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10 San Francisco Tea Rooms

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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.

Updated July 2008: See individual websites for any changes in menus and hours.

1. Samovar Tea Lounge

Samovar Tea Lounge San Francisco© Ingrid Taylar

Castro/Mission - Yerba Buena Gardens

Open Weekdays & Weekends - Check Website for Days/Hours

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.

South of Market: Yerba Buena Gardens – Upper Terrace - (415) 227-9400
Castro/Mission: 498 Sanchez Street (at 18th) - (415) 626-4700

2. Imperial Tea Court

San Francisco Ferry Building - North Berkeley

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.

CLOSED: The Original Chinatown location: 1411 Powell Street (at Broadway)
Ferry Building: 1 Ferry Building Plaza, #27
North Berkeley: In the Epicurious Garden, 1511 Shattuck Avenue(between Cedar & Vine)

3. Lovejoy's Tea Room

Noe Valley

Open Weekdays & Weekends - Check Website for Days/Hours

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.

1351 Church Street (at Clipper)
San Francisco, CA 94114
Telephone: (415) 648-5895

4. Leland Tea Company

Nob Hill

Open Weekdays & Weekends - Check Website for Days/Hours

Leland Tea gets accolades for its atmosphere (hip but warm) as much as for its tea selection. Leland is classy digs, with a tea bar and significant loose-leaf choices, outdoor seating, and room to enjoy full tea service, sandwiches, or soup -- and a bit of wi-fi (if you have to break from tea-time tradition).

Unlike some black-iced-tea stalwarts, I enjoy a tropical infusion and Leland has a number of alternatives, including my favorite mango, as well as peach -- in addition to herbal varieties.

1416 Bush Street (at Polk)
San Francisco, CA 94109
Telephone: (415) 346-4832

5. Crown and Crumpet Tea Salon

Ghirardelli Square - Fisherman's Wharf

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.

900 North Point Street (at Beach & Larkin)
San Francisco, CA
Telephone: (415) 771-4252

6. Secret Garden Tea House

Inner Sunset

Open Weekdays & Weekends - Check Website for Days/Hours

The Secret Garden's decor may be too floral for the testosterone-driven. But its location, across Lincoln from Golden Gate Park, makes it a natural stop for tea and scones after roaming the Botanical Gardens. You can get both hot and iced tea, as well as light lunch items. The tea-party setting is a great outing for the little ones, too.

721 Lincoln Way (between 8th & 9th))
San Francisco, CA 94122
Telephone: (415) 566-8834

7. Tal-Y-Tara Tea & Polo Shoppe

Outer Richmond

Open Weekdays & Weekends - Check Website for Days/Hours

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.

6439 California St. (at 27th Avenue)
San Francisco, CA 94121
Telephone: (415) 751-9275

8. Rotunda at Neiman Marcus

Union Square

Open Weekdays & Weekends - Check Website for Days/Hours

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.

Neiman Marcus - Level Four
150 Stockton Street
San Francisco, CA 94108
Telephone: (415) 362-4777

9. Afternoon Tea at the Ritz

Nob Hill

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. You can read a few more details at the Go San Francisco site. (Note that traditional tea hours are Friday through Sunday.)

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). See a few more options for Jazz Brunch in San Francisco.

Lobby Lounge at the Ritz Carlton
600 Stockton Street (at California)
San Francisco, CA 94108
Telephone: (415) 296-7465

10. Afternoon Tea at the Palace Hotel

SoMa/South of Market - Financial District

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. See a few more options for Jazz Brunch in San Francisco.

Garden Court/Palace Hotel
2 New Montgomery (near Market)
San Francisco, CA 94105
Telephone: (415) 512 1111

11. L'Amyx Tea Bar (Oakland)

Oakland (Piedmont & Lake Merritt)

Open Weekdays & Weekends - Check Website for Days/Hours

The name "Tea Bar" suggests L'Amyx isn't a traditional sort of tea house. It's a modern space, conducive to plopping in a chair with your book and your Gunpowder . . . tea, that is. It's also popular with laptop users and bubble-tea drinkers. L'Amyx has two locations in Oakland, is open late, and serves light fare and desserts.

Piedmont: 4179 Piedmont Avenue - (510) 594-TEA2 (8322)
Lakeshore: 3437 Lakeshore Avenue – (510) 835-8322

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