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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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Volcom Tea Sessions

Another great Tuesday night at the Volcom shop.
Another great Tuesday night at the Volcom shop.

Samovar Ambassadors Nick Bastone and Miles Hischier are 4th year undergraduates at UC Berkeley with a passion for tea and an eagerness to spread the newly evolving tea culture to a younger crowd.  Drinking tea isn’t cute anymore. It’s becoming something cool.  Something you can pour when hanging out with buddies, something you can do at parties.  That’s right, no more tea parties.  Kids these days are partying with tea.

Continue reading Volcom Tea Sessions

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Tea On Location

It was a dark and stormy night here in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania…so I decided to pack some tea ware next to the lighting equipment and camera lenses to brew a pot of Wuyi Dark Roast Oolong tea at the set of a rehearsal shoot for an independent film project I’m working on. (via Michael A. Biksey)

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Samovar Shaman: Shambhu – Metaphysical Musician

Many of you have seen Rowan at the Tea Lounges, or received insight into your life as he read your cards over a cup of tea. He’s Samovar’s tarot shaman, and he is writing a series on modern-day shamans. Here, he introduces us to
Samovar Shaman: Shambhu – Metaphysical Musician

Rowan – How did you get started on your musical path?

Shambhu-My parents saw my musical gifts at an early age and engaged me in music lessons from age 5. At age 7 they realized that I had Perfect Pitch. I played Beatle’s songs right off the radio startling teachers, friends, and family. By 10 years old, I played guitar professionally and appeared on NYC children’s TV shows. By 16, I taught a few dozen students a week how to play guitar. By age 20, I recorded my own songs in a studio, played gigs, taught jazz at a junior college, wrote music books, and jammed with a who’s who of NYC-based musicians who went on to play with John McLaughlin, Jeff Beck, Santana, Zakir Hussain and win Grammys. I left this musical path at age 21 when I joined the spiritual community of Indian Guru Sri Chinmoy. That opened up new pathways for me, including performing with Carlos Santana, Clarence Clemons and Narada Michael Walden. Continue reading Samovar Shaman: Shambhu – Metaphysical Musician

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Samovar Shamans: Archimedes Deleon, Hanuman Shaman

Many of you have seen Rowan at the Tea Lounges, or received insight into your life as he read your cards over a cup of tea. He’s Samovar’s tarot shaman, and he is writing a series on modern-day shamans. Here, he introduces us to Archimedes Deleon, Hanuman Shaman.

Rowan – How did you get started on your spiritual path?

Arch – I was born into a very spiritually dedicated family and they studied everything under the sun. The foundation of my spiritual journey was my grandfather from my mother’s side.  His name is Calixto Miranda and he founded the Spiritista Movement in the Philippines, which has about 250,000 members.

It was laid down for me at very early age as I saw my father, who is one of my grandfather’s students, preaching at our center, next door to our house.  I was fascinated with how he spoke and handled himself in his daily life. I was so impressed with how he helped people. It was embedded in my mind, and since then I haven’t wanted to do anything else. I have focused and dedicated my life now, to pretty much the same thing, helping others through the spiritual journey and knowing myself through the spiritual practice as my grandfather did.

But, I am here in the west and here we study yoga, so I have expanded this practice from my grandfather’s teaching. I trained at the Integral Yoga Institute in San Francisco and became a yoga teacher. I learned the traditional Hatha form, and I expanded from there. I also became a body worker, a healer, and a teacher of many metaphysical perspectives. I founded The Hanuman Center to expand these services.

Rowan – Can you tell us about the Spiritista path that your grandfather founded?

Arch – The Spiritist path, they call it “Spiritista” in the Philippines, came from France.  They studied philosophy, science, and the Bible. They are energy healers and they can talk to the other side. I love the fact that it is not a religion, they are not a church. It is a center to study oneself. I was so impressed with them, they really opened my mind to the fact that there is not just one spiritual path, there are many! My approach became integral, it’s so broad. The more tools you have in your box, the better. The only thing I felt was missing from the Spiritista tradition was the body based practices of yoga and bodywork. I really felt that it was not just about talking – that’s the old format. Nowadays it would need to be hands-on because the human being is many layered: spirit, emotion, and body too. I thought if I expanded from my grandfather’s foundation, my practice would be more enriched.

