|When she isn’t busy being Marcus’s momma, creating cartoons, going to yoga, studying the i-ching , or working, Joanna finds herself hiking the San Francisco Bay Area . But what are her favorite teas?
“Orange Ginger is really good. It’s citrus-y and slightly sweet. It has a lot of vitamin C in it and is very warming.”
“My favorite pu-erh is the Maiden’s Ecstasy. I actually love going to dim sum with friends, and sneaking in my own tea–and I always bring the Maiden’s Ecstasy when I go! It handles the rich foods of dim sum. All those savory dumplings are even more delicious when I pair this tea with the meal. It’s smooth, not musty like a lot of the aged teas out there. Kind of malty, kind of earthy, and a little bit coffee-like even.”
“After yoga, or a long hike, my favorite hydrating tea is the white tea, Bai Mu Dan. It has a savory quality that is like a meal in itself.”
|When Jodet isn’t busy helping lead the Samovar team, or living in the downstairs basement of Samovar (OK, maybe that’s an exaggeration), she’s having herself a cup of Lychee Black. “The Lychee Black is an essence of who I am,” she says. “I love that tea like I love my mom. It’s my favorite tea of all time.”
“I drink it in my office every morning, and at times on my roof top overlooking the water at home while listening to the Idan Raichel Project. Pair it with a jook or an egg bowl, and you have yourself a perfect, warming meal! When Jodet isn’t sipping her Lychee, she’s practicing vinyasa yoga, obsessing about design and architecture, tending to her cat Madison, or flipping through Architectural Digest magazine.”
She has a love for print journalism, fashion photography, Chinese herbs and acupuncture, white wine and fine dining, and of course, the tea culture and its many meticulous details.
Jodet speaks Farsi , Armenian, English (of course), and is currently studying Spanish with the intent to become fluent. She’s attending school for her MBA.
“I grew up drinking tea from really beautiful, authentic, gold-plated, traditional Samovars in Iran. Tea has been an important part of my life since childhood.”
|This man has many talents…he teaches yoga and meditation every week throughout the United States and abroad, he’s the founder of the Learning To Listen Yoga & Meditation Center (a non-profit committed to offering tools for conscious living), he has written two books, and recorded two audio cds.
Jonathan believes that if done mindfully, all things can lead one to a greater appreciation of this life. He feels tea’s production process, its historic culture, and the community it attracts, all display and evoke a mindful life. For Jonathan, it seems the subtlety of tea’s drinking experience ultimately steeps the sipper in awareness itself. Jonathan’s favorites include the Herbal Tea Sampler: mellowness all around. For something more exotic, he goes for the Palace Pu-erh!
“Tea is an open secret, an offering where nothing is hidden and all is shared – if only we pause long enough to take refuge in the warmth that is tea’s home…”
|When he takes time away from singing live performances, which range from acoustic to hip-hop, and flying around the globe, Karter is into really chilling- out with tea.
“Russian Tea–all the way! Every day, all day. The caffeine really makes me alert, and the flavor just keeps releasing from the leaves. Plus, I love that it is blended right here at Samovar. My other favorite is the herbal infusion of Moorish Mint. It’s a little sweet, and really full bodied, and perfect when I want to really mellow out. When I have friends over, I love to make Matcha and do the whole ceremony thing. It tastes grassy and leaves a beautiful foam mustache on your upper lip.”
|Loraine (also known as Lobo) is one of the most easy-going people to know. She’s down-to-earth and always has a smile on her face.
The name for one of our infamous Japanese Senchas, Lobocha… was named after our Lobo, who has a passion for green teas.
Loraine has been working at Samovar since she was in diapers–maybe not exactly that long, but a long time coming.
When Lorraine isn’t traveling around the jungles of Thailand, or spinning records in the comfort of her home, she’s checking out live shows in the city, improving her skills as a DJ, dancing, buying new music equipment, checking out shows at the Mezzanine, eating sushi, or collecting good Sake. She’s quite adventurous, and loves to drink the Hika.
She pairs her green teas with a salmon maki bowl, and she has herself a perfect meal.
|Luis is one of our cooks here at Samovar, so it is no surprise that he always has an opinion on what teas to pair with different foods.
A native of Yucatan, Mexico, Luis loves to play different musical instruments on his free time. “I play the keyboard and the drums” Luis says, “I come from a very musical family, everyone in my family plays an instrument”.
But how does Luis know about tea? well, he has been drinking it his whole life “I grew up drinking tea, mostly herbal infusions, but I’ve always liked the way it brings people together, even if it is just for a brief moment.” Luis loves to drink the Silver Bud Melon Frost because of its flavor and aroma. He likes to pair his tea with the Duck Jook.
|When Noel is not serving at Samovar Tea Lounge, she can be found dancing the night away at local venues, or reading “The Tipping Point.”
Noel loves to read, explore, and learn new things , especially expanding her knowledge about the Samovar food menu.
