Your senses seem stronger inside Samovar Tea Lounge. Warm sunlight streams through tall windows and hushed conversation mingles with the sound of tea flowing from nubbly iron kettles, their contents perfuming the air with hints of herbs, smoke, toasted rice, flowers, and revolutions in Boston. This is owner Jesse Jacobs' vision, what he describes on his website as "an escape from the overflow of information" into an intimate space for human interaction, carved out by the global ritual of sharing tea.
This global emphasis inspires an artisanal menu of small plates and sandwiches that could conceivably be served during tea services in India and Morocco, or, in a playful turn by the chef, the Paleolithic era. It is the tea, however, that enables guests to get acquainted with international terroir without sneaking small shrubs through customs. Small, family farms in countries including Kenya, Paraguay, and Nepal, many of them organic, send their whole-leaf brews to fill Samovar's carefully curated collection. Each of its three locations serves the entire menu, which is comprehensive enough to classify oolong and pu-erh separately and boast vintage blends dating back to 1989.
Dolce & Salato’s chefs strike a delicate balance between Italian charm and Californian sustainability, drawing from a palette of in-season ingredients culled from local vendors to orchestrate a menu inspired by the entrenched culinary traditions of Northern Italy. The café proves ideal for a quick cappuccino break, a leisurely breakfast, or a lunch paired with a glass of Italian beer or wine. Flowerboxes and sidewalk tables situate patrons in prime people-watching positions at the Presidio Heights location, which also hosts a wood-paneled dining area bathed in light that radiates from garden windows and the friendly wait staff’s smiles.
Om Shan Tea's kitchen flourishes with vegan and mostly organic ingredients that are locally sourced when possible, but it also can be characterized by what it doesn't have. That includes a microwave, a fryer, gluten, refined sugars, and peanuts, with few exceptions noted clearly on the menu. The eatery crafts soup, salad, bowls, and open-faced sandwiches—which are obviously more honest—with fragrant seasonings and earthy, healthful ingredients such as adzuki beans, quinoa, coconut oil, hempseed, and kale.
Echoing the establishment's emphasis on community, organic tea is served by the pot in Chinese-tea-ceremony style. A long menu of varieties includes yunnan black, raw yerba mate, and tulsi teas. The establishment also hosts a full calendar of events, including concerts, dance performances, and poetry readings.
Chef Matthew Roder planted the seeds of what would eventually become L’acajou Bakery and Cafe in 2009, when he began distributing his handcrafted pastries to local eateries. Today, a counter cobbled together from weathered wooden planks hosts stacks of Roder’s salted chocolate-chip cookies and artisan paninis behind a glittering glass storefront in the SoMa district. Steaming cups of coffee percolate to-order from countertop drip filters, and Roder shapes organic and sustainably produced ingredients into a diverse menu of internationally inspired fare or eco-friendly mashed-potato sculptures of Julia Child.