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Man of Many Leaves

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As founder and CEO of the Samovar Tea Lounge, located in the heart of San Francisco's Mission-Castro neighborhood, Jacobs has been providing a uniquely tea-centric dining experience since June 2003, when Samovar opened its doors with three key customer-service values: relaxation, health and social intimacy.

"As a longtime tea drinker, I have always appreciated this culturally rich, delicious and healthy brew," Jacobs tells "However, as my palette developed, which is bound to happen with anyone who delves into the tea world, I developed an appreciation and awareness of the most amazing teas-tea that was harvested in small amounts by artisan families, processed with traditional methods, and done so seasonally. This is artisanal tea!"

And it can be difficult to find, making Jacobs a man on a mission.

"It has taken several years, thousands of cups of tea-tasting and developing relationships with small family farms around the world, which provide us with this seasonal, handcrafted tea, which for the most part is certified organic and Fair Trade," he says.


Jacobs compares his always-fresh teas, which vary slightly by season and are produced in limited quantities, to heirloom tomatoes-an analogy he uses to explain the concept of artisan tea to the uninitiated.

"Consider the efforts to produce the taste of an heirloom tomato in the middle of summer," he says. "Now consider the same effort to produce-and the taste of-the 'cardboard' tomato in the dead of winter. To many people, there is a strong difference between the two. Now think of our artisanal fresh tea as the heirloom tomato."

And as with heirloom seeds, Samovar purchases teas in small batches, which means inventory is continuously replenished so it never has a chance to grow stale. Fresh tea, Jacobs says, "is more delicious and healthy because, just like produce, fresh is obviously better."

By contrast, "conventional teas are mass-produced on huge tea farms, which require the standard pesticides, herbicides and fungicides to produce such a volume of consistent teas," he continues. "Conventional teas are mass-produced, mass-processed, mass-packaged and then stored for an indefinite amount of time, which means they are never fresh."

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From the Organic Authority Files

If you can't make it to San Francisco, Jacobs sells his green, white, oolong, black and Pu-erh (from the Yunan province of China) teas, as well as herbal infusions, through the online Samovar Tea Lounge Store. Depending on the time of year, 50 to 100 varieties may be available. (You'll also find a full selection of books and tea ware.)

If you happen to live in or visit the San Francisco area, be sure to stop in for High Tea and special events like Tuesday Tea Tastings, all-you-can-sip-and-eat Tea Orgies and educational classes on topics like herbal remedies. Samovar also offers a full menu of mostly organic offerings that change seasonally-from breakfasts and sandwiches to dinner entrees and desserts. Think toasted crumpets and homemade scones with Devonshire cream, vegetable quiches and curry egg salad sandwiches, mahi coconut rice stew and grilled ginger tofu, and organic lemon curd tarts and tofu custard (with green tea and shaved chocolate).

As for coming attractions, Jacobs is already "turning over a new leaf" for 2005.

"Ancient Tree, a nutty, slightly sweet, full-bodied green tea cultivated from 1,300-year-old tea trees in China, is coming soon-and it's amazing!" he says. "Our Jasmine Pearl is always a favorite for green-tea and scented-tea lovers. It is floral and refreshing, yet not overpowering-and especially beautiful to watch the leaves unfurl to reveal their aroma, flavor and succulence. And our Sun-Dried Green Beencha Pu-erh is an aged tea with an incredibly complex flavor-slightly grassy like a fresh green, yet well balanced with the classic earthy fullness of an aged Pu-erh. The phenomenal leaf quality is in full view with this tea, which is pressed into 7" cakes. It is delicious, beautiful and good for many, many infusions."

Samovar Tea Lounge
498 Sanchez Street (at 18th Street)
San Francisco, CA 94114
(415) 626-4700
Open 10 a.m. to 10:30 p.m. daily
Menus change monthly
Shop online:
To request a mail-order catalog, click here.

Samovar Tea Lounge 2nd location
Yerba Buena Gardens
730 Howard St.
San Francisco, CA 94103
(415) 227-9400
Hours: 8:00 a.m. - 10:00 p.m. (7 days a week)
Menu: Full service Breakfast, Lunch and Dinner (7 days a week)
Service: Indoor and outdoor seating. "To Go" menu also available

Jesse Jacobs' Top 5 Reasons to Drink Samovar Tea

We have the best-tasting tea. This is because it is fresh! Picked seasonally, and in small batches, our tea comes straight from the farm.
Feel Great
Our tea leaves leave you as you want to be…relaxed, gently uplifted or energized. Just select the tea by the caffeine level.
Pair It with Your Meal
Like a fine wine, incorporate tea into your menu planning by pairing it with food:

  • Light-tasting teas, like white and green, with subtle foods.
  • Complex teas, like oolong, with elaborate dishes.
  • Black and Pu-erh teas with strong intense dishes.

Good for the World
Our teas are purchased from small family farms, mostly certified Fair Trade and organic. Our teas are good for the world-and good for you.
More Time for Yourself
Take time for the simple ritual of brewing our tea, and you are open to appreciating the finer, simpler, elegant details in life.

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