Nothing delights me more than the thought of stuffing my face with sugary treats in the middle of the day and a tea break is the perfect excuse to do so. I never cared much for either tea or the British hangover that comes with this ritual, but I will willingly lather my face with lemon curd, clotted cream and jam with yummy scones and biscuits, bite into those dainty tea sandwiches and relish the petit pastries, all of which are perfect accompaniments to a British tea ritual. So after scouring several tea lounges in the city in search of the best tea time ever, here is a list of some SF tea rooms that you should visit for an afternoon of tea, finger sandwiches and petite pastries. Don’t forget to bring your friends along!
SF TEA ROOMS # 1. CROWN AND CRUMPETS
Crown and Crumpets, the tea room inside the funky, eclectic store “New People” on Post street, is my current love for all things tea related. The tea room, unlike all other places, is distinctly modern in decor (unlike the frumpy British granny like decorations going overboard) and comes with a neat little tea menu featuring teas by category and one for savories and pastries to go with it. Again, unlike most other places, there is a very reasonably priced “tea for one” option that has food enough to be shared by two and you pay only $6 extra for that, but it also has several a la carte menu options (scones, crumpets, sandwiches) that you can choose and get a small pot of tea if you are not a big tea drinker like us. This latter option is sorely lacking in all other tea rooms that I have visited, where you have to tackle a bottomless huge pot of tea that will make you feel like you are creating a swimming pool in your tummy.
The savory sandwiches come in three combos, and we went for the tricolor vegetarian ones (mozzarella, tomato and basil pesto). We also went for the fruit scones (come with clotted cream and jam) and the crumpets ( well, of course) with a side of lemon curd. Having been to the crumpet shop at Pike Place Market, Seattle, I can soundly say that these crumpets were some of the best I’ve ever had. Moist and with a slight crunch, they were just the right kind of satisfying. Fruit scones were mildly sweet and tasted great with the cream and jam. Finally, the tea that we chose was the classic Darjeeling tea (2nd flush) and we savored it with some almond milk added in (since I am lactose intolerant). I forgot to mention that this was all a la carte (we did not go for the “tea for one” service) and still came out cheaper than than the tea for one service. For the quality, good quantity and the reasonable price, not to mention the fun ambiance and service, I highly recommend this spot in Japan Town. Once you are done with tea, you should definitely check out the fun stores inside New People that sell a variety of things imported from Japan, including apparel and home decor. They also screen latest Japanese movies during film festivals.
Finally, reservations are a must and can be made via their website or on phone. They also host private tea parties and have a separate room on the side for doing so. Do visit C&C for an afternoon with friends to laugh and unwind over some tea and yummy crumpets!
SF TEA ROOMS # 2. LOVEJOY’S TEA ROOM
If you are in San Francisco, and are yearning for such a tea party (with or without a Mad Hatter), then look no further than Lovejoy’s Tea Room, in the quiet neighborhood of Noe Valley, which is possibly the most popular of all the SF tea rooms in the city. And, definitely for good measure.
Lovejoy’s is one of those popular SF tea rooms where locals (and sometimes, out of towners) congregate for their mid afternoon lavish tea breaks, to gossip, to catch up with old friends, to have celebrations (bridal showers/elegant bachelorette parties) or to simply have fun with family. Extremely popular and buzzing with tea service and lively chatter, a reservation is a must which can be done over phone. Once you reach this small tea room, you will be greeted with a decor that for lack of better word, can best be described as a cross between vintage British and jolly. Don’t get me wrong, it is pretty delightful to say the least what with all the delicate china, the lace, the wall art, and the souvenirs screaming everything England from every pore, but it kind of seems like an English granny sort of tripped on acid and went overboard in her nostalgic zeal. Slightly crammed with so much going on, but cutesy overall and will appeal to lovers of everything grandma-vintage. The menu, however, is another story and that is what sets this tea house apart from other places in the city.
Most other SF tea rooms trap you with a confusing menu, where sharing a tea selection (i.e. bottomless pot of tea with savories and sweet accompaniments) comes with hidden extra costs and what not. Not so for Lovejoy’s. There are four categories of tea spreads, starting from an individualized one to a Queen’s tea selection (the costliest at $21) and if you want to share either of them, you have to add an $2.50 per person. There are also side orders that can be added as extras on to the main tea-selection. We went for the “High Tea” which was just the right amount of tea and food to be shared between two people and came with tea sandwiches, a scone with clotted cream and jam, a small sweet treat, a salad and side of cabbage slaw. We added a side order or two crumpets with lemon curd since we love crumpets! Lovejoy’s has a vast selection of teas and many vegetarian options in tea sandwiches. We went for the cucumber &cream cheese and tomato &cheddar varieties. As for the tea, we settled for the house tea blend, which came along with a pot of milk and sugar. Service was very swift and extremely friendly. Food was very good and we polished off everything in a jiffy along with sips of our tea. Lovejoy’s is our perennial favorite and I hope you try out this place with your BFF’s if you are ever in town.
SF TEA ROOMS # 3.ROTUNDA AT NEIMAN MARCUS
As the holiday season approaches, a lot of high end hotels in the city open their doors to afternoon tea, but the one at Neiman Marcus remains a perennial popular spot. Having heard about the afternoon tea service at Rotunda, we decided to check it out a few days before Christmas. I made reservations (recommended since it is one of the more popular SF tea rooms) and we were seated after a few minutes wait under the lovely, golden dome.
There are three kinds of afternoon tea services available, the first one being a $45/person basic tea with choices of tea per person along with sandwiches, savory scones with cream, lemon curd and jam, petit desserts, warm popovers with strawberry butter and assortment of fruits. The other two pricier options include a glass of champagne along with the tea service. We went with the basic service which itself seemed like quite a bit for two and requested that the sandwiches be made vegetarian, which was happily accommodated. Our choices of breakfast (blend of Darjeeling and Assam) and chamomile teas were light and paired great with the accompaniments. The popovers were warm and flaky and the strawberry butter was yummy too. The rest of the savory and sweet delights ranged from good to finger-licking good. The price, albeit steep, was a better deal for the ambiance and service than what you would pay at a similar high-end place, but if you are visiting San Francisco and in the mood for some afternoon tea to relax with your girlfriends, I would definitely recommend LoveJoy as an equally good or even better alternative. Definitely worth checking out once if you are in the mood to indulge yourself. Plus, you will be rewarded with great views of the square through the tall, glass windows.
SF TEA ROOMS # 4. DARTEALING
Dartealing (a pun on the famous Darjeeling tea), a SOMA tea lounge is one place where you can let your hair down with your girlfriends (tea-lounges are for some reason very fairer sex heavy, i.e. nary a man in sight) over a delightful cup of tea, bite sized sandwiches, scones, crumpets and other sweet and savory goodies. Much as I love the decor (think of arsenic and lace style super dated and kind of tacky but somehow feels just right old school British Granny style), the food and their awesome tea, there is a minimum of $14 per head spending requirement and extra charges if you share a pot of tea or a go for the single service equivalent of a tea service for two. We had a great time sipping tea and dunking our scones in cream and jam and nibbling on them in our genteelest manner (haha). Again, highly recommended if you don’t mind spending some extra buck to have a good time with your girlfriends, i.e. gabbing away and dishing out the latest gossip in a fun atmosphere!
I hope you enjoyed reading this post. For more food ideas, visit my SF posts on top 6 cafes in the city,right here.
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