Join us for a special brunch this coming Sunday at Samovar Yerba Buena as we welcome the worldly sweet sounds of adeptsect.
adeptsect(all lowercase) aka Aden Liggett will be steeping an aural blend of downtempo and world elements to delight the senses.
adeptsect is originally from Austin TX and now calls the East Bay home. He currently runs and owns a small Oakland studio where he spends most of his time mixing and producing his music. He’s hard at work on his first self-titled EP, which is slated for release on January 1st and will be available for digital download at the I-Tunes music store.
It will be a fantastic afternoon of live music, amazing teas, and delicious Samovar brunch!
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.
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 theEarl Grey Bread Pudding (italics mine, in place of sophomoric exclamation points) off the menu.
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….
Tea is Hot
By Susan Steade
Posted: 03/10/2009 05:00:00 PM PDT
For a long time, it was listed on menus just by color. Then, suddenly, there were tastings and classes, talk of varietals, origin, terroir. Like wine 20 years ago, tea has become the drink to know.
Any beverage that’s been around for 3,000 years can hardly be called an overnight success. But even those who have been in the tea business for decades acknowledge a recent spurt of interest.
The reason? Part of it is a perception that tea has health benefits, particularly when compared with coffee. Part is a desire to be soothed in rocky times. And part of it is an appreciation of the increasing quality and variety of hand-crafted teas — what Gary Shinner of Marin County’s Mighty Leaf Tea calls “an upgrade in sensory experience.”
Jesse Jacobs, who last week opened his third Samovar Tea Lounge in San Francisco, cites the farmers market effect: an interest in seasonal, artisanal products from family growers. “The quality of the tea we’re getting now is unprecedented. Partly, that’s because we’re getting it faster, so it’s fresher. But the new demand is also making it possible for a farmer to produce and sell some wonderful teas in small quantities.”
Descriptions of these high-end teas read like a rhapsody on a Bordeaux: thundering, nutty, silky, hauntingly ambrosial, “warm apricot marmalade on toasted English muffin.” It’s a lot like wine, Jacobs agrees — “except, with tea, you can always have one more for the road.”
So how does a tea novice — a two-latte-a-day die-hard, for instance — enter this world? With a glossary, a few caveats and some encouragement.
What’s the best way to find the right tea?
“Sample two or three from each category,” Shinner advises. “Explore as you would with wine. What are the flavors you appreciate?” Jason Simpson, director of coffee and tea education for Starbucks, elaborates: Consider acidity, body, flavor.
For a coffee lover, the first step might be something like Yunnan, a black tea — robust, with a slightly roasted undertone — that takes milk and sugar well.
Don’t rely on the name of the tea, as that can be misleading, cautions Eliot Jordan, director of tea for Peet’s Coffee & Tea. “There are no conventions in naming, and you get a lot of creativity. Is this jasmine tea the traditional green tea, or is it a black tea, or an herbal, or is Jasmine just the name of their dog?”
So taste, first, across the four categories of tea. (Some say five; we’ll deal with that later.) All come from the same plant, the tree Camellia sinensis; the difference is in the processing.
At the center of the tea world are black and green, Jordan says. Black is the thicker, darker brew that took hold in countries that use dairy in cuisine, like India and England. Green is the standard in areas with less dairy tradition — Japan, China, North Africa. Oolong covers the wide range of spectrum between those two, and white is a lightly processed variety that 10 years ago was barely known in the West.
How they’re processed:
White. Leaves are picked, sometimes lightly steamed, and then dried, and that’s it. Simpson describes it as vegetal, grassy.
Green. Withered, then steamed (for more delicate, herbal flavors) or pan-fired (for a heartier, aromatic quality) before drying.
Black. Withered, then rolled — which breaks open the leaves and allows oxidation — and, finally, dried to stop the oxidation.
