In 2006, BBC News ran a story suggesting that tea was healthier to drink than water. The benefits touted were tea's known antioxidants, and its various protective effects on heart health. An added boon for us Bay Area caffeine drinkers is that we have dedicated tea rooms in San Francisco where we can indulge our oolong impulses. You can schedule a proper afternoon tea at San Francisco hotels like the Ritz, or make a less formal drop-in at one of these local San Francisco tea houses.
Yerba Buena Gardens
Telephone: (415) 227-9400
498 Sanchez Street
Telephone: (415) 626-4700
Samovar has two locations in San Francisco, the original in the Castro/Mission area, and one at Yerba Buena Gardens, overlooking the Esplanade. The tea menu is satisfying, with white, green, oolong, black, Jingmai, yerba mate and daily chilled varieties. Samovar has wicker and cushions, Buddha statues, and an excellent presentation of cultural tea services with select platters of region-specific foods.
Neighborhood: Union Square
Neiman Marcus - Level Four
150 Stockton Street
Telephone: (415) 362-4777
It's worth lunching or taking afternoon tea at least once in the elegant Rotunda. There's a bittersweet quality, however, to looking through the amber-tinged light of the glass dome. The original beaux-arts building on this site, the City of Paris (California Landmark 876) was a late 19th century repository for fine goods traveling to San Francisco from Europe. When Neiman Marcus demolished the building in the 1970s, amid significant local controversy, the [fortunate] compromise was a mandate to save the stunning glass rotunda under which you can take your tea.
Japanese Tea Garden
Japanese Tea Garden
Neighborhood: Golden Gate Park
75 Hagiwara Tea Garden Drive
For the full tea garden experience, head to the Japenese Tea Garden in Golden Gate Park. Its home to the oldest Japanese gardens in the country with a beautiful tea studio in the middle. Order some loose leaf Jasmine to sip while watching cherry blossoms bloom.
1 Ferry Building Plaza, #27
Open Weekdays & Weekends - Check Website for Days/Hours
The Imperial Tea Court, a traditional tea house in Chinatown, has two locations in the Bay Area. The tea experience at Imperial Tea Court can be as simple as engaging a pot of Jasmine pearls as the leaves unfurl . . . or as involved as learning about premium Pu-erh, or gaiwan tea preparation. Snacks are available as accompaniment.
Neighborhood: Noe Valley
1351 Church Street
Telephone: (415) 648-5895
Lovejoy's began as an antique shop that served tea, and is now a tea room decorated with antique detail. If you've spent any time in England and miss your Devon cream, Lovejoy's has your number. There's Cream Tea service, High Tea, Queen's Tea, and even Wee Tea for young tea drinkers. The concept is traditional but the ambiance is cozy and comfortable.
Neighborhood: Lower Pacific Heights
1746 Post Street
Telephone: (415) 771-4252
The pink and white interior (and checkerboard floor) of Crown and Crumpet, although dramatic and vivid, is a more modern and bright incarnation of traditional tea room. And, the people behind San Francisco's newest tea room, Amy and Christopher Dean, fuse their San Francisco and UK experience into this lively English-style venue on the site of San Francisco's historic Ghiradelli Square.
There are 38 tea varieties at Crown and Crumpet, from traditional black to green to oolong and white. There's also a tea boutique with a variety of items including the requisite tea cozies and cups.
Neighborhood: Outer Richmond
6439 California St.
Telephone: (415) 751-9275
Tal-Y-Tara wins the award for most unusual tea room on this list. As its name suggests, Tal-Y-Tara is an English equestrian supply, as well as a tea room. The tea part of the shop is known for its unique "motorloaf" bread, with nested sandwiches (designed for easy travel while motoring). Tal-Y-Tara also serves a selection of English teas, crumpets, scones and trifle. It might be the only place in San Francisco where you can steep a pot of Fortnum & Mason tea while trying on paddock boots.
Neighborhood: Nob Hill
Lobby Lounge at the Ritz Carlton
600 Stockton Street (at California)
Telephone: (415) 773-6198
Tea Available Friday to Sunday Afternoons - Check Website for Hours
You probably know what to expect in terms of ambiance when you take tea in the elegant enclave of the Ritz. The tea selections range from a Traditional Tea service to a Royal Tea -- and a Vegetarian Tea and Children's Tea in between. The Ritz Carlton also serves a Sunday jazz brunch in the Terrace (with both indoor and outdoor seating).
Garden Court/Palace Hotel
2 New Montgomeryt
Telephone: (415) 512 1111
Tea on Saturdays - Check Website for Hours
The historic stained-glass atrium is the core attraction of the Garden Court restaurant -- in the 1909 Palace Hotel. Tea at the Garden Court shows off some of San Francisco's best architectural heritage. The setting does resemble a garden, with daylight streaming in over the Austrian crystal chandeliers and planted greenery.
Choices include a basic Garden Court Tea, Sparkling Wine Tea, Royal Tea and a Prince & Princess Tea (for kids).
The Garden Court also serves Sunday jazz brunch.