Staying in San Francisco’s Nob Hill provided the perfect location for my children to visit (and re-visit) Chinatown. Of course I knew they’d enjoy it, but I wasn’t prepared for their new-found addiction—the over-abundance of toys and knick-knacks that they could easily afford with their own pocket money and all within walking distance of our hotel. After our ump-teenth excursion, I was more than ready to finally treat myself to a little something of my own. The answer was surprisingly right in front of me in three convenient Chinatown locations—Vital Tea Leaf.
The boys and I wandered in, attracted by the in-your-face sign that screamed “free tea tasting.” Since I’m a die-hard coffee drinker, my sons don’t exactly get excited about tea-time, and the place obviously catered to tourists, I was more than skeptical. But, on the other hand, I needed an immediate pick-me-up, so we quickly bellied ourselves up to the counter.
Vital Tea Leaf’s walls were adorned with shelves that house over three hundred types of tea, all sporting really fun names. Once inside, the ambiance actually felt more like a wine bar than a tourist haven. We were greeted by the owner who asked us what we knew about tea (“uuuuh, not much”) and what kind of tea we enjoyed (“uuuuh, not sure”). Based on our responses, he selected an assortment of tea to taste, guaranteeing that we would feel better when we left and that my sons would enjoy some of the selections “more than Coca-Cola.” After teaching us how to make, taste, and select teas, we sampled six and sat for over an hour soaking in the atmosphere, talking to the owner and some locals, crunching on fortune cookies, and sipping really diverse and complex teas.
Although I’m not sure my sons liked some of the teas more than Coca-Cola, they certainly had an easy time downing their samples. After buying their favorites—Iron Goddess King and Lichee Black, we were able to face just a few more souvenir shops revitalized and refreshed. Details: 1044 Grant Ave., San Francisco, vitaltleaf.net