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Overcoming the Distracted Mind

Book beside toast and tea

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.

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5 Steps To Tapping Your Creativity

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.

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Tea Magick—A Party on the Intuitive Side

Come to Samovar to drink tea while you mix and mingle with kindred spirits drawn together to celebrate a shared passion for living the intuitive side of life.

Whether your soul searching brings you to Burning Man or keeps you close to home this August, join our three modern-day mystics at Samovar’s hidden gem in Hayes Valley for this fun and enlightening nighttime soiree, this Thursday, August 14th from 7pm-9pm. Continue reading Tea Magick—A Party on the Intuitive Side

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Rosie Palmer Lemon Iced Tea Recipe

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.

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Success Ritual #3, Being Grateful For Thorns

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 2013 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.

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There’s Only One First Time: A Samovar Oolong Orgy

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.

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Success Ritual #3, How To Identify Your Core Values

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When I’m traveling and I tell people what I do, they often roll their eyes and say, “A tea lounge? Only in San Francisco!”

Now we have three Tea Lounges plus an online shop, but the truth is, Samovar almost never happened — even in San Francisco.

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!)

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Success Ritual #2, From Shoe-Shine to Samovar, The Power of Visualization

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Things do not change; we change.

— Henry David Thoreau

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?…”

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Success Ritual #1, The Wake Up Shower

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The doctor of the future will give no medicine but will interest his patients in the care of the human frame, in diet and in the cause and prevention of disease.

–Thomas Edison

Did you ever see the customers in health-food stores? They are pale, skinny people who look half-dead. In a steakhouse, you see robust, ruddy people. They’re dying, of course, but they look terrific.

–Bill Cosby

Not long ago, my friend Dr. Sara Gottfried stopped by Samovar Tea Lounge. She’d been busy writing, traveling, promoting her new book, The Hormone Cure: Reclaim Balance, Sleep, Sex Drive and Vitality Naturally with the Gottfried Protocol. It’s a great book.

I’m not the only one who likes it. Her book is a New York Times, USA Today, and Amazon Bestseller — no small feat!

As we talked, our conversation naturally turned to tips and tricks for keeping life in balance.

I was curious about how hormones affect men. What hormones should I be concerned about? What could I improve?

We had a fun conversation, but simply didn’t have enough time. Afterwards, I made two commitments:

1. I would learn more about the power of hormones and use my daily rituals to achieve the right balance,

2. I’d get Sara back to Samovar for a followup chat soon! (Want to join us? Read on for details.)

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Tea Traditions: Afternoon Tea

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.)

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4 Steps to Facing Your Fears

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:

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Why Handcrafted Matters

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.

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How to Exercise the Samovar Way

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.

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Tea: A Moving Meditation

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.

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Vitamin C in Your Tea

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.

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Your Hidden Superpower: Awareness

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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.

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“Tea Buzz”, a Poem By Gwen Weiss

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.”

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How We Serve at Samovar

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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.

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Meet the Goddess

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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.

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Practice Peace, Drink Tea

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“Every day brings a clear choice:
to practice stress or to practice peace.”

–Joan Borysenko

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?

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How to Kick Coffee

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.

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5 Things You Didn’t Know About Tea

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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.

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Why Tea Sucks

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!

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Tea Feature: Ryokucha Green Tea

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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.

Check out our free Ultimate Beginner’s Guide to Tea video to learn how to brew the perfect cup of tea. And get some tips for how to brew Ryokucha strong in the Learn section of our website.

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What’s Your Mission This Week?

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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.

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Tea Appreciation Day

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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.

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Samovar Tea Lounge Partners with The Long Now Foundation

Samovar Tea Lounge is proud to partner with The Long Now Foundation to source a rare pu-erh tea for the foundation’s future Salon, for which they are raising support.

The Long Now Foundation was established in 01996 to to creatively foster long-term thinking and responsibility in the framework of the next 10,000 years. They are championing the Clock and Library projects, to provide a counterpoint to today’s accelerating culture and help make long-term thinking more common.

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If We Had to Choose Just One Tea Utensil…

 

If we were stranded on a desert island and could choose only tea brewing utensil, we’d choose the Samovar Cloud Gaiwan. It’s beautiful, simple, and makes great tea.

The Chinese gaiwan, or “covered bowl,” is one of the oldest brewing devices around. It concentrates the infusion, allowing you to re-infuse the same leaves over and over. Sip straight from the cup or decant into a separate cup, and you’ll enjoy stronger aromas, more full bodied taste, and a beautiful view of the leaves unfurling.

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Tea Gifts for Father’s Day

Pu-erh is the wine of the tea world: earthy, strong, and complex. Infuse the same tea leaves again and again to emit dark flavors of cedar forests, tobacco, bittersweet chocolate, and espresso. An epicurean experience favored by coffee drinkers and wine connoisseurs.

This Father’s Day, pair a box of pu-erh tea with our sturdy Brew Basket or Vivid Brewpot to give your dad a premium tea experience.

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