Om Shan Tea

San Francisco, California


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rating star

Om Shan Tea does a good job of replicating the feel of an old world tea salon with lots of dark wood, teak and wall decorations. This is not a place to bring your laptop. It's also quiet and serves an entirely vegan menu. For these reasons, it blows away Samovar.

On the other hand, Om Shan Tea suffers from the same affliction as Samovar in that it turns tea-drinking into an expensive touristy affair, and accordingly charges absurd prices for its products. San Francisco should be ashamed of itself for producing this type of money-driven tea culture (the tea shops in Chinatown are even worse).

Om Shan Tea has many problems, aside from pricing. To start, the tea selection is highly limited; there's only one black tea available, for example. I almost thought it was a joke. How can a tea shop only offer one type of black tea? Granted, they have a couple oolongs, and a number of green teas. In any case, they were also out of stock of the black tea when I asked for it.

Onto an oolong. A pot cost $6, but an extra cup costs $3. As such, this place is pretty damn expensive, just like Samovar. Granted, you do get multiple steeps out of each pot.

This is a shame. I've been to far better tea shops elsewhere in the US (Minneapolis, Chicago and New York come to mind), which offer better variety and ambiance, but charge more reasonable rates (say $3-5 per pot, and don't charge for extra cups). Tea is a shared experience and Om Shan Tea apparently wants to capitalize on that, much to the detriment of its customers' wallets.

We wanted some sweets to go with the tea, but all of Om Shan Tea's raw chocolate desserts were out of stock. Instead we ended up with a small plate of dates for $2.

Om Shan Tea has other food options as well, but they're of the "steamed vegetable and quinoa" variety, which not only sound horribly bland, but also don't go that well with tea. Why not offer savory vegan dumplings, Middle Eastern snacks such as hummus and pita, or a wider array of vegan desserts?

The service was friendly, but not particularly attentive.

There's also a sense of decay and grubbiness about the place. It definitely needs a good scrubbing, and the grated tables need to be cleaned as well (lord knows how much tea has spilled through those grates).

If you like tea, or if you are vegan, you shouldn't go out of your way to try Om Shan Tea. It has a lot of room for improvement.

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