While quick-and-easy boba tea seems to be the tea drink of choice these day, this list of classic and gourmet tea houses focuses on more sophisticated experiences: house blends and dynamically sourced leaves among them.
The Japanese Tea Garden Tea House
We Recommend: Genmaicha, savory, nutty green tea blended with toasted brown rice and served by the cup.
Stonemill Matcha serves fine matcha sourced from young tender leaves from shade-grown farms in Kyoto, Japan, the birthplace of matcha. The range of matcha drinks on offer, including specialty lattes and coldbrews provide nutrients and healing benefits, including feelings of relaxation and focus from L-theanine. The sleek, wood filled interior has a calming energy to match, and you can munch on delicious small bites including toast with matcha butter and matcha pastries. // 561 Valencia St. (Mission), stonemillmatcha.com
We Recommend: Hand-Whisked Matcha, a delicious first crop matcha.
The Chai Cart
Inspired by chai carts found on every corner of India, The Chai Cart provides customers with a gourmet tea experience on the go and the chance to chat all things chai with the chaiwallas preparing the enticing drinks. Choose from a classic Masala chai, as well as specialty handcrafted blends including rose, malt, and ginger. The Chai Cart owner, Paawan Kothari also hosts workshops for those hoping to delve even deeper into the art, history, and importance of Chai. // Cart parked at 545 Market St. (SoMa), Valencia St. (Mission) cart reopening soon, thechaicart.com
We recommend: Masala Chai, The Chai Cart's signature blend made with seven spices.
Aroma Tea Shop
Aroma Tea Shop brings "the beauty of tea drinking," inspired by tea houses in China, to San Francisco. At Aroma Tea Shop's three locations around the city, tea connoisseurs, including beloved husband and wife team Haymen Da Luz and Ying Wu, will assist you in picking from over 150 varieties of loose leaf tea displayed in canisters around the shop to bring home. Enjoy an extensive free tea tasting, plus details about the tea making process, benefits, and history, or choose from a couple varieties served hot or iced by the cup. Plus, purchase tea making accessories so you can make the perfect cup at home. // 845 Washington St. (Chinatown), 302 6th Ave. (Inner Richmond), 430 Beach St. (Fisherman's Wharf), aromateashop.com
We Recommend: Tie Kuan Yin (Iron Goddess), a high mountain oolong comprised of high-grade unadulterated tea sourced from mountains in Fu Jian, China—and one of Aroma Tea Shop's best selling teas.
Asha Tea House
Asha Tea House is a Berkeley favorite. 'Asha' is Taiwanese for "someone who enjoys life," so taking a break here to enjoy traditional tea served hot, cold, and with or without boba seems like a logical decision. Make sure you check out their second location in downtown San Francisco. // 2086 University Ave. (Berkeley) & 17 Kearny St. (FiDi), ashateahouse.com
Red Blossom Tea Company
In the heart of Chinatown, Red Blossom Tea Company stocks rare teas and artisan teaware. The shop prides itself on educating its patrons. Like crops, teas are seasonal, and to ensure the best quality teas for their customers, Red Blossom Tea Company sources green, white, and oolong teas throughout the year from Fujian, Anhui, Zhejiang, and Taiwan. // 831 Grant Ave. (FiDi), redblossomtea.com
We Recommend: Lychee Black, a mild, sweet black tea infused with lychee. Served best warm on cool foggy days.
Song Tea & Ceramics
Song Tea & Ceramics provides impeccable teas picked at the their peak. This creates oolong teas with a more intense flavor, white teas that impart lovely floral notes, and red teas that are redolent of honey. // 2120 Sutter St. (Lower Pac Heights), songtea.com
We Recommend: Buddha's Hand, an oolong with complex chocolate and malted notes.
Yerba Buena Tea Co.
Yerba Buena Tea Co., formerly known as Tea Smiths, sells artisanally crafted green, white, herbal, black, and yerba mate teas in loose-leaf form or by the cup. Check out their bestsellers: Slim Mint contains hojicha green tea and dandelion to promote weight loss and immunity strength. The Tumeric Lemon Ginger helps circulation and inflammation. // ybtco.com
We Recommend: Golden Gate Green, an earthy green tea with notes of lemongrass, orange peel and a hint of ginger—perfect for a quick a pick-me-up.
Chai Bar by David Rio
Calling all chai lovers: The Chai Bar by David Rio features teas with varying levels of spiciness and sweetness, featuring combinations made with Madagascar vanilla, pressed ginger, matcha, or dark cocoa. The cozy ambiance of the bar pairs well with the tea. // 1019 Market St. (Mid-Market), chaibarsf.com
We Recommend: Tortoise Green Tea Chai, a warm chai blended with cardamom, cinnamon, and then infused with matcha green tea.
Samovar Tea Lounge
Samovar Tea Lounge, a favorite among Bay Area tea enthusiasts, offers a small tea collection curated from around the world, from England to Japan to Morocco. Check out the three locations in San Francisco. // 730 Howard St. (SoMa), 1910 Fillmore St. (Pacific Heights) and 411 Valencia St. (Mission), samovartea.com
We Recommend: California Rose, a black tea with cardamom, orange peel, rose petals, and jasmine.
Bloom Chocolate Salon
Not your typical tea house, Bloom, located within Dandelion Chocolate's factory merges the art of tea and chocolate, inside a hip, glamorous warehouse setting. Enjoy curated teas from local tea sellers including Song Tea, Tap Twice Tea, and 4 Track Tea, grouped into categories Distinct & Balanced, Robust & Bold, and Delicate & Sweet, with notes about each tea's flavors. Stop by for the Afternoon Chocolate Tea service or the Afternoon Ice Cream service if you want some sweet bites to eat paired with your tea. // 2600 16th St. (Mission), dandelionchocolate.com
We Recommend: Elevation Keemun Black Tea from 4 Track Tea, with a bold flavor and notes of pine, cocoa and citrus zest.