Rowan – What are the practices you teach at The Hanuman Center?

Arch – We teach yoga, many different kinds. I love Kundalini, it is all about the nervous system. Some of the teachers at The Hanuman Center are also healers, so we do healing work in the back of the center for people who want to look at themselves more deeply. We offer Ayurveda, Reiki, Acupressure and more. We also offer our Integral Studies classes because there is so much to learn. At the beginning, you need a daily physical practice, but that is not all! The human being is so complex and there are many paths to self-knowledge. I have workshops on sounds, and dance and even TAROT! I think it is very important to provide these different avenues to different people. The purpose is not to find an answer but to ask powerful questions that open our consciousness so we can really look at ourselves. At Hanuman Center we don’t give answers, we create a safe place for people to open up. The danger in this business is that people are quick to give easy answers and what I’ve learned is that when you give an individual an answer, they don’t keep it. An individual needs to find the answer themselves in order to keep it. As teachers, we need to put aside our egos and help people to find their own answers.

Rowan – How did you discover Samovar Tea Lounge?

Arch – I have been a fan of Samovar from the beginning. I appreciate their values and their sensitivity. Jesse, who is the founder of Samovar, is amazing. He is mindful of the entire experience.  Drinking tea is a doorway to looking at oneself! Being at Samovar is a ritual for me. When I was creating Hanuman Center’s vision, I was at the Castro Samovar almost every day. If you do healing work you become very sensitive to your environment, and to what you put in your body, the food you eat and the tea you drink. I needed to be in a place that supported and grounded me.  Samovar was and still is that place!

Rowan -What are your favorite Samovar Teas?

Arch – It depends on the weather, on a hot day I love their cold teas; right now I’m drinking Jasmine Lemonade, but on a cold day, their Masala Chai is the best!

Rowan – Can you give our readers a one-minute meditation to get a taste of your teaching?

Arch – Simply close your eyes, because the outward senses need to be calmed down. Go inward. To do that you have to concentrate, take a couple of deep breaths. Next, you “internally smile”, it’s very important because breath with an internal smile calms down the nervous system, activating the serotonin and opiates in the body. Now, relax the muscles of the chest and shoulders. Slowly expand the breath, and focus on the out-breath. Simply allow. The key is to allow the breath to breath you. Bring your internal smile all the way down to your toes. Meditation for me is just allowing ones consciousness to be taken by the spirit of breath, it’s complete surrendering. The mind has to trust this process.


Archimedes is the founder of The Hanuman Center in San Francisco. Find out about their classes, workshops and events at

Stay tuned for next month’s Samovar Shaman: Shambhu- Metaphysical Musician!


Rowan Cutler is the “Tarot Shaman” for Samovar Tea Lounge. He is a sought after SF Psychic who has been in private practice for 15 years. He is a published author and wrote for an Emmy nominated TV show. Let him lay out the cards and read the story of your life! Join him at Samovar for an only-in-SF experience to compliment your contemplative teatime.

See Rowan’s scheduled readings at Samovar’s Tea Lounges at Drop in during Rowan’s hours for a reading, reserve a spot ahead of time – or purchase a Tea and Tarot Gift Certificate for a great gift, date, and out-of-the-ordinary adventure with friends!

Learn more about Rowan and his reflections on the synergy of Tea and Tarot

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Samovar Shamans: Meet Les Leventhal, Yoga Flow Shaman

Many of you have seen Rowan at the Tea Lounges, or received insight into your life as he read your cards over a cup of tea. He’s Samovar’s tarot shaman, and he is writing a series on modern-day shamans. Here, he introduces us to Les Leventhal, Yoga Flow Shaman.

Rowan – What was your first experience with Yoga?

Les- My first experience with yoga was at the gym. I was a serious weightlifter. I would pass by the yoga room and always look in. I knew I should do more stretching, but it looked really boring so I never even tried. Then a friend said, “Come on, let’s go together.” That was back in 1999. So I went, I had no idea what I was doing. Nothing made sense. They were a lot of Sanskrit terms and a lot of flexi-bendy people. I couldn’t touch my toes. I couldn’t breathe through my nose. It was very intimidating! By the end of the class I was exhausted. But then we did that final resting pose, the child’s pose, and when I came out of that…I felt AMAZING. I didn’t expect it, but when that happened, it woke me up. I knew this was something to check out.

