Jacqueline's High Tea in Petaluma, California
1/5
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Thomas Smith rated this place
1/5
and said Edit

This place is a waste of time and money if you are looking for tea – it is a place for a “tea party” style meal that misrepresents what either High Tea or Low Tea actually are. Nice try, and thank you for scooping away the cloying “English Teatime” demographic away from the places meant for buying decent tea leaf – it’s a relief having them elsewhere more suited to their desires.

Tea Room Cafe in Petaluma, California
2/5
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Thomas Smith rated this place
2/5
and said Edit

Poor range of teas improperly prepared. Petaluma Coffee & Tea, Aqus Cafe, and Peet’s Coffee & Tea (all within walking distance) have better teas.

If you are looking for lunch, though, there are some nice things on the menu and the long line of customers that can develop gives a hint at what the consensus is. If Americans are willing to step into a long line when there are other options within short walking distance, you know there’s something good (and I’m putting my vote with the sandwiches).

Teance in Berkeley, California
5/5
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Thomas Smith rated this place
5/5
and said Edit

Sweet little tea bar. I actually much prefer the new location’s appearance compared to the old location. Seating has been removed from the equation, but this puts the bar more forward in importance and makes the experience with the staff more intimate. If there are a good number of customers, the layout can make it turn suddenly a bit claustrophobic. The koi pond, center display rack, and orientation of the circular tasting bar make for an awkward flow when it’s busier.

Entrenched regulars can sometimes take up some of the few seats for long periods of time, so it can be a good idea to schedule a time there at an odd time of day to avoid any backlog or inability to get a spot.

The staff is very knowledgeable about the current offerings. They can help suggest teas for lineups, but I suggest going through the catalog ahead of time and pick out what you’ll be tasting first. While they do not have as extensive a selection as some other companies, it can still be easy to become sidetracked, so make a plan and try to commit to a max number of infusions per tea beforehand in case time or driving distance afterward is any factor at all.

Nice place and the owner really knows her oolongs.

Imperial Tea Court in Berkeley, California
5/5
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Thomas Smith rated this place
5/5
and said Edit

Excellent tea, friendly and helpful staff, nice food that goes really well with some of their teas, and outstanding ambiance. I live a little over an hour away but for a while was going here weekly just for tea and dumplings.
They have surprisingly broad hours and are open into the evening, which is very convenient if you are meeting from distant locations. I actually don’t think I’ve found a better place for a date, but I keep tea close to my heart so the shared interest factor sort of skews my opinion.
Parking can be a little rough, but it is worth parking several blocks away either at a grocer or bordering the residential neighborhoods.

The tea house gives you a really great opportunity to try a gaiwan or full service of some of the more expensive teas at a very reasonable price and comfortable pace and atmosphere. The staff are generally knowledgeable and helpful with recommendations but don’t try to upsell particular teas. It is a foodservice atmosphere, not a seller’s platform.

It’s a shame the original ITC in Chinatown closed. This location is far better than the one in San Francisco’s Ferry Building.

Tillerman Tea in Napa, California
5/5
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Thomas Smith rated this place
5/5
and said Edit

The best tea you can find in the North Bay.

Incredibly knowledgeable proprietor, terrific customer service, great breadth of offerings, great quality and freshness and best prices you can find for any of these.
They specialize in tea from China and Taiwan but offer a few Japanese teas as well. The connections/friends/teachers the owner has overseas coupled with quite a bit of travelling means there is a good number of totally unique special offerings at Tillerman you can not find elsewhere. Moreover, the frankness and honesty as a salesman is refreshing and far more helpful than someone committed to just sell for the sake of profit.
The website gives concise yet detailed descriptions with a touch of history for many of the teas they sell at the shop, but there are more to be found at the physical location. It is a stall-like teashop inside the Oxbow Public Market; a back wall and two half-walls project into the larger room, but it is mostly just carved out of the larger space. There is limited intimate seating that can accommodate four, but there is a larger seating area around the corner, in front of other vendors. The decor is remarkable. Not just good for a stall – it is really classy and well done in dark wood, reds and yellow with large tea canisters, books, and tea wares covering much of the wall space. Tea tables up front allow for on-the-spur gaiwan preparation of teas before purchase and jars are set up with the scented or more fragrant popular teas and herbals for folks to check out. Everything is kept in mind for freshness and huge discounts are applied to outgoing stock for the arrival of fresh tea when it’s coming in or the freshness is starting to wane.

They offer educational tea tastings in a class-like setting, sell tea by the pot or cup, offer light snacks like pumpkin seeds, and have a good range of wares ad good prices for the quality.

Only detriments I can possibly invent about this place is they are small, so if a bunch of people need service, you need to be patient. Look over half the tea menu and your wait is over, though, hahaha.
If you love tea and you are remotely in the area, you need to make a point of swinging by.

Bungalow Coffee and Tea in Santa Rosa, California
3/5
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Thomas Smith rated this place
3/5
and said Edit

Tiny little place for decent coffee or tea in the North Santa Rosa – South Windsor area. These guys have had some serious ups and downs with quality lately, but I hear they are on a big up swing as of 2009 since the new owners moved in.

