Teance

8 of our favorite tea shops and houses in the Bay Area

By Maryse Chevriere

There’s no denying that San Francisco is a great city to drink in. Wine bars, ale houses, cocktail lounges—there’s a seemingly endless supply of places specializing in your passion or poison, whatever it may be. But this boozy bounty tends to overshadow another beverage the Bay Area geeks over: tea. Rich in tradition, terroir, and technique, the modest drink offers a lot to appreciate. And lucky for us, we have plenty of awesome shops to act as our suppliers and guides. Below is a collection of eight favorite spots to visit.

Teance
This boutique-y Berkeley shop is famous for their dedication to sourcing single origin and rare teas directly from the best producers in China, Taiwan, and Japan. They’re also big on education; in addition to infectiously passionate staff, you can find information about the different selections on panels next to the items. And to get the full Teance experience, you definitely need to visit their bar in the back of the store, where one of their “tea sommeliers” will take you on a guided tasting.
Neighborhood: Berkeley MAP

Imperial Tea Court
Who wouldn’t be down for a nice, zen-inducing cup of tea amidst the chaos and bustle of the Ferry Building shops? The flagship location of this iconic San Francisco tea shop—founded by Roy Fong, it claims to be the first authentic Chinese teahouse in America—offers an impressive selection of premium Chinese teas to savor on premise or to take to go. We recommend staying and enjoying your fresh brew over plates of BBQ pork buns and hand-pulled noodles.
Neighborhood: Downtown/Embarcadero MAP


Asha Tea House

Asha Tea House
You won’t find a laundry list, floor-to-ceiling selection at this pretty, modern tea house and shop. Instead, Asha’s contribution to SF’s tea culture is through a smallish, well-curated selection of directly sourced teas from around the world, as well as handcrafted tea drinks. While there’s nothing wrong with going the purist route, their fresh fruit teas—think blood orange oolong and bergamot black—and milk teas like the iced Hong Kong variety offer some unique alternatives.
Neighborhood: Downtown MAP

Song Tea and Ceramics
Like any tea aficionado, Song Tea and Ceramics founder Peter Luong knows that quality craft needs quality vessels to match, so he has brilliantly combined the two. In this gorgeous tea shop-meets-ceramics gallery, artisan teaware from China, Taiwan, and the US is sold alongside a select offering of rare, traditional, and experimental teas from China and Taiwan. There’s no formal tasting room, but they’ll happily let you try before you buy.
Neighborhood: Lower Pacific Heights MAP

Aroma Tea Shop
Although this retail shop doesn’t have a sit-down-and-enjoy-a-cuppa-in-our-cafe component, their insane selection of premium Chinese teas cannot be overlooked. Jasmine, white, green, black, pur eh, oolong, herbal, even blooming flower art teas… you name it, they’ve got it, with prices that range from your everyday cup to $480-a-pound high roller rarities. And in case there were any doubts about this being one of the best places in the city to get your tea geek on, the shop also always offers free tastings and tutorials to clients.
Neighborhood: Inner Richmond MAP


Samovar Tea Bar

Samovar Tea Bar
If you’re not looking for the full sit-down, restaurant experience found at their Yerba Buena Gardens lounge, you can instead stop by this more grab-and-go Mission outpost. The small, bright, minimalist store offers a selection of organic, single origin, and direct import teas, as well as a variety of toasts and pastries. Their signature masala chai is not to be missed (better still when paired with honey butter toast), and on a warm day, taking an iced sweet matcha shake to enjoy in the park is the obvious move.
Neighborhood: Mission MAP

Sophie’s Cuppa Tea
This charming, comfortable Oakland shop and cafe specializes in Chinese teas, and carries a serious assortment of high quality, loose leaf selections served only in their purest form, to highlight the true nature of the tea—sorry, no milk or sugar available here. If you don’t happen to catch one of their free educational tastings, you can always count on their knowledgeable staff to help you navigate the expansive list.
Neighborhood: Oakland MAP

Far Leaves Tea
The motto at this cozy, unpretentious Berkeley tea house? “Quality of life through the practice of tea.” Here Chinese-style tea service is treated as a vehicle to help practice mindful living, encouraging you to slow down, sit back, and appreciate. And with tea this good and thoughtfully prepared, that’s no so hard to do.
Neighborhood: Berkeley MAP

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