To a Tea


There are so many things to love about Samovar Tea Lounge, especially during this dark, rainy, wintry time of year. Primarily, of course, there are the teas, virtually any kind you can think of: fair trade, organic, kosher, ancient (picked from trees more than a thousand years old!); green, white, black and even Pu-erh, a rare and extremely rich tea from China.

Then there's the presentation: a heavy ceramic cup and pot on a slim wooden platter with a small carafe of milk. It's warming just to look at, even more so when you pour the tea and cradle the cup up to your chest. At the Castro location, you can do this while gazing out the windows at the corner of 18th and Sanchez. At the Yerba Buena site, the entire skyline is on view outside the glass walls.

Lastly, but certainly not least, is the food Samovar serves, small bites and plates that are like mini-celebrations of the ritual of eating. The English Service brings quiche, mini-scones, fruit and Devonshire cream (obvious, but it works); the Russian platter includes rye crackers, beets and smoked whitefish with horseradish; the Moorish platter consists of veggie kebabs, mint salad, dolmas and chevre-stuffed dates (yum!). Brunch is served daily, all day, and offers not only such classic twists as buckwheat granola and a ginger-polenta waffle, but jook, the silky Asian porridge made of rice and topped with savories such as toasted garlic and grilled duck.

It's almost enough to make me forego my fried-egg sandwiches and bottomless cups of Peet's.