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Blackbook Magazine Highlights Samovar


San Francisco: Top 10 Eggs Not for Breakfast
by Katie Robbins
October 6, 2009

Samovar Tea Lounge (The Castro)

“This bastion of relaxation pays homage to the tea rituals of many great chai-centric societies, including a classic English service, a Moorish medley, and a Chinese tea tasting. If your hot beverage mood is steering you to Russia with love, then the house-blend black tea goes brilliantly with Samovar’s devilled eggs, which takes the traditional Ruskie whole wheat blini topped with caviar and egg yolk and inverts it, instead stuffing the egg with caviar and serving alongside wheat crackers.”

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

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Three Recommendations And A Petition

Drinking Tea on the Terrace at Samovar Yerba Buena
Drinking Tea on the Terrace at Samovar Yerba Buena

We are happily spoiled in the San Francisco Bay Area when it comes to tea, and all the more so because we have three fabulous Samovar Tea Lounges to choose from.  Having even one would be a great boon to any town, but three?  Wow… Or ‘Yum,’ I’m not sure which.

Although I haven’t tried everything on the Samovar menu, I can recommend some favorites. First, the Tea Soup is a celestial creation.  It’s simple, healthy, flavorful, and comes with a half pot of Houjicha green tea (the first half pot is actually poured by the server over the soup bowl which is filled with rice, veggies, wakame, and shitake mushrooms).  It’s elegant, healthy, whimsical, and delicious—everything we look for in fine Bay Area cuisine.

Another Samovar Delight: Tofu Curry with Raita and Spiced Basmati Rice
Another Samovar Delight: Tofu Curry with Raita and Spiced Basmati Rice

I’ve also been sensually hijacked by the Braised Tofu Over Spring Greens, which, like the Tea Soup, stands out for its natural simplicity and vegetarian fabulousness.  Covered with a tarragon-balsamic vinaigrette, this salad is a filling but light meal that satisfies even those who seem to need protein every two hours.

The last time I had this, I paired it with the Phoenix Oolong, which is as carefully handcrafted as the sumptuous salad.

Any meal is not complete in my world unless it is followed by something sweet. I have wanted to try something other than the Cherry Oat Scones with Devonshire Cream & Jam, but to no avail.  These scones are so delicious, I would have to simultaneously place an order of these to wrap up and take home with me so I might feel it to be a sensible risk to try another sweet. Even still, I would feel a bit like a defector, and my loyalty is always on the side of clotted cream.  But this defection has not yet happened because of the following ditty (and a rather pithy protest of sorts):

There is this one last item to mention, more as an appeal than as a recommendation, because, alas, Jesse has taken the Earl Grey Bread Pudding (italics mine, in place of sophomoric exclamation points) off the menu.

More deliciousness: Salmon Jook with nori, fried garlic, sweet potato, and more!
More deliciousness: Salmon Jook with nori, fried garlic, sweet potato, and more!

Seeing as the internet is socially viral, I’d like to take this opportunity to start a formal petition to get this item back on the printed page and onto our plates as soon as it is humanly possible to do so.

I brought a food and wine editor from Chronicle Books to Samovar a year or so ago just to share this little piece of Nirvana, and after taking just a few bites she asked if I thought Jesse might be interested in a cookbook deal (which he was not, because apparently he was putting all his resources and energy into out-doing himself with the now Chocolate Chip Brioche bread pudding).

Chocolate is fine, but this is a tea lounge, Jesse, and we want the Earl Grey Bread Pudding back, don’t we folks?  Fill the S.T.L. e-mailbox with your request to bring this item back:  [email protected]  There.  Go ahead and do it.  Show them the muscle and integrity of your culinary citizenship.

In the meantime, the scones are not a mere consolation prize.  You may as well enjoy them for any occasion, short of celebrating the return of the Earl Grey Bread Pudding.  They go well with just about any tea….

Jennifer Leigh Sauer for Samovar Life

Jennifer Leigh Sauer, is a freelance photographer, award-winning video journalist, and author based in the San Francisco Bay Area. She is the author of The Way to Tea: Your Adventure Guide to San Francisco Tea Culture (2007). Click here to reach her by email.