So I went back and went back and actually over time, I stopped lifting weights and was just doing yoga all the time. Now I was working a corporate job back then and I wasn’t happy but I didn’t know what to do about it. It took me a while but I finally quit. I had no idea what I was doing next. Yoga was really important to me, but I didn’t know what I wanted to do with it. So eventually I went to L.A. and did a teacher training with Ana Forrest. It changed my life, though it is not what I teach now. I’m someone who doesn’t do well with the differentiations. Vinyasa, Iyengar, and Restorative, it’s all yoga. For me, Yoga gave me this invitation where everything just came together. And this is one of the areas where I am a bit inflexible. I refuse to have yoga feel like a religion, like you are Christian or Jewish, or Methodist. I refuse to let yoga become that for me. Yoga helped me to become free and I don’t want to get boxed in.

Rowan – What was your first yoga teaching experience?

Les- I’ve been at Yoga Tree the whole time I’ve been teaching. I was coming back from teacher training and I called my friend who worked there and told her I wanted to teach. She said. “They are not going to let you teach, you need to be teaching for three to five years before you can teach here.” But I kept on her and said, “I want to teach.” So she told me that there was this one class where the teacher had quit and they couldn’t get a sub; it was very early in the morning. I said, “I’ll do it, I’m up early in the morning!” So they were willing to give me a try and let me teach a practice class. That was on a Thursday. They hired me for the next Monday. At first it was very slow, only one or two people showing up. No one knew who this new guy was. But I was teaching every day and slowly people started coming.

Rowan- How did you first discover Samovar Tea Lounge?

Les – I came here once for dinner and, its funny, I used to order a LOT of food because I was still lifting weights and had this huge appetite. And then I got back from my teacher training and having done the nutrition class I realized the size of my meals was way out of whack and I don’t need that much food. I understood that I was doing a lot of emotional eating. Slowly, I started to be able to order smaller amounts of food, you know, just a salad. And the food at Samovar is so delicious; I didn’t miss the enormous portions I used to eat.

I invited Jesse to come to my yoga class. He has a pretty good practice so I got feedback and took some tips from him. He actually helped me learn how to teach. Then he asked me if he could bring Erick, the manager, and I said, “sure”.  Erick was also a weightlifter and initially said he was not into yoga. But Jesse convinced him. Erick was great; the very first class, he did a full backbend, no problem! He found the class very challenging and he loved it. They asked if they could bring more Samovar people and I said, “sure”. As classes started to grow, we had a nice group of Samovar people coming in regularly. They asked if they could bring more staff, like the cooks and people who may not have ever been exposed to yoga and I said, “Of course!” because yoga was a gift and a freedom for me and I just want to give that back to other people. It’s a selfish and a selfless thing. I want to keep the gifts of yoga but I can’t keep them unless I give them away. It’s a constant recycling. The energy of Samovar staff in class is always amazing. They are a great part of our yoga community. There are Yoga Tree people who come to Samovar after class and Samovar people who come to yoga after work. When I come to Samovar I see so many people who I teach!

Rowan- What’s your favorite Samovar tea?

Les – There are too many to choose from! I love the Masala Chai, the Blood Orange Pu-erh and the Wuyi Oolong. But my favorite is the Lapsang Souchong. It’s got that smokey, you’ve-just-been-out-in-the-woods-at-a-bonfire kind of flavor.

Rowan – What’s your favorite Samovar food?

Les –The Salmon Maki Bowl. But I do it without rice and throw in extra veggies.

Rowan- As the Yoga Flow Shaman, what is a one-minute-meditation, that the folks at home can do to get a taste of your teaching?

