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.”
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.
Everywhere I go, people tell me how horrible it is to be drinking so much coffee. I get it. Extreme coffee experiences can put your whole sense of well-being out of whack even if it does jolt you to your basic senses first thing in the morning.
So more and more, I’m substituting my coffee routine with tea and I’ve rediscovered a long forgotten passion that began steeping in my soul since my childhood. Growing up in Texas, I was raised on iced tea. Huge tumblers of frosty deep amber tea with lemon.
Tea has always been in my life in one way or another. And when I spent a summer in Winchester, UK when I was 14, my admiration for tea culture was officially born.I found the perfect teapot for my mother and I ritually drank my tea while reading Alice in Wonderland or The Chronicles of Narnia.
Later, when I went to college in Boston, I had boxes of herbal teas stashed in every corner of my apartments just to help fend off the biting, inhuman cold. Later, I lived in a Zen Center in Hollywood, where I enjoyed the art of tea ceremonies during retreats and using hot tea at every meal to clean our eating bowls.
So it was with great pleasure that I recently discovered Samovar Tea Lounge. Based is San Francisco and shipping around the globe, Samovar recently put together a custom blend prepared for His Holiness The Dalai Lama called Ocean of Wisdom. The tea accommodated The Dalai Lama as he traveled to various art institutions exhibiting the project “The Missing Peace.”
Samovar has been featured in the Wall Street Journal, and USA Today rated Samovar teas as one of the top ten teas in the US.
Jesse Jacobs founded Samovar six years ago. I recently had the chance to ask Jesse some tea-related questions.
JHR: We live in such a dense coffee culture, but it seems like tea drinking is on the rise. Is that true and, if so, why? Also, can people really “get going” in the morning with a cup of organic, hand-crafted, artisan tea? Isn’t espresso, you know, faster?
JJ: In the ’90s, the specialty tea industry made $1 billion. In 2007, it was at $7 billion, and its forecasted by 2012 it will be at $14 billion. So, the tea industry is definitely on the rise. Samovar Tea Lounge has grown 300% in last 3 years. Tea has caffeine, and yes it can be used “as a get up and go beverage,” but with less jitters, and more focused awareness. It doesn’t have the same amount of caffeine as coffee, but artisan teas naturally carry caffeine and L-theanine, which induces the alpha state. Its scientifically proven that L-theanine aids in a state of relaxed awareness. This is helpful for the start of your day.
JHR: You’ve created a culture of mindfulness in your business. How important is mindfulness in the hectic life of a business?
JJ: Its very important because life is hectic and can be a frenzy, so there is more need for focus to get things done. I think mindfulness is the same as awareness. Awareness is the key to living fruitfully because if you are aware, you know what’s going on around you. You are sensitive, you can listen to the marketplace, to your customers, to your vendors, to yourself. And if you can listen, and hear, you can make effective and adventageous decisions. Interestingly, awareness is intrinsic in the practice of tea. So, the practice of tea aids in a successful practice of business.
Business is never ending, it is literally a practice, like meditation, or yoga or a martial art. It takes continual refinement, and as a practice, it requires mindfulness. Any study on mindfulness whether it be in meditation, drinking tea, yoga, martial arts, it’s helpful in achieving a better handle on how you approach business. I spent all of my life studying mindfulness practices, on the mat, on the cushion, in the martial arts dojo. Now, this business is just another manifestation of my mindfulness practice.
JHR: It seems like having tea is a time to slow down, connect and regroup. If someone wants to plan the perfect tea time, what are some important elements?
JJ: The important elements are having the freshest, best tea you can find. Having good quality hot water. And, having a moment to manage brewing the leaves, a mini-ritual to slow you down, stop you in the moment, and allow you to consciously take your next step.
JHR: What are some of the health and well-being elements of tea?
JJ: The scientifically proven health benefits of tea are that it is full of antioxidants, there are cancer fighting elements, and numerous vitamins and nutrients. Thousands of studies have been conducted on the benefits of tea. Additionally, a benefit of tea is that is it delicious, it pleases the palate, but also allows for a sense of setting a mood. It serves as a gentle awareness inducing uplifter. Tea brings people together, it serves as a natural social lubricant today just as much as it has when it was discovered several thousand years ago. It brings business, family and personal relations together, and today we really need togetherness. It creates ritual in our highly digitized, fast-paced, frenetic world. We are lacking ritual… the ritual that offers us to slow down, make us healthy, and connect us to the earth, and our humanness.
