San Francisco Magazine captured the spirit of our Mission location in a recent article.
“Fast, cheap, delicious, beautiful, potent.”
That’s how Jesse Jacobs sums up the attributes of a proper cup of tea. More specifically, it’s the cups of tea he began selling at his third location of Samovar in early June. Unlike its older siblings, which Jacobs created in the vein of more traditional tea houses, the sleek Valencia St. storefront was designed, like the tea it peddles, as a minimalist antidote to the “cognitive overload” of modern life, Jacobs says. “It’s absolutely essential to bring the focus on tea, and how to maintain a sense of emptiness.”
SF Eater shares their first impressions of the newest Samovar on 411 Valencia in The Mission. If you’re looking for a leisurely lunch, be sure to visit one of our Tea Lounges. But if you’re looking for a fresh-baked scone and cup of tea brewed in our Tea Crucibles, the new Samovar Tea Bar is just what you need.
Beginners to Bigshots featured Jesse Jacobs and Samovar Tea Lounge in the 2004 edition. Here we catch up on what has happened with the business since then.
With three locations in San Francisco and a growing presence online, Samovar Tea Lounge, founded in 2001, is poised to deliver peaceful living to the masses.
“Our whole focus is on how do we help our customers and people in general get more of what they need, which is often slowing down, focus, calm, reduced stress. We end up really promoting a lifestyle choice,” said Samovar founder Jesse Jacobs.
Customers are soaking up the Samovar lifestyle, indeed. The company’s revenue has jumped to north of $4 million today from $2.3 million in 2008. Even more impressive is that since receiving a $160,000 loan through the Small Business Administration and counseling, training and technical assistance from a local Small Business Development Center in its early days, Samovar’s growth has been organic.
Mary McCue, president and CEO of MJM Management Group, a designer and manager of public spaces in San Francisco, and a regular to the Mission-Castro location, “begged” Jacobs to open a lounge in Yerba Buena Gardens in 2006.
“I wanted tea to be served in on our terrace, and I knew Samovar would do something that would be distinctive to the Gardens,” said McCue. “I was also impressed with Samovar’s commitment to excellence. Most importantly, they are experts at tea service from countries all around the world.”
Once Samovar agreed to open the second location, MJM Management did what it could to help. “As a small company, we didn’t have deep pockets, and they helped make it a viable next step,” said Jacobs. Samovar opened a third teahouse in Hayes Valley a few years later under similar circumstances. Jacobs plans to expand to other cities with the “right partners.”
“Developers and landlords have come to realize that we have a solid business, a solid brand and proven operations, and they see it as a great opportunity to increase the value of their property,” said Jacobs, who attributes his company’s growth to a focus on the customer experience.
Although Samovar still derives most of its revenue from the tea lounges, it is keen to deepen its relationship with customers online. Its website includes a tea emporium for wholesalers and individuals as well as informational posts about different teas and educational videos about the benefits of tea culture. Jacobs’ recent webinar about meditation and the ritual of tea drinking drew 1,500 participants around the world.
“It was a way to reach the entire world with a message about who we are, what we do, and how it can help,” said Jacobs.
Building the Samovar brand on- and offline is part of what differentiates it from Amazon and Starbucks, according to Jacobs. Samovar charges between $5 and $6 for a pot of chai tea — “more than anyone else in the world.” said Jacobs. “And people come back again and again and happily pay for it.”
Nathalie Pierrepont is a freelance writer in San Francisco.
On September 18, 2010, Samovar hosted “Tea With…Zen and the Art of Life Management,” bringing together life balance experts Leo Babauta, author of the blog Zen Habits, Tim Ferriss, author of The 4-Hour Workweek, and Susan O’Connell, VP of the San Francisco Zen Center. Forbes.com featured some highlights from Samovar’s event Zen and the Art of Life Management:
5 Ways To Find Your Zen
By KYM MCNICHOLAS
Friday, October 1, 2010
To survive in the digital world, there’s no such thing as a 4-hour work week. Sorry, Tim Ferriss. But there isn’t. I don’t think there ever was. But it was a nice idea. The web is live 24-hours a day with a captive audience at all times. We’re accessing it at home, at the office as well as on the road through our iPads, and smartphones, whether it’s the iPhone, Android, or Blackberry. Maybe, all three. Two of the three in my case.