Les – I’ll start people off the same way I start yoga class with a dedication.  Sit up tall in a comfortable seat, make sure you feel balanced and supported. Then close your eyes. If you need to fix you hair or adjust your shirt, go ahead and get out all the fidgets! Now, start focusing on the breath. If the mind wanders just come back to the breath. Close your eyes. If your eyes open just close them again. I don’t teach yoga where there is anything “good” or “bad”. We are just spending a minute with our breath and ourselves. If you can sit for more than minute, then sit. Just enjoy the stillness and the quiet. Now, for the dedication. I like to focus on someone who is struggling, if I am in the yoga class, I will focus on someone outside of the room so I can share and expand the yoga. So I am dedicating my practice to this other person. And even the benefits of just sitting for a minute with my eyes closed and breathing can be so helpful. The person you are dedicating this meditation to will feel it! And when I am done, the people I come in contact with, they are going to benefit from this too, and the people that they come into contact with, they are going to benefit as well.


Les teaches classes at Yoga Tree in multiple locations around San Francisco. Learn more about his classes and special workshops at

Stay tuned for next month’s Samovar Shaman with Arch Deleon, founder of Hanuman Center for yoga, integral studies, and healing!


Rowan Cutler is the “Tarot Shaman” for Samovar Tea Lounge. He is a sought after SF Psychic who has been in private practice for 15 years. He is a published author and wrote for an Emmy nominated TV show. Let him lay out the cards and read the story of your life! Join him at Samovar for an only-in-SF experience to compliment your contemplative teatime.

See Rowan’s scheduled readings at Samovar’s Tea Lounges at Drop in during Rowan’s hours for a reading, reserve a spot ahead of time – or purchase a Tea and Tarot Gift Certificate for a great gift, date, and out-of-the-ordinary adventure with friends!

Learn more about Rowan and his reflections on the synergy of Tea and Tarot

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Samovar Canadian Ambassador: Raffi

Raffi is our Canadian Ambassdor. Learn how tea complements his passion for tech., travel, and photography:

Why do you love tea?
Tea is something I actually discovered fairly recently, but instead of easing my way from bagged teas to loose leaf, I dove right into the deep end and went straight for the best loose leaf tea out there. For me, tea is really an art that I’m constantly trying to learn more about. There are so many different varieties, and each cup can taste so different simply depending on personal preference, meaning there are literally hundreds of thousands of teas to experience. During the work day it also provides me with a nice, steady flow of energy without a crash at the end like with coffee.

What is your favorite Samovar tea, and why?
My favorite Samovar tea is definitely Maiden’s Ecstasy. Coming from a coffee drinking past, pu-erh really hits the mark when I feel like drinking something dark, rich and full of complex flavors. It’s by far the most unique tea that I have tried, and is one of the few that I can honestly say has a learning curve. Once you get used to it though, it rewards you with countless steeps and enough energy to make it through the longest of work days.

What do you do in your free time?
On my free time, I enjoy sitting at my computer with a cup of tea and reading articles on the latest happenings in the technology industry. I tend to have too many hobbies at any given moment and so I mainly try to find time between web development, photography, and drumming, among other things like video editing, gaming, and just hanging out with friends.

What gets you up in the morning?
You mean, aside from caffeinated teas? Believe it or not, I’ve always been a bit of a morning person. When I was a kid, I would wake up every morning at 6:30am without an alarm (yes, even on weekends) and I would go downstairs and read online articles or play some games. Of course, these days I don’t wake up that early anymore without an alarm, but honestly I think what gets me going in the morning is the simple fact that I enjoy being productive. Sleeping in has never been my thing (it makes me feel sluggish for the rest of the day), and nothing feels better than getting a few things done before the clock strikes noon.

What is my favorite travel destination?
I haven’t traveled much so far, but I am hoping that some time in the near future I will be able to visit Europe and see many countries in the span of a few weeks to get a taste of the different cultures that exist across the Atlantic. But in the mean time, my favorite destination has to be the Caribbean islands. While I love visiting other cities across both Canada and the USA, my real idea of a vacation is still the islands. This may change by the time I come back from Europe, though. 😉

Who inspires you?
To be honest, I was never into the whole “role model” or inspiration concept, but if there has ever been any one influence on my life (outside of family, of course) it must be Sam Javanrouh of [daily dose of imagery]: . His photoblog inspired me to see the world from a perspective that most people do not take the time to experience; where the same old every day surroundings can be seen in a different light and made into something astonishing without any special effects or fake modifications. Essentially, it’s about taking the time to slow down and appreciate the world around you for what it is. And now in a similar fashion, I put my perspective of the world online for others to see and appreciate on my personal photoblog: .

