Nov. 14 2018

A Visit to Samovar Tea Lounge in San Francisco

Samovar tea lounge in San Francisco is exactly how you’d expect Silicon Valley would do tea. Not with fancy tech and gadgets. Oh no, that would be too on the nose. But, with precisely catalogued organic offerings, and almost scientifically perfected food pairings. My ‘green ecstasy’ matcha-sencha fusion arrived in a glass vessel reminiscent of a beaker.

Samovar at Yerba Buena Gardens

I visited the Yerba Buena Gardens location, but Samovar Tea lounge locations can be found throughout San Francisco. They’re very much a lifestyle brand that espouses founder Jesse Jacob’s beliefs, “I wanted to make a difference in the world by helping people remember what it is to be human.” He envisioned Samovar as an ‘alternate reality’ where we are invited to slow down and disconnect.

Samovar’s restaurant and tea lounge at the Yerba Buena Gardens location in the heart of San Francisco.

Samovar was an incredibly beautiful place, with great service, tea sommeliers who really knew their stuff, and offered a prime product in a premium location, for a price tag that matched.


Sandwiches and small eats were around $10-$15. Food and tea service was $20-$25. Not all of their locations have full-service restaurants. You can check out Samovar’s location list to find out which ones have food, and which are more cafe-style.

A samovar, by the way, is a Russian tea urn. Often highly decorated. You can see some from when I visited the Russian tea room in Massachusetts’ Museum of Russian Icons.

The tea quality was great, and they even have big pots of chai on at some locations, that lends a warm cardamom, cinnamon, ginger, black pepper, and star anise smell to the air.

I appreciate the little touches—the excellent copywriting on the menu, the wasabi in their Caesar salad dressing paired with wild smoked salmon.

Dry tea here to purchase I found on the expensive side, with not as much information about sourcing readily available as I would have liked. Part of me wonders if that’s just me getting used to American prices again. It’s comparable to some of what I’ve had in New York. I did find their teaware very well-priced. And I do love the wabi-sabi aesthetic their store embodies.

Green ecstasy from Samovar Tea Lounge

Samovar’s use of tea blending is a unique touch and something that stood out to me most about the location. I tried Green Ecstasy, a first-flush Asamushi-style Japanese sencha blended with matcha from Kagoshima. Asamushi-style just means the leaves are only briefly steamed (20-40 seconds) and are usually low in tannins (less bitterness), and have a vegetal taste like fresh grass.

Asamushi is in contrast to Fukamushi (deep steaming, 80-200 seconds), and Chumushi (40-80 seconds, most common in the Japanese tea market).

The matcha gives a nice caffeine boost to this green tea and has a rich and brothy mouthfeel that is very energizing and gives a ‘full’ feeling. As it should be, they brew this tea at a lower temperature to avoid scalding the delicate green tea leaves.

If brewing at home, I recommend you brew in a Japanese kyusu tea pot and then into a serving jar like the one in this photo.

This tea also lends itself well to re-steeping. For the first brew, I recommend a short, 10-second infusion, then increasing your steep time by 10 seconds more each subsequent infusion.

Have you visited Samovar in Yerba Buena Gardens or their other locations? What did you think?