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San Francisco’s Favorite Tea Cuisine for Afternoon Tea, Anytime

Featuring seasonal, organic, fresh crop artisan tea, herbal infusions, and Bay Area cuisine, Samovar Tea Lounge is the perfect respite for teatime, afternoon tea, high tea, or whenever you need a relaxing escape from the hustle and bustle of city life.

Tea Menu


Bai Mudan* The best Bai Mudan we’ve ever had. Fujianese white tea made
from two leaves and one bud.  A hidden sweet maltiness, w/ notes of dark
Marin redwood groves, & mellow muscatel.  A golden, amber infusion, sip to
soothe monkey mind, and to savor the darkest of the Whites

Downy Sprout**  Velutinous, thick downy sprouts. Honeysuckle hints lin-
ger amidst a mellow nuttiness.  Sip to clean your palate,  and quiet your mind.
The most ultra-fine white tea we could find

Osthmanthus Silver Needle*  A precious flaxen brew w/ aromas of
stone fruit, wild herbs, and warm roasted hazlenuts. Silken body w/ an engaging
satiny sweetness. Honey-like, and mildly vegetal, but entirely unsweetened

Ryokucha*  Genmaicha, Samovar Tea Lounge-style. Japanese matcha powder
blended w/ roasted brown rice & sencha.  A meal in itself, nutty, grassy & ideal
for breakfast

Gyokuro The greatest green tea love of all. From tongue to tail bone, an
unbounded upheaval of exploding, thundering, green tea ecstacy.
Warning:  Please, take it slow. This one goes on for a long, long time

Gyokuro Inoka Hill 1st Place Winner For the “Jade Dew Drop” lover,
this tea recently ranked #1 in the all-Japan Gyokuro competition. Only 9kg in
total were made: 5 stayed at the farm, and we have the entire remaining batch.
Ethereal & phenomenal.  Truly, the ultimate tea experience

Hika Sencha Straight up sencha w/ a phenomenal, unbounded creamy,
buttery body, and warm-apricot-marmelade-on-toasted-english-muffin taste.
Lingering aromas of fire-roasted pine nuts

Kukicha Green Leaf & Twig*  Sip to awaken seraphic contentment.
From the Makinohara lowlands of Shizuoka, Japan, comes this pearly, verdurous,
Yabukita tea bush infusion. Guaranteed to evaporate stress,  induce joy, and
stoke “green tea giddiness.”  Made from deep-steamed tea leaves & stems, this
Mr. Ko speciality comes fresh from Kagoshima, Japan

Lobocha Sencha (deep steamed)*  Take refuge in this Fourth, deep-
steamed Jewel. Buddha, Dharma, Sangha, Lobocha. A shimmering, viridescent
jade infusion, w/ vaporous aromas of fresh baked bread & summer sea breeze.
Ecstacy, on the tongue. Clarity in the mind, flight of the spirit.  A Mr. Ko special-
ity, made solely from the prized Asatsuyu tea bush in Kagoshima, Japan

Matcha Service & Cookies Cha-do. The Way of Tea, from us to you.
Hand-whisked to a heavenly froth, & served in a hand-made tea bowl

Jasmine Pearl**  So succulent and aromatic. Tea pearls blended w/ baby
jasmine flowers


Monkey Picked Iron Goddess of Mercy Sip, penetrate your issues,
and dissolve them. Kuan Yin’s classic elixir offering transcendence via the

4 Seasons From the oolong-gurus in Taiwan, this profound brew has tiers
of aroma and flavor: Gardenias, fresh-baked bread, warm milk, and dew-dipped
clover 11

12-Year Honey Tie Kuan Yin Straight from Mr. Ling in Anxi Province,
China comes our deliciously smoky aged Tie Kuan Yin. Stored in his dug-out
cave, these leaves are taken out and refired every two years for 12 years creat-
ing a dark, yet floral and haunting taste. We age it at Samovar in wildflower
honey from Sonoma to take it to the next level.  Venture into this tea and
explore the center of the center of the here and now

Mu Za Tie Kuan Yin First Tier Beyond words, and served in a gaiwan.
We purchased just 2lbs and store it in a safety deposit box. Visit our web site
or ask our staff for more info about the Mu Za

Wuyi Dark Roast*  A climactic eruption of tea intoxication. Hauntingly
ambrosial  w/ an evolving complexity of caramelized raisins, roasted barley,
smoked bittersweet chocolate & aged peat moss. Wuyi harks from the remote
and ancient cliffs in Northern Fujian Province, China