Oolong. Also withered and rolled but not fully oxidized. The oxidation is sometimes stopped and started more than once, as a lot of change can occur in just an hour. With a smooth, aromatic character, it’s a favorite of many tea professionals, Jordan says, and it’s hard to find a good, inexpensive one because of the work involved in crafting it.
The sometimes-fifth type is pu-ehr, an aged tea often sold in compressed cakes. A secondary fermentation gives it a very dark, earthy quality. In China, where our black tea is called red, pu-ehr is known as black.
Wait, what about herbal?
Tea has to be from Camellia sinensis. Any other infusion is technically a tisane (“ti-ZAN”).
Loose tea good, tea bags bad?
Not necessarily. There are good-quality teas in bags, especially with the recent advent of whole-leaf tea bags, which let the leaves expand and the water flow through. With the loose tea, though, you pay less for packaging, and you get the experience of the tea-making ritual.
The most flavorful teas are whole-leaf, which, though they shrivel when dried, will unfurl in hot water. Large broken pieces aren’t bad; what you want to avoid is finely crushed leaves and dust. Also, tea’s flavor fades as it ages, so consider how likely it is to be fresh. (Pu-ehr aside, of course.)
Where can I learn more?
Besides the thousands of tea aficionado Web sites? The Bay Area is a hotbed of tea stores and tea lounges; some offer classes, among them Tea Time in Palo Alto (www.tea-time.com, (650) 328-2877). Other South Bay tea rooms include Lisa’s Tea Treasures in Campbell and Menlo Park, Ku Day Ta in Milpitas’ Great Mall and Puripan Tea Garden in Santana Row.
Samovar, which has three locations in San Francisco, is adding more educational pages to its Web site, www.samovartea.com; Lupicia, a tea store in Valley Fair, is another good source.
Except sometimes. Like the time you told your boyfriend’s mom aboutyour penchant for prescription pills. Or when you hit on your boss at theholiday party.
But it was the night you publicly peed on yourself that really caused a stir.
In your case, you’d best hightail it to Samovar Tea Lounge for some mood-boosting, booze-free libations.
Owner Jesse Jacobs promises a warm, happy glow afteran hour or so of sipping and yapping over fine artisanal
teas at the new Tuesday tastings. And he won’t turn his nose up when you can’t tell the difference betweenOolong and green.
What he will do is introduce you to the mind-expandingworld of tea varietals (Maiden’s Ecstasy Pu-erh,anyone?). The experience includes an informative doseof Tea 101 along with the tea tender’s choice of threedifferent teas, selected for their uniqueness, taste, and
seasonality — all for just ten dollars.
And to keep the good feeling flowing, Samovar’s tea comes from small family farms across the world. Sorelax, drink, and be merry.
Just not too merry.
Samovar Tea Lounge, 498 Sanchez Street, at 18th Street (415-626-4700 or samovartea.com); Tuesday tea tastings are by appointment only.
“About Samovar Tea Lounge
Quick quiz: What do the Dalai Lama and tea have in common? The Samovar Tea Lounge, of course! A great place to meet and have a conversation, this teahouse unites the world’s best teas under one roof. They also offer organic meals paired with the perfectly selected tea. USA Today even rated the Samovar Tea Lounge as one of the top ten great places to be seeped in tea, tradition and comfort.”
Click on this link to watch the Crocs video of Samovar Yerba Buena:
DETAIL:Samovar Tea Lounge furthers its mission in expanding tea culture to San Francisco, by opening its third location just outside Hayes Valley just across from its landlord, the San Francisco Zen Center.The official launch party for Samovar III in what has come to known as “Hayes Valley” will include a Buddhist “Door Opening Ceremony” offered by the San Francisco Zen Center which will include ceremonial incense, chants, and wholesome ritual. Later, Samovar will provide tea tastings, snacks andsweets, and celebration of this newest tea-addition to San Francisco.The Zen Center will also be from 1-5 open for guided tours.
