part I) Notes from Teresa in India: I Arrive!

Since every journey has its beginning, this one starts in the cozy shelter of Samovar Tea Lounge in San Francisco, and ends on the streets of India.


Having loved tea with its different varieties since my teenage years in the Czech Rebpulic, it has always been a necessity for me to find a good tea spot wherever I live. So when I moved to San Francisco last August and started my desperate tea search, Samovar was one of the names that came up. I soon realized it was my favorite place to visit, and, yet that if I kept up my student life, I would go broke drinking up my savings!

And so, knowing well that I loved the environment there, I decided it would be a perfect place to work (and, I could drink all the tea I wanted!) It was always wonderful to cross the Yerba Buena Gardens when going to work, which never really felt like work but rather like a community of people sharing similar values and love for tea. Doing matcha services, smelling the opening leaves of dong ding, hearing the church bells from across the Mission street, joking with my colleagues (who I miss and send my love to)…that all was part of my job which I very much enjoyed.

When the idea of my leaving to India came up, I was, of course, sad to say goodbye to all the tea-lounging of Samovarites and to all the friends I made there within the few months I was part of the TEAm. At the same time, I knew the India experience would bring a lot of joy to my life and to the life of others as well.
My mission in India is to make a difference, to help other people live their life in a rich and satisfying manner—and I decided to put my educational training (in education) into play by starting a program targeted at helping homeless Indian girls.

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Mi Xiang Oolong and Our Purchasing Philosophy


The Awe-Inspiring Mi Xiang Oolong
The Awe-Inspiring Mi Xiang Oolong

Jill, a regular customer of ours recently inquired how we, a “socially responsible company” could be so insensitive as to purchase the entire existing lot of Mi Xiang oolong tea–and that our doing so was an indication of Samovar turning into a big, careless corporation. I disagreed, and responded to her with the letter below. I have posted it to our blog because I feel it provides some good insight into who we really are. Enjoy!

Hi Jill–
Thank you for writing, and, for your concern about the purchasing stance of Samovar Tea Lounge. I thought I would write to let you how and when and why we buy tea, to hopefully ease your concern about Samovar.

My friend Josh is married to a Taiwanese woman, and he travels regularly to Taiwan to visit her family. Her family’s neighbors grow this tea for themselves, and, when he tasted it with them over dinner and realized how amazing it was, he asked if they were interested in selling it to an American customer base. They did not believe there was a market in America for a tea like this–so unusual, so premium an oolong, and, so rare. They had all the tea they needed, so, they sold him 20 lbs to take to America. Josh is a one-man-shop, and, just starting out in the US to make inroads to the burgeoning tea market. He knows of Samovar’s national presence with online sales, and of our strong Bay Area presence among locals coming to our store, and, he wanted to jump start his business, and introduce a really unusual, artisanal, and delicious tea, but didn’t know how–so I offered to sell it for him, to try it out with our customers.

Mi Xiang was an immediate hit, and we sold out 3 lbs (600 servings!) in less than two weeks. I told him that the risk was well taken, and, that if he didn’t have any other interested buyers, that I would happily take the rest of it because we had so many customers asking for more Mi Xiang. And so, he sold me the remaining 17.5 lbs (now down to about 10 lbs actually)–because of customer requests.

I understand your sensitivity to “corporate America,” and I couldn’t agree with you more about greed. I hope you do see the difference in this situation, especially because Samovar is the furthest thing possible from corporate America.

To give you some examples:
We’re not a corporation. Samovar is owned by me, and my two friends Paul and Robert–and it is run by an amazing staff.

Also, I don’t think corporate America provides massage, acupuncture, and free yoga to their employees! I believe strongly that if we do our best to take care of the people who make Samovar special, they will take care of Samovar, making it special–ie, the polar opposite of corporate America.

I hope I did not bore you with the length of this email, and that the information has been useful in clarifying Samovar’s stance. Feel free to email me directly if you have any other questions or concerns–or do say “hi” if you’re ever in either location!

Thanks again,



Below is the customer’s email:

Dear Samovar,
Thank you for the Newsletter. I was, however, sorry to read that you had
bought all of this tea “in existence.” How greedy of you! Reading
that fact did not sit well with me. You could have left some for others perhaps? I guess that’s corporate America–for you-all or nothing. Living like there’s no tomorrow-is that what
global warming is about? Thank you for listening. No need to reply to this letter.