Earl Grey**  Frisky and brisk. Superb citrus to incite your tastebuds

Ancient Gold**  Wild-crafted black gold from the Bulong family on Jing-
mai Mtn.  A staff favorite

Black Velvet Only 4 lbs left. A singular, velvety brew from Yunnan. Ripe
plums & roasted barley.  A mood-boosting tea to radically improve your day.
Sip it black again & again

Lapsang Souchong** Zealously tarry, ancient & smoky.  Delicious w/
milk & sugar

Samovar Breakfast Blend**  Kindle clarity & banish stupor.  Full malty
flavor w/ delicate dryness

Samovar Masala Chai**  Sweet, spicy, creamy & simmered for hours.
House blend of cloves, cinamon, ginger, black pepper, Indian & Chinese black
tea, organic milk, raw cane sugar

Samovar Russian Blend* Bottomless Cup  Smoky, strong, sweet,
fruity, caffeine-loaded & certain to warm and to wake

Yulu Golden Pekoe**  Small leaf, big flavor, tippy & malty w/ pine-tar
aroma and sweet roasted pumpkin finish

Lychee Black Lychee fruit naturally sweetens this light, salubrious, brew

Scarlet Sable*  Sultry, sweet, smoky, and, yes, seductive. House-blended
by Esther herself, black tea with the most silky mouth feel, lingering notes of
lychee, pine smoke, and citrus


Blood Orange**  Blood orange adroitly blended w/ our classic loose-
leaf puerh yields notes of citrus, spice, and rain-dampened earth

Palace**  Deep, bittersweet espresso & chocolate.Wild-crafted from ancient
tea trees, the highest Maiden leaf grade around with a creamy & rich body,
and a faintly tippy finish

Maiden’s Ecstacy**  Rapture & reverie. Consummately captivating, deep,
dark, sweet & smooth


Ocean of Wisdom*  Custom blended for His Holiness The Dalai Lama.
Silken, malty mouth-feel lingers blissfully. South African rooibos, honeybush,
ginger, licorice, cloves, and cinnamon. Sail from an ordinary moment into a
regal, contemplative one

Earl Red**  Bergamot infused rooibos for the Earl Grey lover who wants
a caffeine-free alternative. Yummy w/ milk & sugar, this herbal is loaded w/
antioxidants & citrus

Orange Ginger**  A strong, spicy & warming brew.  Adroitly blended
with ginger, lemon myrtle, orange & mandarin. Naturally sweetened w/
licorice root

Samovar Moorish Mint*  The tonic of the ancient Moors…San Fran-
cisco style. Robust & rich, w/ cardamom, peppermint, ginger, black pepper,
and a touch of green tea

Samovar Sweet Yerba Mate Blend*  Straight from Paraguay, and
served traditionally w/ a bombilla. Bittersweet, vegetal and brimming w/

Wei Qi Cha Your energetic force field “wei qi,” protects you from life’s
dangers. Sip this herbal elixir to soothe your soul, and recharge your system.
Rich, fruity, sweet, and pleasingly tart

Nocturnal Bliss*  Honeybush, lemon myrtle, lavender, corn flowers, &
stevia harmoniously to chill-you-out. Sip this and assuage fear and worry,
soothe frazzled nerves, and go to sleep blissfully and effortlessly. Sleep is the
new panacea for productivity, vitality, libido and joy, so sleep a lot and sleep

Aloe Vera & Cucumber Mildly sweet, super refreshing
Samovar Masala Chai**
Schizandra Berry*  2000 years ago Shen Nong first identified this
potent elixir as an “adaptogenic tonic,” ie, it gives you whatever you need:
energy, relaxation, beauty, sexual prowess…
Soy Matcha Shake*  Grassy, sweet, caffeinated, Yummy
Vegan Thai Iced Tea Earthy, smooth, creamy, rich, slightly sweet
Yunnan Black Over Ice**

* USDA Certified Organic  /  ** Fair Trade & USDA Organic

Practice Peace. Drink Tea.

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Mirin Mirin on the Wall, Who’s the Fairest of them All?

This lil'Japanese Tetsubin Knows All About Good Mirin
This lil'Japanese Tetsubin Knows All About Good Mirin

What is mirin, why should you care, and what do we do about it?