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Samovar Experience: Pam

Pam is a long time customer at the Mission-Castro Samovar location. You’ll often see her working on her latest writing project or hanging out her two boys (pictured right). Below she shares one of her Samovarian experiences.

The other day I was having one of those days when everything is exhausting, overwhelming, crappy, and you are ready to let the less nice part of yourself dominate your actions— I thought if I can just make it to Samovar it will all be okay. Finally the babysitter arrived and I arrived. There I was greeted by two fabulous servers: Alex and Oscar, who greeted me with enthusiasm, warmth and humor. Then they both (separately) said “Don’t worry– I’ve got just the thing for you.” They loaded me up with magnificent, exotic teas and plied me with quinoa waffles and in a matter of minutes I felt spoiled, happy and able to be once again the nice person I like to think of myself as, most of the time.
Samovar does this people–it is a mini oasis in the midst of our busy lives–a place where I come to refuel, re-center, think deep and frivolous thoughts, work, and more more more. When my book gets published, the first people I will thank will be the entire staff of Samovar.
Pamela Alma Bass, writer/teacher
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Meet Samovar West Coast Ambassador Michael

Meet Michael, one of Samovar’s West Coast Ambassadors. In this photo, Michael shows off his Samovar Traveling Tea Thermos while hiking through Yosemite National Park!

Q: Why do you love tea?

A: I love the ritual of tea, and sharing that ritual with the people around me. Nothing is better then sitting down, brewing new teas and sharing them with the people around you, finding the complex flavors, and enjoying the smell all the while having a great conversation.

Q: What is your favorite Samovar tea, and why?

Honestly I don’t truly have a favorite tea, I enjoy many of them depending on what mood I’m in, or what I’m needing from the tea its self. But I do really enjoy the Masala Chai, Maiden’s Ecstasy, Jasmine Pearl and many more.

Q: Tell us about yourself. Where do you work/study/etc.? What do you do in your free time?

A: I’m currently working at Best Buy as a part time employee while attending Fresno City College as a full time student. I’m working for a bachelors in social science in hopes to one day be a history teacher. Other then that I love to spend time with family and friends!

Q: What are you reading right now?

A: The Omnivore’s Dilemma.

Q: What are your dreams? What gets you up in the morning?

A: Well one of my dreams is to become a history teacher; I think it will be a great job. I also want to travel around the world an experience all sorts of cultures first hand. I even have a dream of maybe one day opening my own tea shop, I enjoy tea so much that I would love to be around it everyday.

Q: Why do you exist?

A: I exist to be a good example for others, to help as many people as I can along the way, and to enjoy all of life’s beauties.

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Samovar Shamans: Meet Rowan Cutler, Samovar’s Tarot Shaman

Many of you have seen Rowan at the Tea Lounges, or received insight into your life as he read your cards over a cup of tea. He’s Samovar’s tarot reader, and in the coming months he will be writing a series of articles featuring modern-day shamans. Here, he shares about the synergy of tea and tarot:

Tea is ritual. You sip and pause. You watch the steam rising off the teacup. You make yourself empty and relax…ahh. The moment fills you up and you are recharged. Life makes sense again.

Tarot is ritual. You shuffle the cards and pause. You watch the cards arranged in a pattern. You make yourself empty and release…ohm. The images fill you up and you are renewed. Life makes sense again.

Now more than ever, we need easy access to refocus and remember our point of power! I invite you to take a deep in-breath and join me as we meet the Shamans in our Samovar community. They help us to re-find our essence. Each month, we greet a new Shaman and gain a new ritual to ponder as we take a sip from our steaming cup.

As Samovar’s “Tarot Shaman”, I want to extend a Namaste. I will be offering mini-divinations custom designed to fit into your Samovar teatime. You may only need one card to find your focus before yoga class or a full fifteen-minute spread to gear up for dinner with your Ex. Whatever the length, my dollar-a-minute mini readings will soothe your soul!

Please stop by for some Tea & Tarot. Bring friends and enjoy a Psychic Tea Party!

