I totally owe Sam for giving me this idea after I complained over our joint pot of tea that I didn't know what to write about today.
While I derive nostalgic comfort from the mismatched china, doiley-draped tables, and super-squashy old fashioned couches at Lovejoy's Tea Room, I get an entirely different sort of comfort when I take tea at Modern Tea on Hayes and Laguna.
The space is airy and bright, but not so bright that you are forced to squint at your companion across the contemporary light wood table (made by the owner's husband, Greg Dunham, out of 100-year-old recycled Douglas fir), and actually epitomizes the feeling of "breathing room." This might sound weird, but I felt as relaxed in that room as I do in a spa or after a bout of yoga. If it wasn't such an overused descriptor, I might go so far as to say that there's something very zen about the space. At least, I was very zenned out after leaving. That's a good thing, by the way.
After polishing off a tea of a mini grapefruit curd and blueberry tart and butter cake spread with homemade strawberry preserves, I was pleasantly full but not stuffed. My personal pot of white needle tea was a refreshing pick-me-up that was quite bottomless, thanks to the attention of the calmly competent staff. Instead of traditional flowered china, Modern Tea serves their tea in plain white china pots and plain white china bowls, and the pot lids are held in place by handmade beading. It's a cunning and unique concept, invented by the owner's stepdaughter, that solves the issue of pot lids crashing to the table during steaming hot pours. If you purchase your own teapot from Modern Tea (and you can, from their little store), they come equipped with the crimped beading, and Modern Tea will even repair the beading if it happens to break. I think that just made up my mind about where I was going to buy a good teapot!
Going to Lovejoy's in a big, noisy, group (maybe even wearing Ascot-ly dramatic hats?) is an Event, but I could see myself going to Modern Tea just to be by myself. I can't say that about many places. There's definitely room in this city for multiple tea shops, and I sort of love having a tea shop to fit my each of my various San Francisco moods.
Modern Tea offers more than just tea, however, and not only am I planning a trip back for dinner, I also feel a great need to sample their brunch because their waffles are made in 19th century waffle irons.
602 Hayes Street
San Francisco, CA 94102