By now you’re probably familiar with the many benefits of mindfulness and meditation—better sleep, feeling happier, less stress, less anxiety, less pain, to name a few—but if you’re like me, and many of our guests, you’ve might have struggled to get started. Or, you might have dabbled but struggled to develop a practice that sticks.
The tradition of drinking tea and the practice of meditation have been intertwined for thousands of years with ritual tea service helping practitioners stay focused for hours on end. When I opened Samovar in 2002, I was inspired to create a new kind of tea house—an urban sanctuary where everyday folks could retreat from the daily stresses of modern life, find nourishment with tea and a delicious meal and emerge recharged and re-centered. Continue reading Mindfulness Tea
The size of every tea leaf matters. Leaves that are consistent in size, shape, and color mean that the cup of tea will be complex and consistent. The leaves will steep evenly, delivering a brew that has a unique aroma, body, taste and aftertaste. And it’s much more work to grow and select and process leaves that entirely the same throughout. It takes a lot more work to choose only those leaves that are the same. It requires more attention to each leaf. And the results are noticeable. It’s why our tea is so good, so full of complexity and nuance and awesomeness. Look at our leaves and you’ll notice that the English Breakfast Black tea is uniform throughout, and entirely different than our Green Ecstasy. Our farmers pay attention to every leaf they pick, ensuring this consistency stays true.Continue reading Tea Leaves and Aprons: it’s all in the detail
Every morning at Samovar the day begins with water. We boil water in our three-gallon, hand hammered copper pots and begin the first pot of the day of our masala chai. At 6 AM every single day, 363 days a year (we skip Christmas and Thanksgiving), the aroma of freshly blended cardamom, cinnamon, ginger, black pepper, and star anise fill the air with a humid, sweet, earthy smell. The delicious, humid steam wafts up and out the window, down the streets, filling the cool foggy San Francisco air with deliciousness throughout the neighborhood. Pastries and fresh bread arrive soon after from our local baker. We begin a big pot of steamed brown rice to see us through the day. The aroma of bursting grains blends with the chai and the air inside our locations is simply scrumptious. At 6:50 AM we put out the A-frame on the sidewalk, unlock the doors, and turn on the music. Continue reading Why We Serve
Every day we are bombarded by distractions. It can feel like our attention is being pulled in a million different directions at once. How can we enjoy the benefits of modern technology while maintaining focus, productivity and well-being? Luckily, we’ve got neuroscientists on our side to help us understand how our brains work and identify tools and techniques to help us stay focused, people like my good friend Adam Gazzaley and his colleague Larry Rosen.
The pace of life isn’t slowing down. Partly, we’re dealing with the inevitable physics of getting older—with age every new moment is a smaller percent of our entire life so it truly feels like less time. Days pass like minutes, months slip by like days… That said, with age we also accumulate experience, and with the right attention we can transform our experience into wisdom.
It’s 1960 at the Cherry Hills Country Club in Denver, Colorado. A man steps up to the bar and orders an iced tea with lemonade. Nearby, a woman recognizes him as he walks away and says to the bartender, “I’ll have that Palmer drink,” inadvertently launching the iced tea phenomenon known as The Arnold Palmer.
At our Tea Bar in the Mission, we’re introducing our take on this classic iced tea, named in homage to the golf great, that we’re calling The Rosie Palmer.
When the weather gets hot, Jasmine Green Tea Lemonade chills the palette and calms the mind. It’s one of the best-sellers at our Tea Lounges, but for years we’ve held the recipe as a closely-guarded secret. Take a look as we lay bare our coveted Iced Tea recipe.
You might not spend time consciously visualizing your future, but I bet you have a pretty clear idea of where you’re going; if you’re like most Samovarians, you’ve got ambitious goals to complete before 2018 is done. So let me ask, on a scale of 1 to 10 how close are you to living your ideal life?
Grab a piece of paper and write down your number. Be honest — you don’t have to share the number and you aren’t being graded.
Oolong tea can be dangerous. Lilies explode in full bloom… Autumn leaves fall in the woods… Tree-ripened peach juice drips down your chin… The aromas and flavors weave together in beguiling combination. An experience with oolong lingers in your memory like a lover’s kiss.
In the hands of artisans-of-the-leaf, oolong will spoil you thoroughly. Thousand year-old tea cultivars grown in the cliffs of Southern China and Taiwan develop character that can only come from facing challenges and overcoming.
Of the banks that made time to meet, more than seventy rejected the business plan. Even number seventy-two, the bank that finally gave us a break, thought we would fail. “Honestly,” the loan officer said. “All the data says your concept will fail. But this is a place that I want to exist because I want to go there! With that, I’m going to approve it.” (Thank you for believing, Mr. Decius!)
