Tea nirvana has come to San Francisco. DavidsTea, founded in 2008, grew from one shop in downtown Toronto to over 75 stores across North America. Co-founders and cousins David and Herschel Segal have received rave reviews and a devoted following at their Canadian shops as well as their first two U.S. offerings in New York City. Now DavidsTea has set its sights on three Bay Area locations. The inaugural store, at 2123 Polk Street, opened Aug. 25 (the second will open on 24th Street in Noe Valley Sept. 8, and the third, in Burlingame, 1400 Burlingame Avenue, opens Sept. 29). The company’s namesake says San Francisco
was a no-brainer.
“San Francisco has such an innovative food and drink culture and such a strong sense of neighborhood spirit,” said Segal during a recent tea tasting at the Fairmont Hotel. “We can’t wait to become part
of the community.”
When Segal talks about tea, his face lights up. “I’ve always loved tea, but I saw so much beyond Earl Gray and chamomile.” In fact, when it comes to blending, DavidsTea thinks decidedly outside the cup. “Tea to us is any plant, herb or spice that can be infused in water,” Segal says.
DavidsTea stores resemble the sleek, modern counters of high-end cosmetic lines at Macy’s rather than mirroring the ambiance of coffee brethren like Starbucks and Peet’s. Customers can choose from over 150 exclusive blends, ranging from traditional Japanese green to exotic signatures like Read My Lips, a black tea that mixes chocolate, mint and red candy lips. The catchy names and odd, disparate ingredients, however, are not gimmicks. While Segal wants to make tea unstuffy by bringing a fun, youthful vibe to the experience, he takes every nuance of his custom blends seriously, creating infused teas that are not only intriguing, but also incredibly rare: They taste just like they smell. The caffeine-free Forever Nuts, a beautiful watermelon-hued concoction of apple, beetroot, cinnamon, and almonds, matches its heady aroma with a smooth, sweet, slightly spicy finish. Chai Amazonia features guayusa, native to the Ecuadorian Amazon Rainforest, and one of just three known caffeinated holly trees, is warmed with cinnamon, ginger and peppercorns (DavidsTea is the only tea company using guayusa). Banana Nut Bread features dates, currants, and bananas, smells like it was freshly baked, and manages to be sweet without the addition of sugar. Salted Caramel, an intense black tea tossed with pieces of English toffee, coconut, caramel, and French sea salt, is reminiscent of the once-trendy-now-classic candies and ice cream.
Employees at DavidsTea are passionate and knowledgeable, offering samples when visitors enter and manning the enormous wall of color-coded tins behind the expansive, focal point counter. While it may look intimidating, Segal says it is anything but. “Our staff will help you every step of the way, from letting you sniff each blend through our specially designed ‘smelling compartments’ to helping you choose the tea that is perfect for you.”
Stores will also feature tea accessories like The Perfect Mug, fitted with a fine mesh stainless steel infuser and a lid that doubles as a coaster. Colors, designs and materials for the accessories are updated seasonally right along with the teas.
DavidsTea: 2123 Polk Street (at Broadway), www.davidstea.com
Fab Five Tea Tips from DavidsTea
Break the rules: The only “right” way to drink tea is however you like it. So go ahead and add your milk and honey, or soymilk or agave — and while you’re at, why not a splash of vodka?
Water temperature: There are a few important guidelines when it comes to preparing the perfect cup of tea, starting with water temperature. For example, if you use boiling water on green tea, it can burn the leaves and ruin the taste. An easy trick is to boil your kettle and wait a few minutes before pouring.
Steep time: It’s best to keep an eye on the clock when you’re steeping beverages from camellia sinensis (the plant used to make nonherbal teas including white, green, oolong, black, yellow, and pu-erh) because too long a steep makes them bitter. We recommend three to five minutes max.
Re-infuse: Don’t throw away that teabag! We especially love re-steeping our oolongs — you get a slightly different flavor each time.
Give it room: Give your tea some space. In water the leaves expand, so for maximum flavor pick an infuser that gives them plenty of room to grow.