“We are so proud to welcome Samovar here to Hayes Valley,” said Susan O’Connell, Vice President of the San Francisco Zen Center. “ We look forward to finding many ways to collaborate.Zen Center shares their mission of creating peace, and we appreciate the quality of their offering, as well as the mindful way all of the staff engage with their customers.There is already a natural synergy.As people sit at the tables in the café, they may find themselves looking across the street at the door to the meditation hall – like frogs sitting on a lily pad.Perhaps some will take the leap towards Zen Center and enjoy our practice of sitting in community, and then return to the café for a soothing meal and cup of tea.
“Here at Samovar Tea Lounge it’s never simply business as usual. In other words, business isn’t just a profit-making mechanism, but rather a vehicle for the greater good,” said Jesse Jacobs, owner of Samovar Tea Lounge. “Making people feel good, feel healthy and attain happiness is our bottom line. And, challenging as it is, it’s equally rewarding and fulfilling to see our guests beam with joy and express their heartfelt gratitude. We take equal pride in employing a staff of people who love their work and feel their efforts make a difference in the world.”
About Samovar Tea Lounge:
The mission of Samovar Tea Lounge is to create peace through drinking tea. The tea experience that Samovar delivers solves the universal needs of humanity: community, vitality, and equanimity, values reflected throughout the Samovar experience: online, in-store, and offsite. Samovar believes that its success raises the energy of the environment, sustains it, forwards its evolution, and serves as a power of example for other businesses to reach for and enjoy equal success.The Samovar values stem directly from the experience of tea. Awareness, Beauty, Calmness, Community, Compassion, Efficiency, Energy, Fun, Health of body, mind, spirit, and earth, Honesty, Humility, Innovation, Kindness, Learning, Passion, Peace, Respect, Sensitivity, Service.
About the San Francisco Zen Center:
For nearly 50 years, San Francisco Zen Center has been teaching the Zen Buddhist principles of compassion and wisdom at its three locations in California. Today, it is one of the largest Buddhist communities outside Asia.In addition to the classes, retreats, workshops and training opportunities offered by Zen Center, we provide education programs for school children, training of future farmers in sustainable practices, and ongoing outreach programs for the homeless, those in prison, veterans returning from war, and people in recovery
Thanks to amazing support from our customers, vendors, and employees, Samovar Tea Lounge has grown from a little tea spot in the Castro, to becoming a huge presence in the tea industry, with our new location in Yerba Buena Gardens, a great online store, plans for regional rollouts, and phenomenal national, and international press. From the Dutch foodie community surrounding Bouillon Magazine, to the Chicago Tribune, to the Japanese tourist industry featuring us in Figaro Magazine, the world has received us with a warm embrace. Thank you.
Because of this strong public reception, we are constantly asked “Are you going to grow? Are you planning on becoming the Starbucks of tea?” I actually saw a recent reference in an online blog that suggested we are in fact owned by Starbucks, and that Starbucks is testing out the tea market by going undercover in “stealth mode” as Samovar Tea Lounge!
I was amazed, surprised, and slightly alarmed, and, felt it was very important to respond.
First, to set the record very straight: Samovar Tea Lounge is NOT owned by Starbucks. It is owned by Paul, Robert and Jesse, and a few of their friends. That’s it.
Coming out of the hyper-speed, consumer-frenzied, coffee-fueled dot com bomb era, we three wanted to do something that made a difference to us, to our community, and to the world. A tea lounge was that special something that we conjured up that would serve these needs. And it has made a difference!
498 Sanchez Street was a love of labor. We three built it with our hands, and we were the first staff: cook, dishwasher, and tea-maker. There’s been lots of changes in how we do things and in what we offer. But the core, to deliver the ultimate tea experience to make the world a better place, has remained the same. And fortunately for everybody, we now have an amazing staff that is much better than us three at making and serving tea!