Tarot Calendar at the Tea Lounges (visit for the most up-to-date schedule):

Tuesdays: Samovar Mission-Castro, 8-10PM

Thursdays: Samovar Hayes Valley, 8-10PM

Saturdays: Samovar Mission-Castro, 2-6PM

Sundays: Samovar Hayes Valley, 2-5PM

Drop in during Rowan’s hours for a reading, reserve a spot ahead of time, or purchase a Tea and Tarot Gift Certificate for a great gift, date, and out-of-the-ordinary adventure with friends!

Stay tuned for next month’s Samovar Shaman!

Rowan Cutler is the “Tarot Shaman” for Samovar Tea Lounge. He is a sought after SF Psychic who has been in private practice for 15 years. He is a published author and wrote for an Emmy nominated TV show. Let him lay out the cards and read the story of your life! Join him at Samovar for an only-in-SF experience to compliment your contemplative teatime. You can drop in or pre-book by contacting him at

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Sharing Tea and Making Peace in Vietnam

Paul Greeting Red Szao Women in Northern Vietnam
Paul greeting Red Szao women in Northern Vietnam

What in the world does a warm cup of water and some herbs have to do with uncovering Life’s meaning? Or fostering peace amongst the people of planet earth?

Discover how the power of Tea Ceremony turns simple, ritualized acts into transformative, life altering experiences.

Sixty kilometers east of Hanoi, our metal, flat-bottomed skiff plied the muddied shallows of the Yen River, past the foot of the Mountain of the Perfume Traces. A short way up from the river sat the Perfume Pagoda, one of northern Vietnam’s most popular sites of worship during the Tet Holiday season.

Tet is Vietnam’s lunar new years, a popular time for families to get together for meals, fellowship and prayer. The Perfume Pagoda, Chua Huong Tich, dedicated to Quan Am, the guardian Spirit of Mother and Child, is one of several shrines built into the limestone caves of this lush, mountainous region.

Vietnam Tea Boat
The beauty of the Yen River

Our short glide up the river left my friend and guide, Tuan, relaxed and happy.  I thanked our pretty oarswoman, Tuan translating, and we disembarked.  Before getting on with the next leg of our pilgrimage to the pagoda cave, Tuan suggested a ‘comfort stop’, his term for a short rest, beverage and snack.

A cool breeze rippled the river and sent the moored sampans bobbing. We walked a few minutes before arriving at a rough and ready little market where Tuan found us a wobbly table in a tarp-covered, makeshift restaurant, filled with the infamous, Asian low plastic stools.

On this late morning, I was the standout white guy, the token American who within minutes had drawn a small crowd of village children, gawking, laughing and pointing, amused at me as if I’d come in dressed as a clown. While my Vietnamese vocabulary extends to a few dozen phrases, I take pride in my ability to at least imitate the language’s six tones.

If I was to be the morning’s entertainment, I figured why not play it to the hilt? I hit the youngsters with a few of my best lines: “I swam up river. No boat! No boat for me!”

Tuan and I did a Laurel and Hardy shtick, where he’d whisper my fun observations back to me in Vietnamese that I would then parrot back to the crowd.
“Where are you from?” one boy asked in English.
“I am from Wei!” I bluffed, giving him the name of a seaside city on the central coast.

Tuan, familiar with my routines, set about ordering a few dishes of sautéed vegetables and tofu, rice, pho, a thinly sliced meat and rice noodle dish, and Vietnamese coffee. I’d come to love this sweet concoction of condensed milk, sugar and chicory flavored coffee beans.

Out of nowhere, a middle-aged man with a husky build and a scowl imposed himself on our languid meal. Plastic stool in hand, he plunked down opposite our spot, leaned in and began upbraiding me in rapid-fire Vietnamese, his spittle adding an un-welcomed new flavor to my pho. Too overwhelmed by the intrusion to respond, I darted Tuan a look that said, “Am I in trouble here?”

Tuan too was speechless. I couldn’t understand a word of the Vietnamese, but when he began pantomiming gunfire, it was hard to misread his play by play of what I guessed to be U.S. violence against his countrymen during the American War. He didn’t look as if he was going to heave my bowl of pho in my face as much as let my American ass fill a need to unburden some seriously pent up anger.

