Samovar Tea is an independent distributor of loose leaf tea, with three tea houses across San Francisco.
Founded in 2001 by entrepreneur Jesse Jacobs, Samovar has taken the deceptively complex ancient tradition of steeping leaves in hot water and transformed it into something wholly more accessible.
Customers are invited to partake in a full tea ceremony or simply watch as the knowledgable staff brew cup after cup in bespoke glass crucibles designed to infuse the water at precisely the right temperature for exactly the right amount of time.
Though the company is based in what is arguably the nation's tech capital, wifi is not available at Samovar's larger locations because, Jacobs says, "If you really want to connect, you have to disconnect." It is this commitment to creating sacred, minimal spaces that has made Samovar so popular with those seeking a moment of quiet contemplation.
I spoke to Jesse about practicing mindfulness, cultivating creativity and more...
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WHEN AND WHY DID YOU FIRST START DRINKING TEA?
I studied International relations at college and found myself travelling the world – Italy, Morocco, Denmark, Japan. Tea culture is more than two thousand years old and the tea experience is present across the globe. In Japan, I learned the art of matcha and tea ceremony, but everywhere I went I found people coming together to share tea with colleagues, friends and family – I loved it. Tea brings people together, heightens our awareness, increases creativity and vitality, and generally improves our appreciation for life.
WHAT MADE YOU WANT TO FOUND A TEA COMPANY?
I was in a job I didn't like and living at a pace that didn't seem sustainable. Tea provided a way out. The simple ritual of preparing tea connected me, however momentarily, to the present. But I realised there was no good tea in San Francisco. I wanted a place where I could go to get away from it all and enjoy a good cup of tea – somewhere that wasn't a coffee shop – so I decided to build one.
WHAT HAS THE EXPERIENCE OF RUNNING YOUR OWN COMPANY TAUGHT YOUR ABOUT YOURSELF?
I see running the business as an extension of my mindfulness practice. I love the creative aspects of entrepreneurship. I think humans are designed to create and I'm at my best when I'm in a position to create.
WHERE WOULD YOU LIKE TO SEE SAMOVAR TEA IN FIVE YEARS' TIME?
I would simply like to get our tea out to more people. Everywhere. Worldwide.
BREWING AND DRINKING TEA CAN BE QUITE A RITUALISTIC PRACTICE, DO YOU HAVE ANY SPECIAL TEA RITUALS?
I have a matcha shot every day – it's a very easy three-minute ritual that gets me into the present moment. I also drink herbal teas before bed.
MILK BEFORE HOT WATER OR HOT WATER BEFORE MILK?
It's down to personal preference.
YOUR FOOD PHILOSOPHY:
I follow Michael Pollan. Eat in season. Eat unpackaged food. Eat real food.
BEST MEAL YOU EVER HAD:
My wife's rice porridge with chicken, fish sauce, fresh cilantro and wild mushrooms.
FAVOURITE PLACES TO EAT IN SAN FRANCISCO:
HOW DO TO MAINTAIN YOUR HEALTH AND WELL-BEING?
I wake up at 4:44am each day. Meditate. Read the classics – Schopenhauer, Epictetus, Marcus Aurelius, Thich Nhat Hahn.
WHAT MAKES YOU HAPPY?
Being outside. Surfing. Wrestling with my son. Reading. Waking up early. Drinking tea with tea farmers. Knowing that I am doing a small part to make the world a little bit more sustainable and mindful makes me feel like my time is being well-spent.