Not the best tea, but it’s better than decent and they are the offerings I would want to see in a shop of this type. Service is of the cafe variety – make up your mind before hopping in line. Most of the customers are regulars who know what they want so a line really can envelop the whole shop at peak times but it moves quickly. They have the best Chai Latte of any non-Indian establishment in the North Bay.
I feel like the quality of the tea they sell must be higher than the level it is presented at in packaging… The chief detriment is this sort of “off” aroma that pervades each tea, as though there is some aromatic taint or staling effect going on in repackaging. More of an issue in lighter teas and some people really love this aroma that infiltrates each offering.

As a coffee shop, you can’t expect to ask to see and smell everything you’re interested in, but what is offered is definitely above average for the sort of venue usually dedicated to coffee. They serve in tea presses that serve a couple cups at a time with a little less leaf material than I would prefer, but it looks classy – the bigger issue is it can be odd re-infusing in a tea press.

The second flush Darjeeling and Keemun they select are reason enough for an extra half-star, and I’m not a big drinker of these teas.

Infusions Teahouse in Sebastopol, California
3/5
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Thomas Smith rated this place
3/5
and said Edit

Quirky location and broad offerings of teas. Most of the tea appears to be Rishi Tea stored in bulk canisters. Not quite the quality or freshness as the bookstore down the street, but a wider selection of loose teas so it’s a great entry point for people just moving away from teabags or coffee.
I have personal objections to the tea lattes they sell and they need to smooth out the way they serve tea. The food and chocolates are better than the tea they have but not really comparable to a restaurant. The benefit here is it’s a nice location to wind down and sit for a bit with a basic cup of tea and a little food to tide you over.

You can order any tea they offer (I believe), the service is usually friendly, and you can read through a comprehensive tea menu and check out the leaves on request before buying.

Quality is “meh” but few places in the area are better to sit down for a cup of tea.

Many Rivers Books & Tea in Sebastopol, California
3/5
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Thomas Smith rated this place
3/5
and said Edit

Decent breadth of tea selections ranging from poor to good quality, but nothing truly spectacular. Would be nice if they stored the tea in smaller containers to aid in preserving freshness. The customer service, on the other hand, is really wonderful. They have the greatest selection of tea ware in Sonoma County and a treasure trove of really wonderful books spanning practically any spiritual practice you can think of. They also have a good range of tea books (books related to, about, or for preparing/selecting tea) on the back wall. Hard to figure out how they cram so many goodies into such a small space.

You can easily peruse the tea selection, smell, engage the owners, sample before buying, and purchase variable quantities.

As an establishment, I’d give them 4.5 stars but as a tea shop it is more of a 3.5 – have to ding them a bit for mixed results on quality and storage. If they set aside their best, freshest tea in small, airtight packaging apart from the rest and bought a couple even-higher quality ones, Many Rivers would quickly become the best tea shop in the county.

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Bio

Tea Geek.

My focus is on Chinese Wulongs and Pu’er but I’m all over the place. I tend to follow a seasonal progression of teas, following the freshness curve of greens through summer and rounding the cooler months out with toastier teas and Masala Chai.
With the exception of Masala Chai milk tea I’m a purist at heart. While I was originally snagged by Earl Grey with bergamot and make blends for gifts, I very rarely go for scented teas or herbals and can’t remember the last time I bought a tea that was blended. Pure tea is just more interesting to me than the product of mixing flavors. I do understand and appreciate their existence, though.

I upload some blends I make or special prep teas I nab under the company name “Green Raven Tea and Coffee” and the vast majority of these posts will be blends crafted to create flavors/characteristics not inherent in any one particular tea.
I’ve worked as a tea buyer for a smallish cafe and try to keep apprized of shifts in offerings even when not selecting for a business so I wind up sampling a ton of wholesale samples from a couple companies in particular but try to branch out to as many companies as I can find. Until Steepster integrates some form of comparative tasting feature, none of my cupping notes will make it onto my reviews unless wrapped up into something I feel compelled to drink multiple times on its own.



Since all the cool kids are doing it, here’s my big fat ratings scheme:

0-12…..Ugh, don’t wish on anyone
13-25….Bad, won’t touch again
26-37….Huh, not worth the effort
38-50….Meh, unremarkable
51-62….Okay, good tea
63-75….Tasty, really good tea
76-87….Yum, wonderful
88-100…Wow, really spectacular

There shouldn’t be many postings at all from me ranked 26-50 since unremarkable teas are unlikely to make me remark on ’em but to “earn” a score 37 or below I have to be disappointed to the point where others may ask for a refund or turn down offers even when free or offered as a gift (beyond stale).

I’ve got a ton of respect for anything rated 63 or higher.

For a tea to get 71 or more, it has to be pretty special and kinda blow my socks off.

The 90s are reserved for wonders that make me reevaluate my views of the world of tea as a whole.

Location

Santa Rosa, California, United States

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