What I love about Song Tea & Ceramics is simplicity. Just like Sushi is made up of sushi rice and fish (mostly fish, and lots of vegetables, too!), the shop is about tea leaves and hot water. Peter, the owner of Song Tea & Ceramics has done a beautiful job decorating the store (he told me he did most of the work himself), arranging such eye-pleasing teacups, accessories, and ornaments to create a warm, comfortable, and inviting environment for the enjoyment tea. Whenever I drop by, he invites me to sit down and enjoy a variety of teas he has – oolong, green and red tea – mostly from Taiwan. For a person like me who grew up drinking green tea every meal, Peter’s invitation is very easy to accept. He offers me three to four kinds of tea to try. I’ve done tea tasting in China and China town, here in San Francisco. All I can say about Peter’s tea is they taste different, and I like his tea. Even Oolong from Taiwan tastes different from the one from China. Taiwanese Oolong to me tastes a lot sweeter and milder. I like that. When brewing tea, even most Japanese use boiling water. I’ve been doing that all my life until now.
However, using hot or boiling water brings out bitterness from green tea (not from Black tea. Black tea should be brewed using boiling water.) According to Fragrant Tea.com, to brew Japanese green teas, the ideal temperature is 140°F - 185°F. Bitterness comes from “tannins” or “polyphenols,” which dissolve at 176°F (80°C). Gyokuro, one of the highest grades, is best brewed at 122°F - 140°F (50°C - 60°C). Spring-picked Sencha tastes best at 160°F - 170°F (70°C - 80°C). Summer-harvested Bancha and Genmaicha will exhibit their best flavor with a short infusion at higher temperatures of 170°F - 185°F (80°C - 90°C). (source: http://www.thefragrantleaf.com/green-tea-brewing-tips) Peter adjusts the water temperature according to the type of tea he brews. We start talking about how the tea tastes first, then after a few cups started talking about which is our favorite sushi restaurant and so on. (Kabuto was Peter's first-ever sushi restaurant. Coincidentally, I've worked with the first owner, the legendary Sushi chef of Kabuto Sushi, Sachi Kojima.)
We probably spent a good hour tasting the tea and talking. About what? Anything from tea, food, Japanese magazines to which cafés in San Francisco he is selling his tea for. (he also told me that he practices cello in the morning, and I am assuming that is why he named the store “Song” Tea & Ceramics.) So if and when you’re in the neighborhood, I highly recommend dropping by at Song Tea & Ceramics and saying hello to Peter. Song Tea & Ceramics 2120 Sutter Street San Francisco, CA 94115 MON-SAT 11 AM-6 PM Closed on SUN