If you step foot in Chinatown you will instantly notice the abundance of tea shops that seem to line the streets. With each shop promising to deliver the best in loose leaf teas, it can be somewhat of a daunting task to find the best and most charming spot.
I did the work for you. Spending countless weekends wandering the streets of Chinatown and perusing the storefronts, I finally found what I can confidently say is the most entertaining and best tea shop in San Francisco.
Welcome to Vital Tea Leaf. Although there are several locations throughout SF, the one on Grant Street caught my eye. Uncle Gee and his staff are the curators and all have quite the eccentric personalities. They will yell at you, pry into your personal business, make fun of each other, all while making sure you understand the variations of tea, their powers and how to properly brew.
You sit down at a long bar while the staff members go through various teas. They will brew the tea at the bar, give you the history, explain the uses and let you taste. Feel free to explain any symptoms you might have and let the masters select the correct tea you need.
After spending a few minutes with Uncle Gee and after he felt my hand, kissed my forehead, and made me feel slightly uncomfortable, he somehow managed to discover I was congested and not feeling well. He recommended I drink pine needle broth (Ginger Pine). Not tea made from tea leaves, but tea made from Pine needles with a little ginger mixed in. This tea, was some of the best tea I have ever had. It smelled liked Christmas and instantly made me feel better. At $15 per quarter pound I stocked up and have been drinking since. Here are some of my favorites:
Blue Tea: This will help calm anxiety, get rid of cramps and overall make you feel stronger and more energized.
Lychee Black Tea: If you have eaten greasy or spicy food, it will calm your stomach and with a naturally sweet flavor, it makes a great desert tea.
Blue People Ginseng Oolong: This is a great replacement for coffee and good for hangovers. It also carries a very strong, sweet after taste.
Jasmine Pearl: This white tea is good for calming, relaxing and high in antioxidants. It can help prevent breast cancer and prostate cancer.
Ginger Pine: This premium herb looks alot like rosemary and smells like Christmas. Refreshing and smooth, this tea is good for headaches, sinus infections and colds.
Wild Puerh: This black tea has a smoky flavor and is great for digestion. It breaks down fat by dissolving grease and fat molecules.
Behind this shop's unconventional business/selling methods hides a very knowledgeable old soul who know a lot about tea and its majestical healing powers. What's even better, at Vitals you get to sample all the tea you want, for free! But trust me, you will end up leaving a tea snob and with several variations in tow.
Comments will be approved before showing up.
Uncle Gee, who runs the Vital Tea Leaf in San Francisco Chinatown interacts with his customers (mostly tourist) as he passionately preaches the health benefits in drinking tea in San Francisco, Calif., on July 11, 2009.