All tagged San Francisco

Tea service in restaurants is appalling and it keeps me up at night

It was a damp, chilly, foggy summer night in San Francisco and I was having dinner with my husband at a fine dining restaurant, a newly opened neighborhood gem. Things were going pretty well, beautiful space, amazing food, thoughtful and friendly service. It couldn’t have been any more perfect until the dessert menu arrived. On a whim, I decided to order tea with my dessert, because the selection seemed promising. Big, big mistake, Anna, big mistake, sweetheart.

November tea and mindfulness

This time of year, we might get caught up in a great deal of stress and anxiety instead of enjoying ourselves and our loved ones and we might need a grounding inspirational moment to find balance again. I hope this collection of quotes and some of my most recent tea photography can help you ground yourself in your most stressful moments and inspire you to make a cup of tea for yourself or to share with someone else, because after all a mindful tea moment can be one of the most effective self-care strategies.

A Japanese dessert and snack tasting with tea pairing in San Francisco

Have you ever heard the quote “where there’s tea, there’s hope”? I took the liberty of rewriting that into “where there’s excellent tea, there’s the tea squirrel” because wherever you can find top notch tea, you can be sure that place is on my radar and you might find me there to enjoy it. So naturally I had to visit Oyatsuya, a pop-up Japanese dessert and snack tasting with tea pairings in the Mission neighborhood of San Francisco.

Pairing Swedish cinnamon knots with tea

I don’t know very much about Sweden, the only thing I know is that their pastries are my new obsession. One kind in particular, Swedish cinnamon knots, also known as kanelbullar. In Sweden sweet treats are a very important part of fika, the Swedish coffee break, which is more of a lifestyle, actually and alternatively can include tea too! Join me on the blog as I pair these delicious pastries with 4 different teas!

Ochazuke: a delicious Japanese tea soup

You can’t see me but I’m doing a little happy dance over here, because my trip to Japan is fast approaching!! I’ve never been to Japan in the wintertime and I’m super excited to visit again one of my favorite countries in the world. Cold weather means hot tea and comforting dishes and I will definitely be on the lookout for the best ochazuke, a Japanese tea and rice soup, basically the epitome of comfort food (but healthy). Usually, genmaicha and hojicha are the teas of choice but sencha and matcha can also be used. Today I’m testing out a recipe from Bon Appetit magazine.

Tartine with oolong poached quince and pecorino

I love the fall for two reasons. The light, which is a photographer’s dream, and the produce. Dates, passion fruit, chestnuts and quince … I mean, have you ever tried fresh Californian dates? I’m obsessed. My recent trip to Madrid, Spain inspired this combination of quince and cheese on sourdough (which is all the rage there thanks to great artisan bakeries, I felt very at home). In Spain membrillo (quince paste) is a popular accompaniment for Manchego sheep milk cheese. I didn’t have Manchego on hand but Pecorino, Italian sheep milk cheese. The sharpness of the cheese goes really well with the sweetness and tartness of quince. I added a strip-style oolong from Korea to the mix (because... I’m the Tea Squirrel, remember?). Its pronounced roasted, slightly smoky but still buttery notes are a great addition to this savory tartine. Fall cravings? Satisfied! Oh, I almost forgot! Scroll down to catch a glimpse of my new tea pet.

Poached eggs with matcha salt

The original recipe for matcha poached eggs is attributed to the author of the cookbook The Breakaway Cook and founder of Breakaway Matcha, Eric Gower. I came across it after falling down an internet rabbit hole and being the curious squirrel that I am, I had to try it out and see what all the hype is about.

Iced Cocoa Nib Chai Tea Latte

Have you ever noticed that it’s almost impossible to get an unsweetened (or even lightly sweetened) chai latte in coffee shops, tea shops, cafes or bakeries? Chai lattes are almost always made from a chai concentrate, a fancy name for chai flavored syrup, which means you can’t have an unsweetened chai latte. I don’t enjoy sweetened drinks and this is one of those things that I find extremely frustrating, second only to fine dining restaurants serving awful tea. I understand that most establishments have constraints in the preparation of drinks, but there must be a solution. I was craving a good unsweetened iced chai tea latte and my only option was to make it myself from scratch.

Iced matcha rose tea latte

Let’s face it, most of us are more or less openly obsessed with matcha. Personally, I’ve learned to embrace my matcha obsession and even though my go-to is traditionally whisked, I’m always on the lookout for good flavor combinations with matcha and especially for matcha-based beverages that are naturally sweet.

A tea adventure along the California coast

If you - like me - are into hiking, the Bay Area and Northern California have a lot to offer. At least once a week, I crave spending time outdoors surrounded by nature (have you ever come across the Japanese tradition of "forest bathing"?). I find it uplifting and de-stressing. Nature is beautiful and inspiring and the perfect backdrop for a tea session, don’t you think? I’m incredibly lucky to live so close to scenic coastal trails, forests of towering redwoods, hills and farmland, waterfalls and mountains. This time I’m taking you hiking along the California coast, to Año Nuevo State Park, near Pescadero, about an hour drive from San Francisco.

Tea in San Francisco - by neighborhood. Hayes Valley

Hayes Valley is one of the most charming neighborhoods in San Francisco and a fine dining destination, full of independently owned shops and boutiques. I decided to explore it by taking a look at the tea it has to offer. Despite not having many tea houses or tea shops, there’s plenty of high quality, loose leaf tea in Hayes Valley! I have a few gems in store for you, are you excited?

Matcha madeleines


Some days, I find myself craving matcha. Does that ever happen to you? I crave the chawan in my hands, the powder on my fingers, the swoosh of the chasen, the pattern of the tiny bubbles on the surface and the aromas and texture and flavor. It’s irresistible. Some other days, I crave whatever edible and colorful pops up on my Instagram feed and that’s exactly what happened when my sister Chiara made her matcha madeleines dipped in white chocolate and those popped up on my feed… they’ve been on my mind ever since! 

My tasting notes: Gold tea from Nepal

This is a very experimental tea brewing and tasting session with a black tea from Nepal. Instead of Western style, I brewed it in a gaiwan (but I have to specify, not gongfu cha style) to push it to the edge of flavor and aroma, to get a more concentrated brew. It was a series of trial and error and adjustments to the brewing parameters, but I’m happy with the results. 

The Tea Squirrel visits The Aftel Archive of Curious Scents

Flavor is a combination of taste and smell, which is why I believe that to be able to fully appreciate tea, training your nose is equally important as training your palate. The Tea Squirrel visited The Aftel Archive of Curious Scents, a charming collection by Mandy Aftel,  renowned natural perfumer and book author who also works in the realm of flavor. 
 

The marine layer tea cocktail

I am a huge fan of craft cocktails and I probably don’t have to tell you that I’m always on the lookout for tea-infused craft cocktails wherever I go. Recently, I’ve realized that 99% of the already scarce tea cocktails available on the local imbibing scene feature Earl Grey. Don’t get me wrong, I love me a good Earl Grey tea cocktail, but I believe it’s high time bartenders tried something new. To make up for the lack of other teas in the craft cocktail world, I have a beautiful recipe for you. When I don’t go out, I love playing bartender at home. Let’s be honest, sipping a fancy, creative drink crafted with homemade and locally sourced ingredients and served with great attention to detail is still a fancy affair, even if you are in your pajamas and slippers.

What I “tea” in a day

The inspiration for this blog post comes from fellow tea blogger Lu Ann of The Cup of Life, who basically invented this. It’s about “keeping track” of tea, because - as someone once said - “tea is more than just a beverage, it’s about noticing your own habits.”