Athletes aspire to get their own sneaker. I'm not an athlete and I don't wear sneakers, but today I'm announcing the equivalent in my world: my own tea set!
But first, a little background. I don't remember when I first drank tea, but I do remember that at the time that I found out how healthy it is, I hated tea. I thought that it tasted like bathwater. But newly aware of its health benefits, I was determined to like it. My method was to drink six cups a day until I changed my mind -- aggressive taste acquiring.
And, sure enough, after a week or so of little Lipton tea bags, I decided that I liked green tea enough to continue to drink it. I wasn't a connoisseur, but I was an enthusiast, downing the stuff solely for the health benefits.
My taste buds first perked up when I stayed at the Lalu hotel in Taiwan. Every activity there (check in, going to sleep, visiting the pool) was accompanied by some sort of tea, and they were all spectacular. The green tea which was delivered to the room every night was amazing -- it bore very little resemblance to the tea I was used to brewing from small paper tea bags. I had no idea tea could be so spectacularly tasty.
Somehow I heard about Samovar Tea Lounge in San Francisco. People threw around phrases that you'll now hear me say, like "best tea shop in the world", so I naturally had to visit. Since then there hasn't been a three day stretch of time that's passed where I've been in San Francisco and not gone to Samovar. The tea is the best I've ever had, I'm now friends with most of the staff, and the atmosphere is conducive to sitting down and writing, reading a book (copies of Life Nomadic are in a basket by the door), or spending a few hours chatting with friends. I even have my Japanese lessons there.
A month or two ago I sat down with Jesse, the owner, and we talked about creating a tea set from my favorite teas so that readers could share the experience. And we have! The three teas I drink the most (Kukicha twig tea, Orange Ginger herbal tea, and Ryokucha green tea) and an awesome travel tea thermos are included. You can check out the page at Samovar for more info and for a video explaining why I like each tea so much and showing Jesse brewing tea in the tea thermos.
Speaking of videos, I have another one to share right here. Good tea is relatively expensive, bad tea is cheap, and the difference in quality is enormous. To show the difference, Jesse and I did a "Tea Autopsy", where we cut apart some tea bags and compared them to Samovar teas. I bought the teas for the comparison, and chose the cheapest bagged tea and the most expensive I could find. Check it out below:
(Thanks to Todd for filming, and I apologize for the poor audio. I had a separate mic but messed up recording with it...)
Check out Tynan's Traveling Tea Set Here!
Purchased ryokucha tea a week ago and I drink it everyday, sometimes twice. Thanks for the suggestion, lots of rice flavor but packed with goodness, its like a magic potion.
Austin can you share with us the secret tea place 40 minutes away from Taipei?
I'd be interested if you can send me the business card as well. I'll email you from your website if you approve.
Hey Ty, give Red Blossom a shot if you haven't already. Samovar's great for hanging out at and their food & tea is good. Red Blossom is over on Grant & Clay and is more of a store, but they have seats for tastings and the family that runs the place is awesome, and their selection is insane. And where Samovar does some flavored stuff, blends, etc. Red Blossom has some pretty hardcore stuff. Try some ultra-high end jasmines or oolongs there, they're addictive.
I pretty much only drink green tea, longjing aka Dragon Well and Hou Kui are my favorites (Hou Kui is near impossible to find though). I drink gyokuro, but I'm not really as fond of Japanese teas.
If you can find it, I'd recommend you try chilled Nam Matoom, it's a fruit tea from southeast Asia that's absolutely the most refreshing thing I've ever had in my life.
I'm not a tea connoisseur, but the Samovar tea sure was good.
Do you ever cool your tea and have it iced? Does it still retain its health benefits if you do?
And those teas that taste like hay are why I refuse to drink Lipton. It's not just mass-produced, it's so overproduced that any semblance of flavor gets lost. Once I even found a green tea that was so bad it tasted like stale beans! Guess I'm lucky that I started out with the good stuff.
One of my friends thinks she likes tea, but she only likes it when half of it is sugar. >.< I say that if you need to dump sugar into it to enjoy it, then either it's not real tea or you don't like tea.
Although I tend to like black teas (especially strong Chinese black teas, yum yum), I think my favorite tea is probably green jasmine pearls. I'll have to try these ones you like sometime! :D
Very cool. I haven't been to Samovar but have heard you talk about it quite a lot at this point. The next time I'm in SF I'll be stopping in and will be sure to talk to the staff about your special sampler. What a cool mini product launch :)
Btw, I fell in love with tea in Taiwan as well. I can send you a picture of the business card of the BEST tea house in all of Taiwan (about 40 mins outside of Taipei) if you're interested. A well guarded secret.
Keep imbibing that magical leafy stuff!
its true! a friend told me to drink green tea since its supposedly so healthy, and i've been trying everyday for the past 2 weeks and it still tastes absolutely awful. exactly like bathwater. i'll have to try this place when i visit san fran later on this fall. once again, thanks for sharing your unique finds.
I've spent most of my time in San Francisco since fleeing the oppressive summer heat of Texas. Since then, mostly thanks to awesome recommendations from other people, I've discovered some amazing places here. This is a selection of my favorites... all of which should be checked out by anyone who lives here. Know somewhere else amazing? Let me know!
Samovar Tea Lounge
If you like tea you should come to Samovar. If you love tea, you'll probably end up coming here every day like I do. Samovar does tea like tea is meant to be done: large servings of loose leaf tea, steeped for the exact right time in the exact right temperature water. The lounges are very pleasant comfortable places, and the employees are awesome people. There are three locations; I like the Page Street one the best.
Adult Night at the Exploratorium
This week I want to tell you a little about our Samovar Organic Ryokucha green tea, our take on the classic genmaicha. Samovar Ryokucha is not a pure green tea, but a savory blend of our organic Japanese green tea delicately tossed with toasted rice kernels and our finest organicmatcha, a powdered Japanese green tea. The result is something completely new: the rice adds a satisfying depth to balance the bright flavors of the green tea; the matcha dissolves completely into the brew creating creating a vibrant green color and a milky smooth infusion.
I often drink our Ryokucha as a part of my morning ritual. It has just enough caffeine to give me a morning boost and I love waking to the smell of grassy fields on a hot summer day. It's the perfect complement to a breakfast bagel with lox, or stop by the Samovar Tea Lounge and order a pot to go along with our Tea Soup with Salmon.
I'm also excited to introduce you to the new Samovar Vivid Brewpot. One of the pleasures of drinking tea is taking the time to slow down and be present, watching as the tea tranforms, with leaves unfurling and a brilliant color spreading throughout the pot. It's a simple thing. And a beautiful thing. This unique teapot lets you watch the whole show, and a steel mesh filter in the lid strains the leaves when you are ready to serve.
Now's a great time to try our Ryokucha--or to restock! This week only you can order both products from our online shop at a special price.Enter Coupon Code: VIVIDRYOKU and receive 10% off through this Tuesday, September 25, 2012.