Friday, June 20, 2014

High Tech Tea Bar in San Francisco

In the chicest of chic San Francisco neighborhoods has appeared a chic and tech savvy tea bar.   Opened just since June 12th, the Samovar Tea Bar is located on Valencia St. in the Mission district.  This shop combines precision machines and computer technology with high quality teas and a zen-like decor.   I’ve been in three times since its opening and each time had a perfect cup of tea.

Everything about the bar is minimalist - its airy contemporary interior design, the simplicity of its clean white finishes, its natural wood and stone surfaces.  There’s not much seating to be found, what little there is is essentially a stone bench – not exactly conducive to lingering.  There are only 9 tea options, each as single servings.  Even the food menu is concise – just two scone options, sweet or savory.  This minimalism along with the technology used to prepare the tea, heightens the focus on the tea itself.
Innovative tea technology is used at the brewing stations.  A series of Android tablet controlled Steampunk machines by Alpha Dominche line the bar. These machines (a.k.a. crucibles) are sleek, elegant, glass and steel devices.  The customer can watch the precision brewing in action as steam is injected into water from below to heat it to the correct temperature before brewing to the precisely allotted time.  It was fascinating to watch the machines in action.  And here’s a photo of my freshly brewed English Breakfast.
This tea bar should not to be confused with the tea lounges in other parts of the City by the same owner since the Samovar Tea Bar is a distinctly different experience.  While the lounges promote a lingering intimate tea experience with cushioned plush seating, a long list of teas served brewing in pots of several servings, and a food service; the bar distills the essence of a tea moment into a streamlined, single serve, no meal operation that taps into the artisanal yet tech savvy clientele of the Bay Area.

Thursday, June 12, 2014

Sweet and Stellar at the World Tea Expo 2014

Last weekend I had the pleasure of touring the convention floor at the 2014 World Tea Expo in Long Beach, CA.  There were all kinds of wonderful products related to tea – tea pots, packaging, books, cozies, porcelain tea sets, tea brewing machines, and of course a huge variety of teas.  One sweet idea and one stellar idea caught my attention.

The sweet idea was literally icing on the cake.  Just about every celebration includes a cake. How about decorating it with tea inspired icing flavors?  That’s what the folks at ModernTea Girl do with their Matcha Latte, Lady Earl Grey, and Chocolate Chai and more.
Then there’s the stellar new concept from JusTea.  Their tea star is a cluster of oolong tea leaves tied to a string and dried in the shape of a star.  Such a clever way to provide loose leaf tea that’s as convenient as a tea bag!  It’s so pretty I think it could double as a Christmas ornament.  It certainly brings attention to their orthodox handcrafted teas from Kenya. I bought some to try at home and found the tea stars make a wonderful cup of tea rich with complex flavors.

Sunday, June 8, 2014

Pretty Things for Holding Tea at the World Tea Expo 2014

Part of the fun of exploring the convention exhibitions at the World Tea Expo is getting to experience the plethora of beautiful tea objects. Here are photos of a few that were especially beautiful.

Air tight containers for loose leaf tea by Kotodo Takahashi Corporation [1].  They’re wrapped in handmade Japanese washi paper.  Washi paper is a traditionally made from kozo, mitsumata, or gamp plant fibers [2].  These bold colors and prints in distinctively Japanese style really make a lively statement.

Click image to find on
Grace Tea Ware classic fine china from Coastline Imports. Coastline Imports had delicate bone china tea sets with flower decoration and soft pastel colors.  These tea pots and cups are in a style that I imagine my grandmother, her grandmother, and of course I too, would love to use to serve tea. 

Click image to find on
Heirloom tea sets for children by Reutter PorcelainI’ve never had a Peter Rabbit tea set, but somehow looking at these, made me nostalgic.  Reutter Porcelain is of German-made miniature craftsmanship. [3]

[1] US contact: Focus American Corporation

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