Taste brings a little bit of Taiwan and China to Hayes Valley emulating the traditional tea houses found across Asia. Located on Octavia Street, Taste’s tranquil ambiance is characterized by its charcoal walls, delicate handmade curtains, a large stone Buddha head, and a floor to ceiling bookcase full of books about tea. Vincent Fung and his wife Rebecca Cheung create a dynamic duo sharing their passion and knowledge about tea to the local community. Their mission is to educate the public about the art of brewing tea, cultivating a tea culture in the city, parallel to the prominent wine culture found in California.
Not many people know the history of the different techniques behind harvesting tea leaves and brewing tea. Taste specializes in “gong fu cha” which is literally translated as “making tea with effort.” Gong Fu tea service dates back many centuries ago to the Fujian and Guangdong Province of China. The purpose of this tea service is to maximize tea tasting and tea selection. At Taste, you can choose from a personal tea set or a larger set that serves three or more. Each tea set comes with a Gaiwan (brewing vessel), tea cups, wooden utensils, and a strainer which is served on a bamboo boat. In a traditional setting, the tea is poured, strained, and served in a clockwise motion to guests.
“Gong Fu” tea service allows the individual to customize their own experience starting with their tea selection to their method of brewing. This meticulous method of brewing tea enables the tea drinker to appreciate not only the aroma and taste, but the effort to make the tea which provides a sense of serenity.
For the novice, green tea and black teas are generally the most popular. If you’re intrigued to learn more about “gong fu” tea service, I would highly recommend coming to Taste to channel your inner “tea master.”
Taste offers a vast selection of tea ranging from green tea, oolong tea, red tea to black tea which is directly sourced from Asia. A favorite of mine was the Iron Goddess, which is a fragrant Oolong tea that comes from the Fujian Province. The Big Red Robe was another favorite, a rare Oolong tea that embodies a deep fragrant flavor also from the Fujian Province.
Taste also has a great selection of baked goods ranging from macarons to their delectable whole wheat red bean buns. The macarons are made in house from smashed tea leaves which come in three flavors: green tea “lucky white” macarons, Pu’er black tea macarons, and a vanilla macaron with chocolate ganache. They also provide a great variety of buns for carnivores and vegetarians.
Their tea philosophy is imprinted on each of their tea canisters reading:
人品如茶品 (Rén pǐn rú chá pǐn)
（Personal characters are just like tea characters, both people and tea have many different traits and types.)
品茶如品人 (Pǐn chá rú pǐn rén)
(Tea tasting is just like getting to know a person. Tea tasting takes time and effort to seek the true flavor through each steeping. Knowing a person also takes time and effort to fully understand what is inside someone’s heart.)
After learning about these tea philosophies from Vincent, it gave me a deeper insight on the cultural history cultivated by tea. With the abundance of cafes and coffee addicts running around in San Francisco, people often write-off tea as a caffeine fix. Little do they know that different teas provide a mental awareness with certain health benefits than coffee does not.
If you’re a tea connessieur or looking to learn more about tea, pay a visit to Taste in Hayes Valley and channel your inner self to seek out a serene environment.
Taste, 535 Octavia Street, San Francisco, CA 94102