If you're not a coffee drinker--and we all know this is quite the coffee drinkers' town--you probably love tea. Here are our favorite places to warm up and get a sip. Where do you go to drink and buy?
Lupicia Fresh Tea, 845 Market St. Suite 255, (415) 227-0533
This Japanese tea shop has hundreds of loose teas to suit all tastes. Want a toasted rice green tea blended with black soybeans? Yep. How about an apricot black tea sprinkled with marigold petals? Sure! Don't be scared--they've got all the basics too, as well as herbal and low-caffeine teas. You can also score special tea honey and sugar, as well as tea-making equipment. Their employees are like tea encyclopedias, so come with questions.
Leland Tea Company, 1416 Bush St., (415) 346-4832
A good spot for lunch or to do work at (they have Wi-Fi), Leland Tea doesn't take tea lightly just because there are computers around. Tea service is available all day, and their delicious house blend tea (or their own blends) accompanies the entire menu. Online, choose from over 100 premium teas, both organic and non-organic. Check one called "Blue Eyes", a blend of hibiscus flowers, dried apple, orange and rose hips; there's another called "Casablanca", a mixture of fine Chinese white tea and Mediterranean figs. There's more serious stuff like Genmai Cha, Chamomile and Earl Grey, too.
Lovejoy's Tea Room, 1351 Church St., (415) 648-5895
You'll feel like you're spending an afternoon in the house of a British grandma at Lovejoy's. Settle in for a classic English tea service with a menu that even includes pub fare (shepherd's pie, sausage rolls, etc.), if you've got an appetite too big for tiny tea sandwiches. In addition to a selection of teas the Queen would approve of, try their famous scones and Double Devon Cream, and sip their special sweet potato pie black tea (available only for winter months), which is flecked with bits of dried sweet potato for a hearty, nutty flavor. Visit Lovejoy's Attic, their sister shop full of vintage tea accoutrements and loose leaf teas.
Om Shan Tea, 223 14th St., (888) 747-8327
This is a great place to meet strangers and have conversations; you won't see a laptop in sight here. Exuding plenty of positive vibes, they have poetry readings here, as well as belly dancing and live world music to complete your sensory experience. Pair your brew with their menu of vegan food and raw chocolates. If you're overwhelmed by their selection, their tea baristas will listen to your tastes and pick out what's best.
Red Blossom Tea Company, 831 Grant Ave., (415) 395-868
This gem in Chinatown is renowned for their knowledgeable staff and modern interior that clashes with the mostly tourist-filled tea shops that clutter the area. They charge by weight making their premium Chinese teas ultra affordable. Choose from white, green, black, pu-erh, oolong, jasmine, herbal, chai and blossoming teas, and taste them before you buy. Grab some cool tea accessories as well, which are perfect gifts for tea lovers in your life.
Aroma Tea Shop, 302 6th Ave., (415) 668-3788
Aroma is dedicated to their premium Chinese teas and all the health benefits of each. Did you know oolong tea can reduce tooth decay and improve your spleen's energy? Or that black tea lowers the chances of getting a stroke, and relaxes and expands your arteries? If you just want tea that's pretty (and tastes delicious), grab some flower art tea. This is just the tip of the iceberg. You'll have to visit their shop for a free tasting to learn everything you want to know.
Samovar Tea Lounge, 730 Howard St., (415) 227-9400
Samovar is a great place to experience tea with your friends or work pals. Choose from a curated selection of artisanal teas from all over the world to pair with their yummy food. Try their signature spicy-sweet masala chai, their refreshing aloe vera and cucumber herbal blend, the serious, "thundering" Gyokuro green tea, the flaxen Silver Needle white tea that's fruity and hazlenutty. . . .the list goes on. You'll want to taste everything, but be careful because prices can get pretty steep. Tea is meant for taking it slow.