So, if we’re always connected with the world, when are we taking time to connect with ourselves? Ummm…never? Ok, maybe when we go to the gym! But, Susan O’Connell, VP of the San Francisco Zen Center, says our bodies and our minds need a lot more! She believes that not taking time to re-connect with yourself daily is not a healthy and fulfilling way to live.
O’Connell was part of a panel discussion this week in front of a group of Silicon Valley entrepreneurs at Samovar Tea Lounge in San Francisco, along with Samovar’s owner, Jesse Jacobs, and Tim Ferriss, author of ‘The 4-Hour Workweek.”
The New York Times Dining and Wine Section features Samovar among the colorful and diverse San Francisco Bay Area teahouses.
Teahouses’ Unique Blends Are Not Just in the Cup
By GREGORY DICUM
Published: January 1, 2010
“…Samovar, in the Castro, makes tea drinking a stylish affair. Teas from around the world are served as they are in their home countries: Japanese maki bowls of rice and seaweed with ryokucha brown rice tea, English tea service with scones and Devonshire cream, Chinese tea with dumplings, and masala chai with curry. Russian tea is poured from a gleaming samovar.
‘We bring the world’s tea traditions under one roof,” said Jesse Jacobs, who opened Samovar in 2001. “It’s contemporary and hip but also respecting tradition.’
…Though many occupy spaces that used to be coffeehouses, it’s too early to call tea drinking a trend that will replace espresso anytime soon. Instead, it’s a parallel, calmer universe.
Tea Cozy: With help from his friends, an entrepreneur creates spaces for lingering.
By Megan Erickson
September 1, 2009
(Fortune Small Business) –At Samovar Tea Lounge, a chain of three teahouses in San Francisco, you’ll find no wireless Internet or bulletin board littered with local news and advertisements.
“The goal is to create relationships with customers where they become guests — or friends,” says CEO Jesse Jacobs, a dot-com veteran who opened the first Samovar, in the Castro/Mission district during the 2001 tech crash. “Our design reflects that. We try to provide a cocoon from the outside world, so we need more than just a few chairs and a Formica countertop.”
Seating space at the teahouse’s bamboo tables is intentionally tight. Jacobs, who built his shops without consulting professional designers, says the setup encourages patrons to mingle and try menu items that beckon from neighbors’ plates.
“It’s easy to overhear conversations, but that’s good,” says copywriter Paul Tootalian, 42, a regular customer. “There’s a real community feel.”
Inc. Magazine Fastest Growing Companies – We Made the List!
Samovar Tea Lounge joins an elite group of companies across America as they have made the 2009 Inc. Magazine 5000 list of fastest-growing companies. Over the last six years, Samovar has grown its staff to over 60 employees and to three San Francisco locations.
We’d like to thank all of our customers for contributing to our rapid and prosperous growth!
The corner of 18th and Sanchez was once home to an Internet café where customers plugged in and zoned out, or grabbed a cup of joe and hurried off. But when Jesse Jacobs took over, he one-eightied the coffee shop into a tea lounge, replacing jolts of energy with quiet pauses. “It was a statement about slowing down,” he says. “It was a testament to changing times.”
The Pipeline is an interview show featuring innovators, designers, geeks, newsmakers, entrepreneurs, and people who create amazing things.
We think it’s pretty amazing to be on the forefront of the modern day tea movement!
Jesse, founder of Samovar, recently conversed with host Dan Benjamin on topics including epiphany, refining experience, connecting to customers, time enhancement, dealing with fear, and tea as a vehicle to creating space in life for inspiration.