“He’s talking about the war with America. He’s talking about the past,” I say to Tuan.
Tuan nodded.
Our aggressive, uninvited guest’s diatribe begins to lose momentum, an opening I took to respond.
“Tell him,” I said to Tuan, “the past is called the past… because it’s in the past.”
The angry man’s face drew a blank and he stopped screaming at me. He rose, withdrawing from our table as abruptly as he’d appeared. The children recoiled a bit but lingered, all traces of smiles and mischief gone from their faces.

What was left of my meal was nudged to the side, as I turned to Tuan to get the check in hopes of retreat. I feared I hadn’t seen the last of our visitor. When the waiter came, I handed my wallet to Tuan who fished out enough money to cover our tab. I felt a bit too jarred to even bid the children adieu. I just wanted to get out of there, when the man reappeared suddenly, marching toward us.

Tuan enjoys peace shared over tea.
A peace offering - tea for three

To my relief, I saw that it wasn’t a firearm or machete he held in his hand, but what looked to be a turquoise teapot and three small cups.

It was the same man and it wasn’t. His entire demeanor had changed. I still couldn’t understand his words, but his voice was filled with warmth. He pressed on my shoulder to sit me back down. A man who had spit on me 10 minutes earlier was now pouring me a cup of tea. Following a formalized action that said, “I’m over it”, he filled my cup and called to the waiter, who brought over a plate of cassava sweets.

We each introduced ourselves. Photos came out of wallets. Surprisingly few words were exchanged, mostly nods and a feeling of goodwill. Each time I finished my cup, which only required two good sips, my new comrade quickly refilled it. Our plan to reach the Perfume Pagoda felt deferred. Whatever healing might come from visiting a Buddhist shrine was taking place right here, now.

~Paul T. for

Samovar’s Ceremonial blog contributor, Paul T. reaches for Monkey Picked Iron Goddess of Mercy, Kuan Yin’s classic elixir, to ease the monkey mind and loves getting the job done with assistance from the smoky buzz of Samovar’s Russian Blend.

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Tea Mind

©2009 Jennifer Leigh Sauer

I just finished reading the book The Republic of Tea: Letters to a Young Zentrepreneur, by the company’s original founders, Will Rosenzweig and Mel & Patricial Ziegler.  In a series of whimsical faxes exchanged during the early 1990s between Mel (as mentor) and Will (as mentee), Mel describes not only how to build a company from the ground up, but how to craft a life: “sip by sip, not gulp by gulp.”

As the book progresses, Mel invites both his colleague, Will, and his readers to consider the benefits of Tea Mind– the state of mind one enters at around cup number five, according to Tang Dynasty poet, Lu Tong who wrote, “At the fifth cup, I am purified,” in his poem, Tea Drinking.

“I want what I have,” Mel petitions the reader, through his advice to Will. This statement is at the nucleus of Tea Mind, and the raison d’etre of creating a tea business, particularly in a severe economic downturn.

Wanting what you have provides relief, particularly when you need a distraction from thinking about what you may recently have lost or might lose in the unknown future. Tea is a wonderful tonic for any depression, be it economic or physiological. Tea Mind comes naturally from drinking tea and taking time out of one’s day to be quiet, observant and resident in his or her own stillness. It comes of itself, as easily as the steam.

Tea Mind is enduring and even more important now than it was during that puny recession of the early 1990’s when The Republic of Tea book was written (and the company founded).

Tea Mind is wanting what you have rather than angling to get what you want.  This small shift in words nudges the reader towards a huge yet simple segue in thinking and values. You find that wanting what you have is much more gratifying and takes much less energy than wanting things to be different.  “I want, I want, I want,” says the incumbent monkey mind. Yet when you sit down and sip a rare, hand-crafted oolong made from the ancient trees of China, you suddenly look around, and although life and its present challenges are still the same, you somehow settle into yourself, and the need for things to change somehow evaporates like streaks of steam rising then disappearing from your cup.

Suddenly, you are still and empty, and simply enjoying the gorgeousness of the steam itself, its aroma mingling with the comfort of your favorite books sitting on the shelf, and the lovely color of your living room walls.

Life has changed, and you didn’t do a thing, but drink some tea and start thinking differently. “Wow,” says Tea Mind. “Steam, color, smell.” Tea Mind is that simple:  “I want what I have.”

