Shiny surfaces, bright lighting, and basic materials seem to be hallmarks of the tea bar – the latest frenzy (it’s too fast-paced and seemingly long-lasting to be called a “fad”) in the world of tea. The high-tech yet minimalist design at one end and a warm and welcoming Asian motif at the other. They have one thing in common: great tea!

Tea Bar in the Mission district of San Francisco (Screen capture from site)

Tea Bar in the Mission district of San Francisco (Screen capture from site)

San Fran Tea Bar

The décor features lots of straight lines, stone surfaces, underlighting, large windows, and a service area that prepares teas one of two ways (as far as I can tell from the photos): in large copper pots on some type of heating element, and in glass steepers with a sleek high-tech appearance (no idea how properly they steep but I haven’t heard of any complaints so far). The color scheme is overall light and mostly muted with the focus being on the tea.

Their minimalism extends to the menu. The teas are limited to some very basic ones: English Breakfast, a green tea called “Green Ecstacy” [sic], an herbal called “Spearmint Sage,” a traditional Masala Chai and a vegan (unexplained – probably uses that “soy milk” stuff) Masala Chai, Matcha served as either a shot or a shake, an iced Plum Pu-erh (they don’t say if it’s sheng or shu), and something called “Rosie Palmer.” They also have an extremely limited selection of scones: sweet (lemon and tart cherry) or savory (scallion and dry jack).

Zhongshan Port, China

The tea bar in China is more of a store, but over there taking time to infuse a bit of the tea and discuss it with the tea shop experts is fairly common. This one specializes in a particular brand of pu-erh tea. There are lots of shiny surfaces (mainly that gorgeous flooring), plenty of direct and indirect lighting, plenty of touches of red (the color of good fortune in Chinese culture), and wonderful carved and very sturdy-looking tables and chairs. The emphasis is on trying and learning about the teas.

New Dayi flasgship store in Zhongshan Port, China (From Yahoo! Images)

New Dayi flasgship store in Zhongshan Port, China (From Yahoo! Images)

A Far Cry from Chintz and Lace

We often think of tea as being served in those tea rooms decorated with floral patterns, pastel shades of blue, yellow, green, and pink, and lacy curtains on the windows. Plenty of these cozy and inviting establishments are around, but the above two shops indicate that a change is in the works. Something for everybody and every taste – that’s the standard in the world of tea.

See more of A.C. Cargill’s articles here.

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