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Why We Serve

Pouring Masala Chai at 1910 Fillmore St

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.

Tea is now served.

363 days a year. And now to this routine, we are excited to add our newest location at 1910 Fillmore Street in Pacific Heights.

Every single day we wake up in order to serve. To serve tea. We join the legions of others in this simple act of serving up water and leaves in order to bring joy and ritual to our guests. Whether it’s a chai-walla on the streets of India cooking up street-side chai, or a tea house in China steeping streamed green tea, or a cafe in London brewing cups of “worker’s tea,” all over the world the morning brings with it water and leaves, steeped, stewed and brewed, and served to guests. Our guests and tea drinkers all over the world connect to this ritual, this morning routine of water and leaves today just like they have for hundreds of years. Going back in time, way back.

Adding whole milk to Samovar Masala Chai
Adding whole milk to Samovar Masala Chai

We love to serve tea.

Serving tea is an honorable act. It’s an act we use as a spiritual practice at Samovar. Serving tea to our guests allows us as servers and our guests as recipients to connect to this very moment. It’s an act of, and opportunity for, mindfulness. To use this brewing and drinking of tea to connect to this present moment. Service for us at Samovar is actually a meditation. All day long, it’s what we do. Brew and serve. Brew and serve. Every guest we touch is such an honor because they allow us to practice this skill of being wholly present to brewing, serving, and paying attention to the details.

When we serve tea, we work hard to pay attention to the details. We aren’t always perfect, not at all, because we are practicing. Never done, brewing and serving tea is a practice of striving to achieve perfection, and knowing full well there’s always room for improvement. Is the water the perfect temperature for Earl Grey? Is the cup perfectly flawless? Are we engaged 100% with our guest? Is the music just right? Is the front door wiped clean? Is our apron on and wrinkle free? Are we smiling and present with our guests? Is the chai simmering for exactly 15 minutes? Is the paper towel stocked at our hand sinks? Do we thank every guest who leaves Samovar?

Samovar SFO Chai Pour
Pouring Chai at Samovar SFO

Service is not easy. But then what is? Service is simple, though, and it’s an art we are striving to refine. And the mission is very simple, too: We serve tea in order to make the world a better place. Every day we wake up and begin our pot of Masala Chai, we are making the world a better place because our Chai, and every other tea and healthy food item we offer is a gift from this earth to us, and to you our guest. We are conduits in our act of service in connecting all our guests to not just delicious and healthy nourishment, but conduits in connecting you all to this very moment. Here and now, through this act of service, this very moment unfolds and it’s limitless.

Serving tea is an ultimate gift in that it’s a practice for us and for you to really embrace and connect to this moment. Because if we can do that, then we can connect to the next moment. And the next. And so on. And to do that well, to be present in the moment, allows us to not only be more effective, and productive, and compassionate, but to be able to appreciate life more and to be less caught up in the patterns of our thoughts and habitual actions. To be more present in the present is a good thing. Tea service helps this practice of awareness. Just water and leaves. Day in, day out, 363 days a year.

But it’s not for everyone. Serving tea at Samovar is often sweaty and stressful. When the line is out the door, guests are eager for the cup of tea and bite to eat, and daily challenges arise–a coworker calls in sick, equipment malfunctions, you name it, we’ve seen it. It takes a very special person to be able to keep your cool when the situation gets hot. To see every single detail while keeping perspective on the big picture, to keep that earnest smile no matter what, to take every challenge with gusto, to love it, and to serve each guest as if they were all that mattered in the world. To be able to serve a lot of tea, and serve it fast, again and again regardless of the situation, and to be calm and gracious and attentive to every detail.

That is our job and we love doing it. Again and again. Because service is a gift we get to give all day every day. At the end of every exhausting shift when we step back to look at our work, it’s exhilarating to know that we’ve made the day a bit better for literally thousands of people. They come to us tired, lonely, irritable, busy, agitated, thirsty and hungry. And they leave, sometimes within five minutes and sometimes within five hours, present, satiated, calm, focused and fed. And we get to help with that transformation, in every cup of tea we sell, every egg jar we serve.

Thank you tea drinkers for this opportunity to serve. Thank you for your passion, for your time, for your energy and willingness to be transformed by way of our service. Every cup of tea we serve, every pot of chai we steep, is a gift we are given at Samovar because it’s a chance to serve you. Thank you, guest. Thank you, farmer. Thank you, tea maker.

Tea for two: Samovar Chamomile Blossom and Nishi Sencha

P.S. We’re growing and looking for the passionate tea lovers to join our team. If you think you’ve got what it takes, please submit your application today!