San Francisco Tea Report


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San Francisco Tea Report

Postby teashionista » May 31st, '09, 21:26

I recently returned from a week-long trip to San Francisco, and here's the report (sorry, didn't take any pictures). Maybe someone will find it helpful :)

Red Blossom-this has long been a favorite of mine. This time I had a chance to stop by on a weekday morning, avoiding the crowds. Tasted several teas, including the new charcoal roasted Dong Ding and aged DD, as well as traditional roasted TGY (by far my favorite). Ended up buying them all, along with Golden Buddha. Stopped by again on a Sat afternoon to pick up some teaware, the place was very very crowded...

Imperial Tea Court (Ferry Bldg)- I hear a lot about this place, but hadn't ever visited. This time we stopped by around 11am on Saturday for Gaiwan tea service. The tea selection on the tea service menu is good, but nothing overly exciting. I do like the option to choose gaiwan or gong fu service. But I found that they put way too little leaf into gaiwans: my yancha barely covered the bottom. Btw, you'll be drinking grandfather style: they don't provide cups with gaiwans. Overall, a great tea stop if you're in the ferry building. Although we didn't order any food, it looked pretty good.

White Crane (Japantown)-this will be hard to hear for Japanese tea fans, but apparently, the B&M location is closing. I made a special trip here during the week, but the store was closed. Upon inquiring at a nearby incense store, I was informed that the proprietor is moving his business online. You might want to call if you're planning a visit.

Lupicia (Westfield Shopping Center)-I signed up for Taiwanese oolong tasting a few weeks back when I was in SF for business. To tell the truth, I didn't expect much, given that this is Japanese tea store. But I was impressed. The tea tasting was hosted by Lupicia's very knowledgeable educator, and while most teas were average, we did taste a very good traditional roasted Dong Ding. The big surprise came when we were offered to taste $800/lb competition winner oolong (very tasty, in case you're wondering). Will definitely try to catch '09 Darjeeling tasting here.

Samovar Tea Lounge (Yerba Buena) - I went here on a nice sunny weekday morning, and spent an hour enjoying the views and Golden Yunnan Tea. Overall, the quality of the tea was not very impressive. The menu is somewhat unbalanced: there is a number of inexpensive teas, and very expensive teas, but not a lot in between. I didn't want to take any chances, and went with a Western-style brewed tea. They have a good selection of Korean travel sets (that could be hard to find outside of SoCal). I liked the ambiance, and will probably come back here, perhaps, after a visit to SFMOMA.

Others - I did pay a visit to the local Ten Ren (in Chinatown). As most often is the case, nothing special. I also found Pure Pu Erh retail kiosk at the farmer's market in the Metereon (?) building. They had a selection of raw and cooked puerhs, and I picked up a cake of the former, and 4 oz of the latter. The owners (husband and wife) seem very helpful and passionate about their tea.

The big challenge now is drinking all the tea and finding room for all the new teaware :D
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Postby Pentox » Jun 1st, '09, 13:54

Sounds like you had a fantastic time in SF.

I'm not really surprised to hear about white crane. The location wasn't very great and I imagine that the rent for that closet is pretty high even though most bathrooms are larger than it is.

The Lupicia tasting was a fun event indeed. The Alishan was also quite good imo, of the ones avail for sale it's expectantly the best imo.

Samovar from what I hear is about the experience not the tea. I've had some of the tea, not terribly excited about it, but from what i've seen of the location it looks nice. I need to stop in one of these days.
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Postby Victoria » Jun 1st, '09, 15:12

Thanks for the reviews! I'll make it up there one of these days.
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Postby auggy » Jun 2nd, '09, 09:54

Great rundown - thanks for sharing! Now I'm really sad that DH's Dell training in California is now going to be online. No SF trip for me. :(
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Postby CutieAgouti » Jun 2nd, '09, 13:39

You just saved me so much time! I'll be in SF in two weeks after returning from Hawaii. Now I can check these places out without having to scour the internet for hours

Thanks!!! :D
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Postby emeraldrobot » Jun 2nd, '09, 21:25

I'm glad you had alot of fun in SF! I do agree with the Samovar review though. I went there because I always wanted to go there (seeing it when going into town) and felt like having the cheese and fruit plate. I loved going there because of the decour, and exactly for the experience.

If you have a chance to come back, you should try out the imperial tea court and teance in berkeley. Teance is pretty pricy, but has really good ambience and they offer alot of tea classes. Imperial tea court has alot of great teas and some really tasty food too.
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Postby teashionista » Jun 4th, '09, 19:20

I absolultely love SF! It helps that the city has some of the nation's best restaruants and tea shops ;) Lukily, I make it out there quite often for work and fun, so if anyone has any suggestions for places I may have missed, please let me know!

Emeraldrobot, I'll definitely check out ITC and Teance in Berkeley next time I'm in the Bay Area. I've never been to either, but heard a lot of great things about both. I love Berkeley's bookstores, so a tea/book buying trip might be a good combo. You CA residents are so lucky! <green with envy>

Well, I'm in DC for the next month or so, so I'll try to hit local tea spots and maybe write another review :)
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Re: San Francisco Tea Report

Postby Muadeeb » Sep 14th, '13, 12:39

This is great, I'll be in SF next month and plan on hitting Imperial, Red Blossom, and Vital Tea!
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Re: San Francisco Tea Report

Postby GuyWan » Sep 14th, '13, 15:36

My favorite tea shop in SF by a long shot is Red Blossom. I like to go there when they are not too busy so I can have a chance to taste the tea before buying. ITC's San Francisco store is not great IMO. They have some nice Lin Ceramics teaware and a larger selection of Pu-erh cakes than Red Blossom (although I can't vouch for quality as I am a newb in the world of pu-erh), but other than that it's just OK. I hear that the Berkeley store is much nicer but I've never been there. I like the Samovar Tea Lounge because it's a very relaxing place to have lunch and their TGY is pretty good. But it's pricey.
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