I've been a tea drinker for a long time. I drank it from a little china tea set as I listened to my "A Bargain for Frances" record. I drank it when I lived in England. I drink it now. However, I didn't start "having tea" until my mother took me to England in 1992. "Having tea" opened a whole new world beyond the flower-painted pot. There were scones, muffins, crumpets, tiny savory sandwiches, clotted cream, and preserves to behold, and I was instantly besotted.
Back in Minneapolis, my mother and I frequented a little tea shop called Brontë's that had fabulous tea sandwiches in a delicious array of varieties. Then they closed. And I was sad. When I lived in Boston, my mother and I went to High Tea a few times at the Ritz-Carlton and the Four Seasons, but as gorgeously opulent as those teas were, there was something cold and stiff about the atmosphere. It just wasn't right.
After we arrived in San Francisco, I started hearing about Lovejoy's in Noe Valley and on my family's very first visit here, we made the pilgrimage. My quest had ended -- I had finally found the quintessential tea shop outside of England.
A few weeks ago, my Kiwi friend was looking for a place to brunch her visiting mother, so I suggested Lovejoy's. It was just an excuse for me to go back but it was also an enormous success. The tea shop/antique store is a beautifully cozy spot to take visiting friends and family, hold a shower, or celebrate anything. Then again, forget the special occasions, go to Lovejoy's whenever you get the yen to nosh on their sumptuous sandwiches and decadent scones slathered with clouds of clotted cream. In addition to the usual tea fare of sandwiches, scones, crumpets, and exquisite petit fours, Lovejoy's also boasts heartier fare like Cornish pasties, sausage rolls, and quiches. For my part, I'm all about the pear and stilton or chutney and English cheddar sandwiches.
I feel the need to give huge props to the staff there. On both visits I've been accompanied by parents (some crazier than others, like mine) with their requests for photos and menu clarification, but everyone who waited on us was patient, cheery, and sweet.
Lovejoy's Tea Room
1351 Church Street
San Francisco, CA 94114
Open Wednesdays-Sundays 11-6
Reservations are recommended.