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Bargain Books + Free Wifi = Goodby Borders San Francisco

What’s interesting about this photo? How about the fact that this company is paying top San Francisco real estate dollar to sell bargain books, and all the while offering free wifi (where customers are capable of ordering the same bargain books cheaper from Amazon!)? What’s interesting is that they remained in business for so long operating with this as a business model. Truly I am saddened at the loss of a local book store.

I am not saddened at the loss of a big chain style store that put the local bookstore out of business. But then look what happened: Borders tried to be everything to everybody. They added in a Seattle’s Best coffee shop to be “cafe like.” But the plastic chairs, stale coffee, cheap snacks, and smile-less service didn’t make it a neighborhood coffee shop anything like Philz (across the street). And offering cheapo books could never compete with Amazon. And offering free wifi….well where’s the business in that?

I am really amazed that a company with (at one time) so much resources and power would just throw ideas at the wall never realizing that the more they threw, the less special of a business they’d become. Until now…and they are closing. I am sad because I really did like to go through there to brainstorm, browse, and, sadly never buy. Instead I would make my purchases either from Amazon, when I knew exactly what I wanted, or, from my favorite awsome local San Francisco bookstores: Christopher’s, and Green Apple books. I did mention to the manager as I was leaving that their closing was really sad and an interesting sign of the times. I also offered her an idea that I would pay real money for: 

Why not make the space really inviting, comfortable, and cool, and charge customers an entrance fee – and then just do “print on demand.” Supposedly those machines go for just $50,000, and can print and bind any pdf book! And, if the space was really cool, and comfy, and had great lighting, then I and others would happily pay an admission fee just to hang out. The manager just smiled and shrugged her shoulders. Oh well. 

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Business is Nothing – But Community (Part 2)

One of the funniest ironies about technology and improvement is that as we make giant technological leaps ever day, and get ever more “connected,” we are at the same time we are also getting more disconnected from each other and the world. Author Bill McKibbons wrote recently in Mother Jones Magazine that ever since 1956, the “Happiness Index” of Americans has been going down. How can this be, amidst an ever improving “standard of living,” that we are getting progressively unhappy? Continue reading Business is Nothing – But Community (Part 2)

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Business is Nothing – But Stories (Part 1)

We are born and we do a bunch of stuff and then we die. The stuff we do between birth and death is actually just a whole bunch of stories, and business is one outlet of those stories. How we interact with each other and our environment is the story of business.

At the end of the day at Samovar our business is not how much money we made or lost, not what teas were bought or sold, not which employees showed up for work. No, at the end of the day at Samovar, when the last scones have been sold, and the last pot of tea brewed, the floor cleaned, and the lights turned off, at the end of that day all that is left is just a bunch of stories. And the stories are absolutely fascinating. That is business.

Continue reading Business is Nothing – But Stories (Part 1)

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Samovar Stories: Tea With Starters & Doers

Join me as I take the time to hang out and drink tea with some of the most inspiring and motivated people in the world today. Some household names, and some not, authors, thinkers, creators and doers – this trailer offers just a few highlights of the upcoming videos. So please do subscribe to RSS feed or the iTunes podcast.
Continue reading Samovar Stories: Tea With Starters & Doers

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Samovar Yerba Buena Live: Tea & Wine Tasting with Gary Vaynerchuk and Kevin Rose

The first ever wine and tea tasting with my friends Gary Vaynerchuk, Kevin Rose. Filmed live at Samovar in downtown SF, this episode features these teas:
Downy Sprout, Gyukoro Inoka Hill, RyokuchaMonkey Picked Iron Goddess of MercyPhoenix oolong, Hong Yue, and Blood Orange Pu-erh.

And these wines:

  • Shibumi Knoll Chardonay 2008
  • Shibumi Knoll Cab 2007
  • Kistler Sonoma Chardonnay 2007
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Leadership (and Love) Begin in Silence

If your actions inspire others to dream more, learn more, do more and become more, you are a leader.

— John Quincy Adams quotes (American 6th US President (1825-29), eldest son of John Adams, 2nd US president. 1767-1848)

In business and in life, we have the profound potential to influence other people, leaving in the wake of our life reverberating actions that can forever positively influence others. Call it what you will: Karma, Cause and Effect, What-Goes-Around-Comes-Around, etc. Whether you’re a supermarket bagger, or a Fortune-500 CEO, the fact is that each and every one of us has an impact on the world and other people, to make a huge and lasting difference. And that’s great – because what else is there really, than love? When it comes right down to it, isn’t what really matters most expressing and experiencing love? For me, love starts with leadership, amongst friends, family, and even in work.

Continue reading Leadership (and Love) Begin in Silence

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How to Brew Tea

The Three Pillars of The Perfect Brew: Tea, Temperature & Time.

If you’ve read How Tea is Made, then the next question is perhaps, “Ok, how do I make a cup?”. This art involves the balancing of three variables: amount of tea, water temperature, and steeping time. Since flavor is subjective, only you can determine what the right recipe is for your palate.

To begin your experimentation, start with the following guidelines:

Tea. Use 1-2 tablespoons of tea per 8oz cup. Get the most flavor from your tea by using more tea for short steeping periods.