JHR: What is your current favorite and why?
JJ: Organic Masala Chai: I love this tea because the taste is very complex: spicy, great fragrance, nutty, sweet, aromatic, and earthy. Cooking the chai at my home or at Samovar, it fills the entire space with these overwhelming aromas. The caffeine is a natural and stimulating uplifter.
JHR: You started a podcast series calledPassage to Peace linking tea to promoting universal peace. How did that come about and what has the reaction been?
JJ: It came about by looking at what our customers, and therefore the world needs. They need peace. This is part of our mission. So, I thought it would be interesting to connect the people involved in the tea business (i.e. carpenters of peace) to the world at large through a multi-media, educational visual medium. The reaction has been overwhelmingly positive, which has motivated me to continue the series in an expanded new direction. We are launching a new video series.
JHR: What ignited your passion for tea?
JJ: My need for slowing down, and having time for myself and for my friends and family. And a remembrance of my childhood on the East Coast where I grew up with being surrounded by constant tea culture. I was always exposed to Chinese, Japanese, Korean, Taiwanese and European influences.
JHR: Can you share five books that have either influenced you or that you just like to read with, well, a good cup of tea?
JJ: Shibumi: Trevanian; The Sun Also Rises: Ernest Hemingway; Zen Mind, Beginner’s Mind: Shunryu Suzuki-Roshi; The Book of Five Rings: Miyamoto Musashi; Body and Mature Behavior: Moshe Feldenkrais and Carl Ginsburg
The Executive In Action: Peter F. Drucker
Jesse Jacobs was raised in a home overflowing with culture and community. His curiosity about tea was sparked by a steady flow of visitors whose one common thread was taking time for tea.
Growing up, he experienced exotic teas from around the globe, not to mention the sense of kinship that arose from drinking tea with others. Jesse spent his early life working in a variety of occupations.
Sometime during the “dot com heyday,” Jesse found himself deep in the world of technology in San Francisco. As his passion for the corporate world dissipated, so did its economic viability.
Taking advantage of the ideal timing, Jesse determined that he needed to get back to his roots: “connecting to people, communicating.. experiencing the cultures of the world.”
Out of his desires to create a company rooted in the timeless traditions of tea – equanimity, community and vitality – and to establish a place where others could escape the stresses of daily life, Samovar Tea Lounge was born.
Through Samovar, Jesse partners with tea experts and suppliers from small family farms across the globe. As more and more people are turning away from coffee, Jesse is at leading the way to a new generation of American tea culture.
What were the initial challenges you faced in turning your passion for artisan tea into a business?
It is one distinct experience to be excited and passionate about something, to embrace it as a lifestyle. It is an entirely different experience to be challenged by the realities of real world business: leading people, managing a P&L, negotiating, product sourcing, and dealing with what is commonly referred to as “fear.”
The biggest challenge I have faced is the simple realization that business, and life, are complex, and that “problems” are never-ending. And in fact that problems are never actually problems or obstacles.
Every new wall that arises that seems to block creativity, potential and vision, actually has a hidden door within it. The joy, and the challenge and the pain, and the pleasure is finding that door, walking through it, and experience the new set of experiences that that walk brings.
All the usual suspects were and are challenges… managing the personalities of diverse staff, trying to unify them to our common mission, managing a very tight cash position in light of tight margins – means constant negotiating with vendors about patience, and perseverance, and faith.
How do you convince a confirmed coffee lover to try adding tea to their repertoire, aside from health benefits?
Easy. Why does the coffee lover love coffee? It is usually for either the caffeine, the bittersweet rich flavor and aroma, or the sweet and creamy taste you get from milk and sugar with coffee.
There is a tea that satisfies each of those needs and also offers much more complexity in flavor depth, cultural connection to the traditions and cultures that make tea, and proven health benefits that come with tea drinking.
Thousands of years of tradition and ritual with tea stands for something… and it’s proven the test of time. What is old is new again, and both Baby Boomers and Gen-y’ers are embracing it voraciously for the reasons above.
There are so many interesting and unique teas available today. How would you advise the “tea novice” to begin educating their palate?
Just do it. Buy the best tea you can afford that is unflavored – to be able to taste it in its purest form. Practice will quickly reveal to you what makes a good tea and what makes for a bad tea.