To improve is to change; to be perfect is to change often.
— Winston Churchhill
Knock, knock, knock. “One minute!” A woman’s voice replies from inside the single-story suburban home. The door opens. “Hello?”
“Hello, ma’am,” I say. “Have you ever considered what would happen to your beautiful home in the event of a fire? I’m sure you have insurance, but that wouldn’t begin to cover the true cost of your lost heirlooms — to say nothing of the danger! I’m here to share with you one of the absolute BEST fire extinguishers ever made. Do you mind if I come in?…”
At Samovar Tea Lounge, our tea and food menu draws from tea cultures around the world, from Morocco, to Japan, to China, to India. One of our most popular dishes is the English Tea Service, inspired by the traditional “afternoon tea.”
The 19th-century Duchess of Bedford is credited with inventing afternoon tea. At the time, folks in London ate two main meals: breakfast, and dinner. Dinner was served around 8-9 pm, and like many others, the Duchess found that she became hungry around 3 pm. She started enjoying a pot of tea and small finger sandwiches or cakes in the afternoon to take the edge off her hunger.
Soon friends began joining her for tea, and the ritual exploded across the country, with people gathering in the afternoon to socialize over tea. (Afternoon tea is different than “high tea,” which is a heavier meal served later in the day.)
Fear is sticky, like glue. The initial emotion of fear may only last a few minutes, but if we let it linger, it can get stuck in our system for days, months, or even a lifetime.
The sensation of fear is effective if it protects us from real threats. The fight-or-flight reaction has helped humans escape life-threatening dangers over the millennia. But in this era of thinking, creating, and problem solving, our fears are usually unfounded. And when fear sticks in our system, it becomes a toxic influence on our choices, emotions, and actions.
Here are a few tips for getting fear out of your system:
As I sip some Golden Phoenix Oolong this morning, I’m musing over a quality, hand-finished keychain curated by my friends at Huckberry. There’s a real boom going on these days in handcrafted goods. I’m not just talking about funky, craftsy things you find on Etsy. I’m talking about incredibly beautiful, well-made, durable, traditionally crafted goods.
Let’s face it: we’re physical beings in physical bodies. When we exercise we feel good, and have more energy and enthusiasm for life. Our minds can focus better, and our bodies fight off sickness more effectively.
Yet most of our modern day working lives are spent in a chair, behind a wheel, or in front of a computer. Exercise is uncomfortable, so therefore it’s undesirable. Our schedules are full, our days are long, and we’re overwhelmed with distraction, so we find plenty of reasons to let exercise slip off the priority list.
So what if we reframed our thinking about exercise—not as a chore, but as a practice, as important as brushing your teeth and meditating? Suddenly the challenges and excuses melt away. You might even find yourself enjoying the process.
One of the challenges meditation is how to deal with your mind wandering all over the place while you’re sitting there. One way to ease into the concept is to do a moving meditation.
Anything can be a moving meditation, from dance, to yoga, to labyrinth walking. Tea is my moving meditation. Just taking the time to brew a cup of tea mindfully can quiet my mental chatter and help me tune into the present moment.
Our organic Hibiscus Bliss isn’t a replacement for a multivitamin, but this caffeine-free blend contains natural vitamin C, which promotes a healthy immune system, skin, eyes, and heart.
The “C” in Hibiscus Bliss comes from two herbs: hibiscus and rosehips. Hibiscus is a bright red tropical flower which may also help lower blood pressure. Rosehips, made from the round red fruit that forms on a rose bush, is one of the richest plant sources for vitamin C.
The word “inspire” comes from the Latin word meaning “to breathe.” I agree with the ancient Romans; to breathe with intention is to be filled with life and inspiration.
There’s this perception that meditation is only for really spiritual people. That it’s woo-woo or granola-y. But the benefits of meditation are hard science; studies have indicated that meditation can reduce blood pressure, improve the immune system, reduce stress levels, and much more.
Here’s a beautiful poem written by Gwen Weiss, a customer at the Tea Lounges. She said, “I was delivering tempeh to the Castro location today and decided to stop in my deliveries and have a cup of tea and get a snack…such a great decision. I ended up drinking Maiden’s Ecstasy [pu-erh] and a poem came through that I left for James and the other very sweet servers.”
I think it’s fair to say that the number one survival skill in the professional world is sales. You can have the best product in the world, but if no one buys it, it doesn’t matter.
At Samovar we focus on sales by actually NOT focusing on sales. All day long we’re bombarded again and again by ads: online, in the news, in the movie theater, everywhere. We’re trained to be on the defensive and revolt against anyone who tries to push something on us.