SFGate recommends Samovar’s Blood Orange Pu-Erh in the February 23, 2011 article “Offerings that fit you to…well, a tea”, saying:
Blood Orange Pu-erh
Samovar Tea Lounge has added an organic pu-erh tea from Yunnan, China, blended with ginger, orange peel and the essential oil from blood orange and grapefruit, to its already impressive menu. Pu-erh is believed to have many health benefits, and the leaves thrive under many infusions, so you can brew over and over.
Samovar Tea Lounge is officially the first tea company to introduce a compostable container for their full line of teas, which are available for purchase at Samovar’s three Bay Area retail locations and online store. Recognized for its award-winning tea menu and leading role in the American artisanal tea movement, Samovar’s latest packaging design marks an unprecedented eco-conscious solution in keeping products farm fresh while having a minimal impact on the environment. Samovar’s new tea box utilizes post-consumer recycled cardboard for its exterior shell, water based inks, and wood-based fiber material to retain maximum freshness for their handcrafted teas. A pioneering Bay Area green business, Samovar proudly introduces a sustainable package that’s as impermanent as the tea itself. Continue reading Samovar Tea Lounge Goes Green with 100% Compostable Tea Boxes
“[Samovar is a] triad of low-key, wi-fi free lounges in which a strange thing happens – people are looking each other in the eye and carrying on conversations. Jesse will share his take on technology and mindfulness in his business…”
SAMOVAR TEA LOUNGE LAUNCHES NEW ENTREPRENEURIAL VIDEO SERIES
Samovar Owner Jesse Jacobs Launches New Video Series
Featuring Discussions With Today’s Leading Entrepreneurs & Innovators
San Francisco, CA – September 1, 2010 – Jesse Jacobs, founder of San Francisco’s Samovar Tea Lounge, launches a new entrepreneurial video series “Tea With…” on Tuesday, September 14, 2010 with the latest installment focusing on “Tea Mavericks in America.” In the upcoming live video stream, today’s pioneering artisan tea gurus gather for the first time for this inspiring and informative panel discussion. Jacobs hosts the upcoming event with such participants as Joshua Kaiser (CEO of Rishi Tea), Ahmed Rahim (CEO of Numi Tea), Kevin Rose (CEO of Digg.com), James Norwood Pratt (author, The Tea Lover’s Treasury), and tea pioneer David Lee Hoffman. The series is broadcast live online from Samovar’s Yerba Buena location (730 Howard Street) and will be viewable on Jesse Jacobs’s blog (www.realritual.com) and the Samovar homepage (www.samovartea.com). The “Tea Mavericks of America” begins at 5 pm, and is limited to 30 live studio audience members. Continue reading Press Release: Samovar Tea Lounge Launches New Entrepreneurial Video Series
American Express Small Business Rules
Feb 17, 2010
“Tea is more than just a drink, it’s a chance to slow down the present moment. At least, that’s how Jesse Jacobs sees it, who was looking for a place to relax, hang out with friends, drink something healthy, and that was an alternative to the bar scene. Jesse created Samovar, a tea lounge that serves artisan whole leaf tea sourced from family farms all over the world. Samovar now includes three San Francisco locations and an online store.”
ABC News Channel 7’s The View from the Bay tastes, talks, and pairs tea and food with Samovar Tea Lounge founder Jesse Jacobs.
Tea & Food Pairings featured in the segment:
White Tea: Poached eggs, buttered sour dough toast with honey, sauted greens, steamed veggies, and desserts like vanilla ice cream and flan all help to bring out the subtle floral sweetness of this beautiful Chinese White tea.
Puerh Tea:Quiche, omelettes, nutella on toast, bittersweet chocolate, robust red wine and cheese, and spicy foods all pair really well with this earthy, espresso-like aged Chinese tea.
