When I need to revise an entire draft of a novel, I want to go somewhere with stellar tea -- the kind of tea that I can feel adding twenty points to my IQ,
They stock tea that good at Aroma Tea 2 on Polk Street -- their original branch is in the Richmond. Hayman, the wired, entrepreneurial proprietor -- think "the Todd Zuniga of tea?" -- just got back from Fujien province with some fresh product.
In the seventeen years I've been living in the Bay Area, shops that only sell tea never seem to survive more than a few years. Tea is kind of like literary fiction, in fact -- essential to civilization, but there's never enough demand for it. So go to Aroma and keep them in business. If they shut down, I'll have to trek all the way to Samovar, who have some good tea too, but charge through the roof.
Aroma Tea has great traditional teas, but Hayman is also an innovator. Condensed-milk-flavored teas -- big in Taiwan apparently, and worth it for the smell alone. The chilli-flavored oolong blows my mind. Even coffee-flavored tea -- if that's what it takes to get Americans to start buying tea, so be it. An old biography of William Hazlitt I once read ascribed his death to tea drinking. Something like this -- "He was chiefly, I think, a casualty to tea, which he drank in inconceivable quantities of prodigious strength." I'm not entirely convinced by this forensic verdict, but if you can die that way, it's the way I hope to go.