Used in Japanese cooking since the 1600s, mirin (sweet cooking wine) imparts a sweetly rich and buttery profile that is deep and complex, providing incredible complexity to sauces, marinades, and glazes. It is the perfect vehicle for marrying the flavors of tamari, sesame oil, and ginger.

Because longevity and quality and true deliciousness matter to us more than price, we scoured the States and Japan to finally settle on the mirin we use– sourced from a small family operation in Japan that makes it nice and slow, the old-fashioned way. The mirin we use develops its complex by taste by ageing glutinous sweet rice for up to one year to create the natural, rich taste we love. Not only does this taste much better, it’s better for you than the mass produced, ready-made stuff available in your local supermarket (“flash” aged, and loaded with salt, refined sugar, MSG, and preservatives). So the next time you have Japanese food, ask what kind of mirin they use! And in the meantime, enjoy our Tofu!

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Slow Down 2008

A Slow Evening at Samovar Mission-Castro
A Slow Evening at Samovar Mission-Castro

Living in 2008, we sometimes get caught up in all our obligations and to-do lists., forgetting about the little things in life. At Samovar, we intentionally try to slow you down. Sometimes that can be painful, so please be patient. Through your pot of tea, and the experience of brewing, it, serving it, and sipping it, you will come to actually enjoy beauty of slowness.

As you wait for your pot of tea at Samovar, smell the fresh baked cherry-oat scones coming out of the oven. Or the cardamom and cinnamon and cloves simmering in a pot of chai on our stove. Watch those around you witnessing the same, savoring their time to sit still and absorbing the colors, people, and activity around them.

In slowness we are forced to experience the fluctuations and vacillations of our mind, our thinking, our patterns and habits, and our surroundings. Through slowness we witness the blowing of the wind, the honk of a horn, the smile of a passerby, the aroma of a cup of tea, the good morning kiss of a partner, the abilities of our body, the beauty inside our home.

How slow is slow enough? We are addicted to the speed, and the faster we go, the faster we want to go. But if you can slow down you will experience magic. There is no other way.

Slow things have more value, they take more time, and they deliver more. Slow food tastes better than fast food. Slow breathing makes you more relaxed than hyperventilating. Slow loving feels better. Friendships take time. A good meal takes time. Wild salmon takes time to grow up big and strong. Delicious produce takes time to go from seed to sprout to full grown and edible. Deep, meaningful, lasting companies take time to evolve, develop and prosper.

How do you live slower? Sip some tea and you’ll find out…

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Tomorrow’s Tamari Takes Time

Cooked Kale Tossed in a Tamari Seseme Dressing Isn't the Only Delicious Thing in the Japanese Tea Service
Cooked Kale Tossed in a Tamari Seseme Dressing Isn't the Only Delicious Thing in the Japanese Tea Service

Since the Buddhist monk Kakushin brought back the original soy sauce from China in 1254, soy sauce has become virtually ubiquitous world wide. So what is the difference between Soy Sauce, Shoyu and Tamari? Generally speaking, when people refer to soy sauce, they are referring to the light, fruity, salty taste of shoyu. Shoyu is made from a mash of soybeans and wheat.

At Samovar we decided to use traditional tamari instead, because it imparts a deeper, richer, darker, and more complex taste for our sauces, dips and marinades. Additionally, tamari in its traditional form, is wheat free. As an actual by-product from making soybean-miso-paste, our tamari is hand-made, and aged in cedar kegs for nearly two years by a family who has been doing it for nearly 400 years on the pristine island of Shodo. Because these kegs are no longer produced, our supplier is the only one in Japan making it this slow-aged way.

Sure it’s more costly when you compare it to the supermarket-soy sauce out there full of colorings, preservatives, sugar, salt, and additives. But, because we value health and taste above price, we believed strongly that nothing else compares to the rich, thick, velvety, and deeply flavorful profile of this tamari. Savor it and travel back to an era 400 years ago of hand-tied tatami mats, shoji screens, and bushido etiquette from feudal Japan.

Also, as our tamari is naturally fermented over many months, not only does it taste richer, it is also packed with healthy digestive enzymes and antioxidants.

As the world gets faster and faster and more industrialized, and as 99% of the soy sauce in the market is made in a matter of weeks, we feel really proud to offer you a soy sauce aged over two years ago by a family that takes their time to drink tea, and make our tamari the ancient, sloooooow way. Enjoy!