Green Tea:The succulent, floral, aromatic quality of jasmine flowers blended with organic, fair trade Chinese green tea pairs really well with rich, robust, smoky, heavy foods. Brioche French Toast, bacon, smoked fish, huevos rancheros, red meat, baked swordfish, sauteed onions and garlic are all ingredients and flavors that pair greatly with this tea.
Tea & Health:
• Seasonal, whole leaf Tea is healthy, as it’s got less caffeine than coffee, loads of antioxidants, and a natural, fresh delicious taste that comes only with artisanal whole leaf leaves sourced from small family farms around the globe.
• It’s soothing, and simultaneously uplifting, actually known to stimulate the same brain waves that yoga and meditation do!
• And, organic, Fair Trade tea is good for the environment as it is sustainably harvested from small scale family farms.
• Tea is romantic, and perfect for valentine’s day. Bring health and clarity to life and your loved one by giving them artisanal tea.
• Tea is easy. Brewing whole leaf tea is simple and fun, just add a pinch of fresh tea leaves to hot water, steep, and enjoy.
• Tea is about connecting: Living today in our modern world people have the need to connect, slow down, and take time for appreciating life. Tea delivers that.
• It raises the bar as the first tea company to launch an unprecedented eco-friendly packaging design consisting of 100% compostable materials. Recognized for its award-winning tea menu and leading role in the burgeoning American tea movement, Samovar develops innovative eco-conscious solutions for everyday small business needs.
• Samovar’s ingenious packaging utilizes 100% post-consumer cardboard for its exterior shell and a wood pulp fiber liner to retain maximum freshness of their handcrafted teas.
• A pioneering Bay Area green business, Samovar proudly introduces a sustainable container that, if composted, would turn to soil within a couple of months. The new container will be available in 2010.
• Samovar holds an exclusive partnership with Eva Lee and Chiu Leng of the Hawaii Tea Society as they will supply artisan tea made in America.
• Samovar’s goal is to further put America on the map for the production of premium artisan tea. After eight years of continual farming in Volcano Village on the Big Island, Samovar is the first mainland outlet to feature the limited edition Hawaii-Grown Oolong and Hawaii-Grown Black Tea, which was released on September 1, 2009.
• Samovar recently prepared a custom tea blend for His Holiness The Dalai Lama. The tea is named after The Dalai Lama himself, its titled Ocean of Wisdom. The tea accompanied The Dalai Lama as he presented “The Missing Peace” project at various art institutions across the U.S. Ocean of Wisdom is available for purchase at Samovar’s three Bay Area locations and online.
• Samovar is the exclusive retailer of “Gyokuro Inoka Hill,” which took 1st Place in the All Japanese Gyokuro Tea Competition last year. No one else in the world sells this tea, not even any retailers in Japan. It’s for only politicians and dignitaries in Japan, and Samovar customers.
• Almost all Samovar teas are organic and fair trade certified.
• Samovar utilizes many eco-friendly sustainability practices in their design and building efforts. They use many reclaimed and renewable resources as they design new locations. Their latest locale features a 1200 year-old, 20-foot naturally wind fallen redwood tree from Marin, CA serving as the tea bar.
• All tables are from wind fallen old growth trees, and the FSC certified wood flooring comes from sustainably managed US forests. All the metal work utilizes materials from turn of the century food processing facilities.
• Samovar allocates 1% of their profits to an education budget for standout employees to travel to other countries to research new teas firsthand, attend national industry and restaurant conventions, and take tea education classes.
Unisex Valentine’s Gifts for Every Sense.
By Margaret Ryan
The Huffington Post
February 2, 2010
“Valentine’s Day may have roots in a Hallmark campaign, but what harm is there in setting aside a day that motivates you to make a point of celebrating the one you love? Man or woman — here is a list of five genderless gifts which will appeal to the object of your affection…
(Taste) Samovar Tea Lounge Romance Tea Set: Packaged in a scarlet gift box, this unique tea set by San Francisco Company Samovar features three 40z. boxes of teas known for their seductive qualities: Wild Rose Bai Mudan (crushed rose petals and wild field grasses), Jasmine Pearl (jasmine blossoms and hints of cocoa powder) and Maiden’s Ecstasy (dark flavors of rich earth and wildflower honey). It also comes with a mesh infuser.$79 at Samovar.”
