Prior to my departure for San Francisco, I started planning which tea places I wanted to explore. I had received plenty of recommendations, but ultimately narrowed it down to just a few. The Samovar Tea Lounge was one of the ones topping my list. They have a reserve tea menu at the Mission-Castro location so that's why I chose to head there.
I went to Samovar with my three of my STI (Specialty Tea Institute) friends.
Their food menu totally blew me away, but even more surprising was how phenomenal their tea selection is. It's not common to get great food AND great tea in the same place. To see the complete menu click here. Kyle and I both ended up choosing the Russian Service with Tolstoy's Sip Black Tea because the description in the menu really drew me in:
"They say that Tolstoy fueled his creativity by drinking Russian tea from the samovar. See what it does for you. Start with out zavarka, dilute it with a tad of hot water and add milk and sugar."
Tarragon-Marinated Beets, Smoked Salmon & Horseradish, Devilled Egg with Caviar, Herbed Crackers, Fresh Fruit, Fudge Brownie
They also some other great items on the menu like a local artisanal cheese platter with raw honeycomb, ginger quinoa waffle, tea soup (with smoked duck, braised tofu or smoked salmon), marbled Chinese tea eggs, and many other wonderful things.
Marzi had the Moorish Service, but supplemented her *Moorish Mint Herbal Infusion with the Ocean of Wisdom (*custom blended at Samovar Tea Lounge for His Holiness The Dalai Lama). A decaf masala chai-style brew which is served with sugar and milk on the side.
Halloumi Cheese & Veggie Kebabs, Mixed Greens Salad, Edamame Hummus, Walnut Chevre-Stuffed Dates, Olives, Greek Yogurt, Herbed Crackers
Phil ordered a phenomenal Golden Phoenix Oolong. All I can say about this tea is WOAH. We all had a taste of Phil's tea.
It was amazing even after the third infusion and I'm sure it could have gone a few more steeps. This particular tea is from Wudong, China and is hand-harvested from a single garden of tall "Mi Lan" (Honey Orchard) tea trees that are 30 to 40 years old each, and then processed in extremely limited quantities.
What you get is liquid gold; pitted fruits, honey aroma and wonderful mouthfeel. I had to buy some to take back to NYC. Even though it wasn't cheap, I believe it was worth every penny and I fully intend to steep with friends and family.
Here's a pic of the wet leaves...
Natalia, our hostess, was incredibly knowledgeable and super friendly making our entire experience completely unique. She knew a lot about tea and her enthusiasm and passion served as a real inspiration. None of us let on that we knew anything about tea till the very end. She was thorough in her explanations and made tea very approachable.
She was kind enough to introduce us to her Manager, Jody Beavers, whom I recognized from a video I had seen on Life & Thyme. We all had a wonderful time talking about tea and sharing our own personal tea experiences. Jody is in charge of training all staff and I bet they all love him. You can tell right away he has an enormous amount of respect for the fine art of tea.
It's a great little escape...
tranquil and serene.
I can't wait to visit Samovar again in the future. I would love to share this experience with Sergiy and Clarissa.
Samovar Tea Lounge (Mission-Castro)
498 Sanchez Street
San Francisco, CA 94114
Daily: 10 am- 10 pm