Instead of a sales pitch, what Samovar offers is connection. Genuine connection. This makes hiring and training hard; it’s challenging to find team members who truly care about connecting with total strangers. But it’s worth the effort, and customers often comment on the friendly, supportive service we provide.
And service is the best way to sell. No, we’re not a non-profit, and we can’t carry out our mission if we’re not profitable. But our focus is on understanding what our customers really need. We’re not here just to feed people and keep them hydrated. We’re here to give guests what they truly crave: a respite from the rigors of life. The opportunity to unplug, slow down, and connect with themselves, and with others.
If we compete just by selling lots of tea, we’re up against giants like Tazo Tea and Lipton. But if we compete by solving the true needs of each guest, we are wholly unique.
The typical restaurant has employees that are essentially “order takers.” It’s scary because if all you’re doing is literally “taking orders,” I’d say that your job isn’t very secure. There’s probably an app coming out for restaurants that will do just that.
Her name is Tie Kuan Yin. It means the Iron Goddess of Mercy, but to us she’s the Goddess of Tea.
According to Chinese legend, Kuan Yin’s temple was located in the Fujian province of China. At one point the temple became very dilapidated. A poor farmer took notice, and whenever he had a chance he would sweep the temple floors, burn incense, and clean her statue.
“Every day brings a clear choice:
to practice stress or to practice peace.”
Everyone you meet today has something they’re stressed about. Probably multiple things. It’s just part of life. But you can only do so much to address your stresses, and then you have the choice to let them go, or to hold onto them. What if you chose to let them go?
At Samovar Tea Lounge, we get a lot of customers coming in asking us how they can kick the coffee habit. We never hear people asking how they can get off tea though. Why is this?
I have nothing against coffee, and enjoy the occasional well-brewed cup of Joe just as much as the next person. But coffee as part of your daily routine can present some problems.
First off, coffee is highly addictive. Once you start to depend on coffee to wake you up in the morning, and keep you going all day long, it becomes a crutch. How many people do you know who have to have their cup of coffee in the morning, or else they’ll get massive headaches? Perhaps you’re one of them.
White teas are processed so gently that you can still see the fuzzy hairs on the tea buds. To make white tea, the baby tea buds and tender young leaves of the tea plant are picked, then dried in the sun. After one to three days, they’re baked briefly to halt the oxidation process. That’s it.
1. All tea comes from the same plant.
Whether black tea, white tea, oolong tea, green tea, or pu-erh tea, it all comes from the camellia sinensis plant. The varietals, oxidation level, and processing techniques differentiate each type of tea. Herbal blends are actually not “real” tea, since they come from other botanicals.
2. It’s polite to slurp your tea.
As with wine, professional tea tasters slurp their tea from a spoon to experience the full flavor of the tea on all parts of their palate.
The biggest problem with tea today is that there’s too much of it. The choices are overwhelming. Which tea company should you go with? What tea should you drink? Which brewing method should you use?
Wherever we turn, we’re faced with options, and lots of them. Think about it. You go to your local deli and they offer you six kinds of bread, four kinds of mayo, two kinds of mustard, five kinds of turkey, and eleven garnishes. All I want is an amazing turkey sandwich and I have to make all these choices? What a pain!
Legend has it that popped rice and tea originated in ancient Japan when premium green tea was a luxury item. Peasants made their tea stretch further by adding toasted rice kernels.
Samovar Tea Lounge pays homage to this tradition of tea and rice with our Ryokucha Green Tea. We blend high quality, organic Japanese green tea with toasted rice and a touch of organic matcha. The result: a smooth, nutty brew with a luminous jade green color.
Cereal-like with a sweet grassiness, Ryokucha is the ultimate tea for breakfast. Pair Ryokucha with freshly baked bread, oatmeal, or our Jook with smoked salmon.
Today I’m savoring our Monkey Picked Iron Goddess of Mercy Oolong. A clean, robust infusion with woodsy high notes and deep baked apple undertones. As our description for this tea says: “Sip. Penetrate your issues. Dissolve them.” This is the way of tea and the way of business for us at Samovar Tea Lounge.
It’s easy to see tea as a simple commodity; a utilitarian item you keep on hand for occasional enjoyment and/or health benefits. It’s so easy to forget what went into giving you the perfect cup of tea that you may be sipping even this moment:
The soil, water, and air that nourish the tea plants and help them to put forth fresh buds each season.
The farmers, who work so diligently to grow the tea plants and to coax out the leaves’ full potential for flavor and aroma.
The servers at the Tea Lounges who share their passion for tea every day.