Now about growth…
The mission of Samovar is to make the world better place by delivering the ultimate tea experience. And, we’re only effective if as many people as possible experience what we offer. If it were possible to accomplish our mission by maintaining our single original location at 18th and Sanchez, then, that is what we would do–have just that single store. However, the tea lounge business is a very physical, visceral experience, and we accomplish our mission by spreading this experience as far and wide as possible. So, to accomplish the goal, we’ve got to spread it far and wide and and as deep as we can through additional locations.
How do we do that?
That’s the business part. For us to grow as “far, wide, and deep” it takes money. Money is the lifeblood of business, and there are three ways for us to get money to grow:
1. Wait until our two locations yield enough money to allow for more locations.
Pro: We own the company, and this is a super slow, natural, organic growth.
Con: This is really, really, really….(maybe even too) slow. We are in a tight margin business, so to expect our margins to fund our growth would take a really long time. So long in fact that we might miss out on the momentum we’ve created thus far.
2. Get loans to grow.
Pro: We own the company, and get necessary money to grow it.
Con: Repaying loans takes away from the money we use to run the business. Paying interest on loans isn’t good. And, getting loans is a very lengthy process that generally doesn’t fully fund our needs anyway. Also, you have to put your first born children on the line in addition to everything else you own.
3. Get investors.
Pro: People aligned with our vision, our mission, and whom we get along well with invest money in Samovar because they want to be part of something good, exciting, and to contribute to what we’re doing. And they want to know they are contributing directly to making the world a better place through our expansion. And of course they want a return on their investment.
Con: Investors own part of the company. How much depends on the investors.
That’s it. Those are the ways we can spread the gospel of tea and accomplish our mission. It is my belief that there are a lot of people out there who want to make a difference. And, it just so turns out that by joining us, they will make a difference, because we’re making a difference.
The constant question then is “how fast do we grow?” I can openly state in response to the “Starbucks thing” that we will never be the Starbucks of tea. Starbucks is all about churning people through a line as quickly as possible (to ensure hitting estimates and projections for the stock market’s expectations) at counter service delivering highly addictive milk and sugar loaded caffeine beverages. That is the modern commodity of coffee shop business: churn the customers through asap, get their money, send them on their way, and welcome them back for the 4pm slump.
Tea is the antithesis to all of that. Tea is about SLOWING DOWN, spending time with friends and family, taking time for yourself, and drinking something universally healthy that has survived the millennia, and touches nearly all the world’s cultures. Samovar Tea Lounge is about the tea experience. Therefore, it would be to our immediate demise if we were even to attempt becoming the “Starbucks of tea.” Personally, that’s an oxymoron that I don’t think is possible.
As a growth plan, our intention is:
1. Grow as fast and big as is reasonable
2. Embrace slow money. It takes time to grow with solid deep roots. We succeed as we maintain our community involvement, and success as a local business. There’s no IPO planned in 90 days. We’re not on the “for sale” auction. All the investors involved are here for the long haul because they understand developing something of quality and depth takes…time. Slow money fans can apply here and now.
3. Listen. Number 1, and 2 above may seem contradictory, but, if we listen well to our community of customers, employees and vendors, the best pace of growth will become self evident.
There’s no question that people need, desperately, what we offer. And with that, I see an unlimited market potential for our offering: an escape, based on community, health, and a splash of the exotic–but all totally approachable. And, partnered with the right people, the market is ready and waiting for us. Our market is anybody who wants to be healthy, who cares about the quality of their life, who embraces an affordable luxury, and who cares to make more time for themselves. As long as there are overworked, over-stressed, time starved people in this world, there is an absolute need for Samovar Tea Lounge. And that is a need that we aim to fill as soon as possible.
If you’re interested in participating in our growth, come in and have a pot of tea and snack. If you think you have what it takes to join us for the “next level,” just email us. If you think we’re whacky, that’s ok too. Either way, thanks for reading, and happy drinking.
PS–In case you haven’t yet tried our new Japanese senchas from Mr. Ko in Kagoshima, please come in and check them out before the staff drinks them all! Ask for: Morning Dew, Lobocha, or Spring Twig