Samovar Tea Lounge
Specialty Coffee Retailer
by Dan Bolton
“New generation teahouses share a vision of tea for the broad audience, say Samovar Tea Lounge founder Jesse Jacobs (featured on this month’s cover)….
‘What all these teahouses have in common is an experience that is based on the foundations of tea: relaxation, social intimacy, and health — and delivered via food and teas with integrity.'”
“At its three locations around the city, Samovar Tea Lounge has mastered what many restaurants aspire to but which few achieve. More than just a business, it’s a lifestyle. Denizens here aren’t just cooks, waiters, baristas, and regulars — they’re ‘Ambassadors’ on a ‘mission to create peace through tea.’
“Samovar’s approach involves sourcing small batch, organic teas at fair trade prices from artisan family farmers, educating the public on the benefits of tea, and promoting traditional tea culture through the restaurants, events, and extensive Web site, Samovarlife.com. While the globally-inspired menu offers choices from dinner to brunch, small plates to dessert, the star is the tea, which Samovar implores you “sip slowly, filling you with calm and vitality.”
In a year when luxuries have to come with small price tags, the San Francisco Chronicle gives Samovar Teas a nod in their affordable gift guide:
“No gifts, no glory — yes, it’s that time of year. The quest for lasting value made our holiday shopping different this year. Quality trumped quantity, an old-fashioned notion that’s new again and, when we did the math, affordable. We took our Champagne-tastes and found indulgences, treats and all kinds of surprises on a ginger ale budget. The challenge made us creative. We’re delighted with the high-low mix. And as you wrap your selections, we know you’ll be basking in the giver’s happy glow.”
Florence Fabricant of the New York Times picks Samovar’s Hawaii- Grown Teas for the Times’ holiday gift guide!
“Hawaiian Tea – Hawaii is known for its Kona coffee, but now serious commercial growers are cultivating high-quality teas. Tea Hawaii’s black tea has a winy richness, and its oolong is layered with subtle earthiness. Neither is bitter. Hawaii teas can be ordered from www.samovartea.com in San Francisco, for $25 an ounce.”
“This bastion of relaxation pays homage to the tea rituals of many great chai-centric societies, including a classic English service, a Moorish medley, and a Chinese tea tasting. If your hot beverage mood is steering you to Russia with love, then the house-blend black tea goes brilliantly with Samovar’s devilled eggs, which takes the traditional Ruskie whole wheat blini topped with caviar and egg yolk and inverts it, instead stuffing the egg with caviar and serving alongside wheat crackers.”
San Francisco tea lounge opens third site in Hayes Valley, boosts web site
San Francisco Business Times – by Elizabeth Rauber September 18, 2009
The United States has never had much of a tea culture, but Jesse Jacobs thinks that a change is brewing.
Jacobs is the owner of Samovar, a chain of three San Francisco tea lounges and an online tea emporium that emphasizes artisan, fair trade, organic teas grown at small farms around the world.
Already, Samovar has grown revenue to $2.3 million in 2008, more than doubling 2006’s $1.1 million in revenue. Jacobs projects 2009 revenue to hit $2.8 million, due in part to the addition, eight months ago, of the third Samovar location in Hayes Valley.The newest site follows the original Mission-Castro location, opened in 2001, and the Yerba Buena Gardens lounge, opened in 2006.
Samovar’s web site allows customers to buy tea and “tea gear” and serves up information about different teas and how to brew them. In 2009, Samovar’s revenue from the web site increased 500 percent over 2008’s revenue from the web site.