~Let me ride on this sweet breeze and waft away thither~

By Jennifer Leigh Sauer for Samovar Life

Tea Entrepreneur:
Tea Entrepreneur: Will Rosenzweig

Please join Will Rosenzweig, original founder of The Republic of Tea, at the first Samovar Tea Salon series, “Coping With The New Economy”.  The “Minister of Progress” will speak on the topic of Entrepreneurship as the first event of the series.

Tuesday, June 2
7-8:30 p.m.
Samovar Tea Lounge Hayes Valley
297 Page Street/Laguna, San Francisco

(415) 861-0303

Tickets will be available for sale in the Hayes Valley Store location only, for $12 per event. Save money, and purchase the entire series of 6 salons for $65. As this is a very intimate event, there are only 30 available seats. Tickets are non refundable.

Samovar Tea Lounge will serve fine premium teas  at the start of each event. Dining is available from 5:00 pm – 7:00 pm prior to the forum. Discount tickets are also available if purchasing the entire series of 6 salons for $65. All events will be held from 7:00 pm – 8:30 pm, and tickets are available for purchase only at Samovar’s Hayes Valley location.

-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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Ambassador Erick
Ambassador Erick

When Erick isn’t helping lead the staff at Samovar, he’s working out. A fitness freak, being healthy is important to him. Erick is actually 45 years old (not really…). What’s his secret? Vinyasa yoga with Les as Yoga Tree. Lots of it.

Erick has a passion for simplicity, communication, Japanese green teas, yoga and meditation retreats, tasting and analyzing tea, and he’s generally good at almost anything that involves movement. He loves doing tea tastings, and balancing three pots of tea simultaneously on his forearms on busy days.

One of the many of his favorite teas include the Wuyi Oolong.

“It’s relaxing and uplifting, and helps me get ready for a busy day because it’s very adaptable,” he says. It can be strong or light– easy to brew intense and roasty, or light and sweet.

On his free time, or when he has some free time, Erick loves to read books on leadership, mindfulness, and communication. On cold days, he loves listening to Krishna Das, while reading “The Mindful Leader,” and enjoying a cup of Ryokucha.

Ryokucha is the best breakfast tea. It is full bodied, has a little caffeine from the green tea, but has an amazing grassiness from the organic matcha that we blend it in. The roasted brown rice kernels make it a little sweet. I love this tea paired with a salmon maki bowl.”

Erick loves his green teas!

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Ambassador Irene
Ambassador Irene

Irene is a true foodie. And, we should be proud…Samovar ranks so high on her list of best places to eat in the Bay. She also loves wine….studying the regions, growing conditions, food pairing and learning all she can about small scale artisan products. Of course she’s crazy about our tea because of the small scale farms and artisan estates we source from.

“Personally, I really like the teas that come out of Jingmai Mountain. This is such a unique place. And to be able to get these teas direct from these village people who have been crafting the teas the same way for many generations… And to think they are getting the tealeaves from wild tea trees, and that some of them are over 1000 years old! The story behind some of our teas are as intriguing as the tastes! Jingmai Beencha, Maiden’s Ecstacy, Gold Toucha and Green Toucha, Sun Dried Beencha, and the Ancient Tree Green–actually I can’t decide which is my favorite. They are all so different. I am partial to these Ancient tree teas, and I really love making delicious meals, and pairing the different teas to different courses of food.”

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Ambassador Jesse
Ambassador Jesse

Photography, surfing, a bit of tai chi, yoga, some conversational Danish, leadership books, being a dada, clearing his inbox, and checking off tasks from his lists are among Jesse’s interests. And of course tea. Jesse always has a lot going on, but somehow manages to fit it all in no matter what. And, always with a cup of his favorite…

“Hika Sencha is a definite. I like to start my day, and continue my day with this tea. I’m pretty sensitive to caffeine so I like this tea because it has just enough to help keep me focused. This tea has a very mellow grassiness, and a beautiful, sweet creaminess–and yet it is really light. An amazing tea, and, I love it because it comes in such limited quantities.”

“After a long day, I really like to unwind with the Ocean of Wisdom herbal infusion while listening to Parov Stellar. It’s as beautiful to look at as it is to drink. It has no caffeine because it’s an herbal, and yet it has a bright, spicy, taste.”