Temperature. Always start with the best tasting water you can find: filtered, spring, or even “mountain stream fresh.” Most of teas in our collection, are robust enough to handle boiling water, but do read the brewing notes for each tea. For example, we recommend brew Green Ecstasy with a mix of hot and cold water.

Time. Steep the first infusion for 15-30 seconds. The first infusion releases a wave of flavors which can be overpowering. Get to know

Repeat. Re-steep for 5-20 additional infusions, increasing the brew time to taste.

Expert Notes

  • For Pu-erh & Oolong teas: Awaken the leaves. Rinse leaves with boiling water prior to first infusion.
  • Experiment with water temperature. Start with a rolling boiling and then try different temperatures to get the flavor you like best.
  • Brew with a gaiwan for maximum effect.



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How to Brew Masala Chai

Our Organic Masala Chai has people from all over the Bay Area coming to the Lounges for that cozy, creamy, and dreamy experience. Our secret Masala Chai blend was created from a combination of several collected family recipes from across India.We use only organic whole spices and organic, whole-leaf black tea. The resulting drink is a perfect and flavorful balance of spice and tea… and totally addictive.

Here’s how to make the perfect, creamy, steamy cup of Chai:

  • Bring 2 cups water to a rolling boil.
  • Add 2 tablespoons sweetener (we like our Balinese Samovar Sweet Crystals because they’re healthy and good for the environment).
  • When sweetener is dissolved in boiling water, add 2 tablespoons Masala Chai + 1–2 tablespoons of your favorite black tea (add more black tea for more caffeine kick).
  • Boil together for 5 minutes.
  • Add 1 cup whole milk (or milk substitute). Bring to a boil again.
  • Remove from heat immediately (before it boils over).
  • Steep covered for 5 minutes.
  • Strain and enjoy!
  • Tastes great hot, or, chilled. Serves 2.


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Magic Matcha: From Tea Leaf to Green Tea to You

From Process to Ritual

Mystery hovers over this magical tea. Although not the most popular of green teas, it is likely the most exotic. Matcha’s unique processing begins with a shade grown tea leaf, yielding an intensely green, chlorophyll infused leaf. Once dried, the leaves are pulverized to dust between two large granite plates.

The magic of this tea is left to the user, making as big or as little ceremony as is necessary. To learn more about the history and ceremony, watch this video with Christy Bartlett of the San Francisco Uransenke Society. The joy of this tea happens not only in each sip but in the preparation. Hand-whisked with a bamboo chasen until soft green peaks form on its surface, this tea is blended, and not infused like other leaves.

Continue reading Magic Matcha: From Tea Leaf to Green Tea to You

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March 14, 2011

Samovar Downy Sprout – Look at those downy white hairs!

You have to strive every minute to get rid of the life that you have planned in order to have the life that’s waiting to be yours. Move. Move. Move into the transcendent. That’s the whole sense of adventure, I think.

– An Open Life: Joseph Campbell in Conversation with Michael Toms

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Samovar In SFGate: Offerings that fit you to…well, a tea

SFGate recommends Samovar’s Blood Orange Pu-Erh in the February 23, 2011 article “Offerings that fit you to…well, a tea”, saying:

Blood Orange Pu-erh

Samovar Tea Lounge has added an organic pu-erh tea from Yunnan, China, blended with ginger, orange peel and the essential oil from blood orange and grapefruit, to its already impressive menu. Pu-erh is believed to have many health benefits, and the leaves thrive under many infusions, so you can brew over and over.

“Offerings that fit you to…well, a tea”
By Sarah Adler
February 23, 2011
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In the Field: Tea Festival in Shizuoka, Japan

Last spring Samovar Ambassador Lindsey Goodwin visited our friend Ayumi Kinezuka, organic tea farmer in Shizuoka, Japan. Here, Lindsey shares her experiences and the impact of participating in an annual tea festival held by Ayumi’s farming community:

In May, I visited some friends of Samovar – a family of tea producers with connections to the Bay Area – in the mountains of Shizuoka, Japan. During my time there, I sampled seasonal delicacies, participated in a “tea festival” and sensed community and peace through tea.

It was a deeply meaningful experience to me as a tea-loving foodie, but it has far broader implications surrounding human interconnection, connection to the land and the significance of good tea and good food.
Continue reading In the Field: Tea Festival in Shizuoka, Japan

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World Tea, Las Vegas Style

July 2010

Every year we attend the World Tea Expo in sunny Las Vegas, Nevada. Yes, it is very ironic that small family tea farmers and tea companies from around the world gather in Vegas of all places. But, it is what it is, and ultimately it is a blast. This year the Samovar team included Erick, Laura, Tiffany, Jesus, and me. Unfortunately, Erick did not win the World Tea Brewing Championships taking the title back to SF. Maybe next year. In this video we recap our time tasting tea, musing on the tea business, and how to stay alive and sane in Vegas. Enjoy!

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Old School: How to Build an Inspired Company According to the Big Boys (Google, Facebook, Samovar)

Check out this engaging panel discussion at the 2010 Wisdom 2.0 conference. Panelists included Meng Tan (Head of Personal Growth, Google), Stuart Crabb (Head of Learning & Development, Facebook), and yours truly. What do some of the biggest titans of Tech have in common with a little company like Samovar? Culture. A great company culture equals a great company. It’s not easy, and it is a work in constant progress, but what else is there? Culture creates inspiration, for employees first, and then for customers.