We encourage you to look for quality tea, as we define it: Consistent size, shape and color of the leaf. Seasonal and fresh – not stored in a warehouse on a shelf for 18 months. Complex in aroma, taste, body and aftertaste. The tea should do something to you.
You should be able to distinctly notice an array of aromas, flavors, mouthfeel and aftertaste. Good tea will have all that. Flavored or old or teabag tea may be strong in taste, but, is usually singular, and not at all complex.
Do you see your role with reference to tea as a sommelier is to wine?
Definitely. Tea has so much behind it: terroire, body, aroma, taste, aftertaste, and the amazing ability to pair it with food, and your mood!
Of the teas you serve at the Samovar Lounge, which is your favorite and why?
Depends on the time and the day. I drink a lot of our senchas, like the Nishi, and the Fukamushi, in the morning for the antioxidant kick, mild caffeine, stimulating-relaxation that Japanese teas bring, and the refreshing, uplifting effect.
Around 1 p.m. after lunch, I usually go for oolong – recently the very rare Phoenix from China because of its incredibly complex and sweet profile. I love earl grey with soy milk and honey around 4 p.m. for an uplifting caffeine and citrus boost. For before bed, I’ll go with Ocean of Wisdom, our house-rooibos blend, or the nocturnal bliss for good, soothing sleep.
What are your favorite food and tea pairings?
Maiden’s Ecstasy Pu-erh and steamed squash dumplings. Ancient Gold super malty black Chinese tea with our Belgian waffles. Osthmanthus Silver Needle white tea with buttered sourdough toast and fried eggs for breakfast. Orange ginger herbal infusion with chocolate brownies for dessert.
Tea and chocolate: Some marriages are made in heaven
posted by Robert Wemischner on TChing.com | 06.24.09
It’s not surprising that tea and chocolate make good tasting partners. Although the cacao plant’s terroir and the tea plant’s terroir only overlap north and south of the equator, the saying “what grows together goes together” is at least partly true. (Cacao grows within 20 degrees of the equator while tea is cultivated up to 43 degrees north and 30 degrees south of the equator.) As a recent tasting revealed, “theobroma” – aka the food of the gods (and mortals too) – proved to be a fitting and sometimes even stellar partner with a wide variety of teas served hot enough to melt the chocolate luxuriantly on the tongue.
The plan was to taste six chocolates straight from their wrappers from five different manufacturers – three U.S. producers (Theo, a bean-to-bar producer based in Seattle that sources beans from Madagascar and the Ivory Coast and two Hershey-owned subsidiaries, Scharffenberger, cacao origin unspecified, and Dagoba, using cacao from Dominican Republic) and two other companies (Kallari, an Ecuadorian producer using organic beans, and long-established Valor, based in Spain, sourcing beans from Ghana, Panama, and Ecuador).
The teas were courtesy of Jesse Jacobs of Samovar Tea Lounge in San Francisco. My intention was to pair each of the chocolates with each of six different tea types:
1. Downy Sprout white tea from China, which was completely overwhelmed in this dark chocolate setting (I am convinced that few, if any, white teas should be consumed any way but alone)
2. The single-flavored variety, Jasmine Pearl green, which stood up beautifully to the creamy richness of the Kallari 70% bar, contributing its layers of luxurious floral personality to the inherent caramel, nutty notes in the chocolate
There were some surprises, with the standouts showing a well-balanced dialogue of flavors and mouth feel. Memorable pairings included the following:
• Kallari with the oolong, which accentuated the positives in both the tea and the chocolate
• Japanese Sencha, which benefited from a preliminary washing of the leaves in room-temperature filtered water before the brewing proper. Its most compatible partner was the Theo 75% dark chocolate bar (total percentage of cocoa solids and cocoa butter) using beans from the Ivory Coast. Despite a slightly gritty texture (probably due to a deliberate shortened conching time during processing), the chocolate’s citrusy notes prevailed and, in fact, persisted when tasted with the Yunnan black as well.
• Pu-erh came into its own with the Scharffenberger extra dark 82% bar, which suggested caramelized citrus rind, a kind of marmalade essence that lingered long after the last bit of chocolate disappeared from the palate. Only strips of candied orange peel dipped in this chocolate would have made a better pairing with the tea.
So many teas, so many chocolates, so little time…