“I don’t feel very much like Pooh today,” said Pooh.
“There there,” said Piglet. “I’ll bring you tea and honey until you do.”
― A.A. Milne
Is there a thing as comforting or soothing as tea? A bowl of soup, perhaps. Or, a warm blanket fresh from the dryer in mid-January after you’ve just walked a mile in cold shoes. Even then, I would still want a cup of tea.
You can make me tea in summer sun – I’ll take it with ice and peaches, or, you can brew me a cup of tea when I’m feeling a bit sad and dejected after reading those tear-stained pages where JK Rowling killed off Dumbledore. Yes, bring me a cup of chamomile tea for tears but also iced mint tea for cheers or lemony tea with whisky for coughs. In return, I’ll bring you tea and honey for dessert, a meal’s closer, or for no reason whatsoever, whenever, because tea is a conversation starter… which is why each time a friend of mine comes to visit, I drag them to Samovar, the old location, a few steps from my home, perched on top of the Yerba Buena waterfall – it is one of the rare sunny places in this town where you can watch hummingbirds hovering above your head. Even without the company of hummingbirds, there are plenty of other birds, most of whom congregate in the pool, bathing or bird-talking, while others, the black ones, will come begging for food, and if you don’t hand it over, they will steal it while you’re off to the bathroom. It’s a pleasure to watch. On one of those rare days when the sun is strong enough to burn off the fog, you can sit and tan your shoulders against a cloudless sky with the comfort of tea talks or just a nice paper-book. There are plenty of things you can do at a cafe – but with tea, surely it is better?
Now I also have this new Samovar – it is especially crisp, minimal in an airy, even convivial way. From the bare wall to the other wall that’s lined with custom ceramics, I think I can stare all day with my thoughts and a cup of tea in hand with my book and my pen writing all the volumes to my imaginary memoir. In late evening, the western window faces the setting sun so the natural light cuts a line of sharp shadows against the various provisions on the shelves, just like a sundial, steadily moving, always roaming and shifting downwards like falling hours. Periodically, you can watch the tea crucibles boiling various immersions of green and red hues. They are a mark of high-tech modernity in an otherwise analog space; they are precise machines, but the beverage they create go into imprecise cups, hand forged by a ceramic artist who lives across the bay. It’s hard to leave, even with a belly full of tea, but if you do want an escape from such precise interiors, just walk outside where you can sit on the long bench and watch as tea-less walkers walk past scavenging pigeons.
I must have spent at least three hours on my last visit, taking these photos, talking to miss alanna, the tea baristas (?), encountering an old friend, drinking two beverages and tasting two others, and of course, enjoying their beautiful bathroom, which, I must add is not-to-be-missed. It’s perfect, really, go there now.