This place is a pinkies-out type of tea room. I love the aesthetic, so I’m all over it, but I can certainly see this being a not-for-everyone type of location.
The tea is pretty good. I have a feeling that the people there are pretty knowledgeable about the tea, but we were just there to drink tea and chat and catch up with each other, so we didn’t really take advantage of our server. Apparently, a tea master comes around and does tea tastings on occasion, so I’ve got my eye on nabbing a ticket [though it might be a while, as it runs something like $180 a head].
The tea itself actually isn’t terribly expensive, especially since they’ll continue filling your pot up with hot water so you can spend a good amount of time there. They do have some vintage pu-erhs that’ll put you back a bit, but we’ve got plans to go back and split a pot to cushion the blow. I had the Hidden Orchid Oolong and I thought it was pretty delicious. It ranked as my favorite among all the other teas our table had [Gyokuro, Genmaicha, Yerba Mate, and First Flush Darjeeling].
They also have a little spread of finger sandwiches and desserts. The watercress and creme fraiche sandwiches were particularly scrumptious. The hotel’s reputable Blue Duck Tavern is also adjacent to the Tea Cellar, if you find yourself hankering for a meal afterwards.
All in all, the space is absolutely gorgeous, if not necessarily applicable to all situations. I probably wouldn’t feel completely comfortable traipsing in with flip-flops and a ratty t-shirt, but this is also the type of place that I’d go to for the experience and I think that getting a little dressy supplements that. I’m putting some pictures up because really, my words can’t adequately describe the breathtaking atmospheric quality of the space. They are from my phone, so I apologize in advance for the fuzziness.
If you’re in the area, definitely consider dropping by here as it’s soooo pretty. They recommend making reservations, but the cap is for four people. It was a bit empty when we were there, so I’m not sure how busy it gets. The website also says that tea is served all day, but tea tables are only available for a couple of hours on the weekend. [I think they mean if you want to have a supervised tasting, but I’m not 100% positive.]
This may be my favorite Samovar location. It’s a nice stroll away from where my brother lives [and where I usually stay when I’m visiting] and a convenient block away from the 6 line bus.
Convenience aside, this is a place where you come to ride the vibe. It’s intimate, but not sleepy. Relaxing, but not comatose. I’ve never been there when it’s been packed, but I’ve also never been there when it’s been empty.
The food and the tea are both excellent. I spent an hour or so with a pot of Downy Sprout and their ginger quinoa waffles and…aaaaaargh. Those waffles are damn good. And I had this tofu sandwich that was delicious.
I also had the great opportunity to sit down with Jesse Jacobs and Jack Cheng over a cup or twenty of tea and shoot the breeze for a few hours. There’s something about lounging around in that place…it’s like hanging out with a good friend you don’t get to see too often – comfortably refreshing.
On sunny days, I recommend either grabbing a table outside or catching a seat along the benches because the windows are optimally placed for sun catching. Or, if you’re feeling chatty, pull a seat up at the bar. Everyone’s friendly and knowledgeable, which fosters good conversation.
Ah, Samovar. Heart.
A lot of people on Steepster are already aware of how much I love Samovar [a lot]. So, not to be redundant, but seeing as how I recently made it out to San Francisco and spent a fair amount of time at a couple of their locations while I was out there, I must wax on about them a bit more.
It was sunny out, with a bit of a nip in the air. When it gets like that, a lot of San Franciscans comment that it’s cold outside. To a girl who recently experienced the business end of a snowstorm and her BFF who hails from Fargo, North Dakota, however, it was absolute paradise. We walked through the open entryway and then did a 180 and walked straight back outside to the patio with our server.
A breeze coasted through, nonchalantly brushing against the small horde of people who had taken a cue from the weather and were scattered around the tables outside, reading and chatting. A preliminary round of food and tea was ordered and then we both shut our eyes and sprawled back in our respective chairs, soaking in sunshine and appreciating the day for a few minutes before a server, chuckling at our very best starfish impressions, came around asking us if we wanted to sample a new pu-erh tea. YES PLEASE.
Samovar’s Yerba Buena location is gorgeous in a way that defies description, and the crowds of people that flock to it indicate so. Nestled a small jaunt away from the major shopping meccas that are Westfield Mall and Union Square, directly adjacent to the Museum of Modern Art and a movie theater, it offers respite to shoppers, tourists, convention-goers, movie-watchers, business-lunchers, and everyone in between.
If you’ve never stumbled upon the Yerba Buena Gardens area in the city, you’d probably be a bit shocked to discover its existence. It’s not unlike an oasis in a sea of concrete. That’s not that San Francisco hasn’t done well to preserve its fair share of trees and parks, but…let me try to lay this down for you. When you turn the corner, you’re greeted by a vast stretch of lawn whose greenness and sheer size fly brightly in the face of its urban residence. [As a DC’er, I’m used to scraggly, clumpy grass that peeks through clay-laden dirt.] Raised up in the distance, you can see Samovar’s sign peering over the edge of cascading water and greenery.
It’s bliss. Even on a rainy day, it’s bliss. The location is cozy, while maintaining a sense of airiness and space [achieved effectively through the use of high ceilings and lots of glass].
I should accompany this with a caveat that the Yerba Buena location can fill up quickly, and on the days when it does, it REALLY does. If there’s a convention in town, you might as well forget about it and leave a visit to another day. At one point on this trip, I popped in to pick up a tin of Hawaiian Oolong while the Game Developers’ Conference was on lunch break and WHOO. However, the staff was friendly and talkative regardless of crowd volume, and within minutes I was out and on my way to do some damage around Union Square.
Whenever I go to San Francisco, I like to pick up little Zen moments that I can close my eyes and reflect upon whenever things get particularly stressful around here. As far as Zen moments go, being stretched out on a chair, sipping on a matcha shake, noshing on a fruit and cheese platter, and chatting with a good friend in the sun is a pretty damn good one.
Tips: There’s a big bamboo shoot packed with pu-erh sitting on the bar that’s worth a look. Also, if they happen to get in a limited quantity of a tea, this is probably where they’re keeping it.