Noel says, “There’s nothing better than a cup of Hika with some buttery toast for breakfast. Yum…” Pair that with some jazzy music, and Noel has herself a perfect afternoon.
While surfing the Pacific, practicing a bit of yoga on Sundays…interspersed with some computer programming here and there–Paul is constantly fueled by Samovar’s Masala Chai.
“I guess I am a chai guy. I love it here at the lounge, cooked up thick and creamy and sweet and spicy. Full flavor, and a good caffeine boost when I am working a lot, or working a little. I also love cooking it up at home, and adding some of my personal favorites: extra Assam tea, soy milk, honey, and fresh herbs.”
“When I am in the mood for something more traditional, I often go for the Monkey Picked Iron Goddess of Mercy . Strong, but very complex, and good for many, many infusions.”
After eight years on the hardpan of the Sonoran desert, Paul moved to the concrete and metal canyons of San Francisco to pursue the urban tea lifestyle as well as his artistic dreams as a writer. “The Israelites did 40 years in the desert but I only ended up having to do eight,” he jokes about his years in exile.
Crossing the wilderness to the promise land led to the discovery of spiritual purification practices like Vipassana meditation, the martial art Aikido, the Lakota Ceremonial way of life known as The Red Road, and of course the power of Tea Ceremony.
The Fall of 2009 marks ten years under the tutelage of his Buddhist meditation teacher Shinzen Young. Later this year, he plans on completing the production of his first documentary film, Thunderdreamer, the life story of his mentor Wicasa Intankan Tatanka Weitgo, also known as Chief Phillip Aaron Crazybull, also known as Phil, an authentic Heyoka Medicine Man.
Samovar’s Ceremonial blog contributor 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.
Rama likes to pair to of her favorite habits together: reading and tea. She never does one without the other. Currently she is reading Franz Kafka .
“My favorite thing to drink lately is the Japanese Kukicha. I like lighter flavored teas and this one is very subtle and delicate. I also love the Jasmine Pearl. My favorite thing about this tea is that it is so beautiful to watch. Each dried tea pearl comes very compact, until you add it to hot water, and then, it opens up like a caterpillar stretching. I like to just watch it open, and twist around in my pot.”
“Every Sunday morning I go to a 6-hour yoga class, and it is really intense. After class I need some relaxing time, and I usually turn to Osmanthus Silver Needle . I like its soothing, subtle sweetness and evergreen coolness. So cooling, full bodied, and smooth, I love this one after my long yoga class.”
“My first pu-erh ever, is still my favorite. The Maiden’s Ecstasy . Bittersweet chocolate is what it reminds me of, but it is just aged tea. I love this one because it’s great for travel, and I always carry a can with me when I travel home to London to visit my family. They all drink the standard breakfast blends, so, when I bring out this exotic little wrapped tea-nugget, they are all intrigued. Just unwrapping it is really exciting–part of the ceremony.”
“My other every day, favorite tea it the Monkey Picked Iron Goddess of Mercy . So many infusions, with so few leaves. This tea packs a punch–caffeine as well as the classic Tieguanyin woodsy-floral profile. I actually even believe the lore about this tea: It has a rather energizing effect on the libido. My other favorite oolong is the Wuyi Dark Roast. I always serve this tea for special occasions, like when I have a dinner party. You always get many infusions”
“I love to camp. And, whenever I go my old faithful tea is the Wei Chi Cha. Refreshing and re hydrating, it is the best thing to have to start the day. No caffeine, and loads of taste. You can’t go wrong with that herbal.
This is the transcript from our Tea TV Episode: Tea 101
Jesse Jacobs: I’m Jesse Jacobs and I’m here today with Christine Savage of Samovar Tea Lounge, and we’re here to talk abut tea, of which we are looking quite a few types and let’s start with just Tea 101, Christine.
Christine Savage: As you see, all of these teas really look different from each other. But all tea is made from the same plant, this plant is Camellia sinensis and it’s a plant indigenous to the China, Burma, Northern Vietnam, Assam region of the world.
What distinguishes each kind of tea from one another is the way that it’s processed.
Jesse Jacobs: So these are all the same plant, just processed differently?
Though I haven’t been able to keep in touch with pretty much anyone in SF, I am now free from school duties and about to move back home in a month, which allows me to catch up.
I periodically check out the website, when I get nostalgic about the times at Samovar, my “tea time”. I was reading about the Ambassadors…and thought I’d share the story between me and tea.
Tea has always been a tradition in my family. As far as I know, my mother does not drink water- black tea in the morning, more in the afternoon, and some herbal infusion in the evening. Over the last few years, it’s strictly been organic and fair-trade also.
When I was a young teenager, I really got into herbal teas- and began going to herbalist stores to buy different herbs with different properties, then mixing my own blends, either acording to taste, or to healing properties. I made infusions nightly for a few years, and cured (or tried to) family and friends with my concoctions. Yet, I was a coffee guy. My people’s affair with coffee dates centuries back, and coffee culture there is omnipresent.
When Samovar’s idea was introduced to me, it made me curious, yet skeptical. As I wanted to learn about tea, and was intrigued by all these new concepts and stories introduced to me, I also was not sure tea could have such a big place in our society. Of course, that changed as I witnessed Samovar grow into what it was when I left, and the profound influence tea culture has had on myself and the many people around me. And I started understanding, and sharing, the values the store embraces- those of community, relaxation, slowing down, environmental and human responsibility, and health.
I left San Francisco with James, a few belongings, and a big bag of tea samples. One of the first things we did when we moved in together, was brew some tea in a koryo cup, to celebrate.
I have since used black tea to power my brain during the long course of studies I chose. A good cup of strong Assam was always by my side during those long nights on midterms’ or finals’ weeks. There was no way I could have studied well with the jittery, confused, edgy buzz coffee or energy drinks give you. Tea helped me keep a clear, focused mind, while sustaining my body, aching from sitting down for long hours, while my classmates studying with me and drinking their Rockstar or triple lattes, were constantly scratching, tapping their feet, needing a break, worrying about failing.
Yet, having to wake up at 6am every day for class, getting out at 3, then going to work until 11pm every day, I never felt I could give up coffee. My fogged morning eyes demanded a punch in order to stay open, drive to school, and sit through a dark radiology class. My evenings of running around carrying plates to impatient, snappy, over-worked, Starbucks-fueled Americans, felt like an unsurmountable mountain without the kick of a coffee cup.
Yet, this has certainly not added life to my years nor years to my life..and the more I drank coffee, the more I depended on it daily, the more I needed a powerful herbal infusion to slow down enough to go to sleep at night. What a concept. Amp yourself up, then slow yourself down. Repeat daily. How retarded.
I kept with this coffee-and-tea-and herbals routine until my last two trimesters. As I entered my last few months of school, I started my internship in the college clinic. So here I am, still a student, dealing with real people, real sick people, trying to diagnose and treat and apply all that I have studied, struggling to keep calm and have a good vibe, yet being attent to every word or movement which can provide a clue to diagnosing a condition….and as I do this, I am full of coffee. Trying to calm down patients in severe pain, with my heart racing. Trying to listen and be sympathetic, with my head spinning.
It worked out for the patients, but it was such a struggle.
Then two things happened.
Number one, I was assigned to a different clinician, who ensured me of how good I was and how confident I looked, and how knowledgeable he knew I was.
Second, I pulled out a bag from my cabinet. I opened it and took out two old, dried-up friends from their meticulously sealed bag. Their names? Jinxuan and Baozhong.They were old and a little beaten up, but still full of that chestnutty aroma that made me fall in love with them. I thought, why not sip these to start my day?
So the next day, while I was chopping my breakfast fruits, the Baozhong was in the koryo cup. I take the lid off and the aroma of orchids blesses the new day, brings back memories of tea-lecturing strangers on Sanchez street, mingles with the scent of the nearby raspberries. I sip, and my day starts in second gear. It has been a necessary habit since.
My last few months, I was the intern I wanted to be. I got to the clinic still sleepy, but relaxed and uplifted by the gorgous smells, and confident that the oolong will soon help me wake up. I was always relaxed, yet well aware and awake. With my mind clear, I listened carefully to every patient, made contact with them, felt their spines not only for lack of motion but also for blocks in the subtle fields around their nerves, feeling where the problem was, knowing exactly how to fix it. After a physical exam, the list of differential diagnoses I presented to my clinician was always on target. I would always back up and justify, calmly, my findings and my treatment plan. I connected with patients on a different level- and they felt it, and told me about it. Oolong helped me achieve this.
Now, when I recommend a nutritional plan, which I custom-make for each patient, there are always three staples: daily omega-3 fatty acids, Vitamin E, and a cup of green tea. Everybody has heard about the benefits of tea, but it is when they are told by someone in a white coat, that they do start drinking it- following the recommendation to not just chug it, but to sit down, calm down one’s thoughts, and sip. Believe me, it does wonders, together with regular adjustments. I also switched to black iced tea before and during work, which proved to be the best choice- strong enough to power me through a busy night, yet without the stress and impatience and feeling of impending doom of my coffee-fueled nights.
As I write this, Kwan Yin’s elixir is next to me. It’s my nice afternoon treat before I go out with friends.
Baozhong has, to me, the character and versatility no other tea has. The scent of orchids and chestnuts and tropical foliage always pleases the senses; it is a friend in the morning, who slowly holds up your eyelids, and assists your body in unfurling as the day begins. It is light enough to be a night companion- when the mellowness of its taste overpowers the caffeine and promotes a good night sleep. It is a great entertainer of guests during hot Los Angeles evenings- everybody loves some Oolong on the rocks, and some even enjoy it with a splash of vodka.
Tea has been a friend, a helping companion, and a source of interest and inspiration to me throughout the years.
Thank you for having given me the opportunity to explore the world of tea. I miss you all and will do my best to come to San Francisco soon, before I leave.
Gabriele Malinverno, DC