Wednesday, January 12, 2011

Leland Tea Company: A Labor of Love

Leland Tea Company: A Teaholic's Haven
This is the first Tea with Tiffany post featuring a local tea company here in San Francisco. Feel free to leave your thoughts about the tea house, or better yet, plan a trip to experience it for yourself!

The wind had a bite to it and I was bundled in my scarf, gloves and peacoat when I arrived at the Leland Tea Company for my scheduled interview. A jazzy music number played in the background while the warm overhead lighting  lured in cold-numbed passerbys like myself from the street. I had yet to have any tea, but already the atmosphere assured me that this was a teaholic's haven.

I had been to Leland's a few times before, and was thus greeted with an easy familiarity by Ronnie--an employee with a ready smile and talent for recommending winning tea combinations. As I stood at the loose leaf tea bar deliberating over what flavor would sufficiently warm me up, Ronnie suggested a Chai blended with "Kisses" - a black tea with distinct infusions of rich chocolate. If I didn't already believe that a girl's heart could be won over by a cup of tea, this brew would've had me declaring my infatuation for who knows how long.

Arriving early for my interview with Leland's owner, William Otero, gave me plenty of time to observe my surroundings and gauge what made this tea house special. I was by far the only person to walk in and immediately be recognized by the Leland employees. There was a constant stream of foot traffic as I sat quietly in a window-seat, sipping on my tea. "How are you" and "what tea are you recommending today" were questions I heard more than once from customers. 

From the constant opening and smelling of the tea canisters to the glass case of goodies--made particularly enticing with mini gourmet cupcakes--Leland's acts as a neighborhood spot where you are just as likely to meet a group of friends as enjoy some time alone, with nothing but a pot of artisan, hand-blended tea for company.

The interior of Leland's is always warm with welcome
"It's always my hope that after visiting, people walk away feeling a little bit better about the day," Leland's owner, Will Otero told me. 

It's important to Will that "a great cup of tea and a wonderful cookie" leave you with a sense of contentment and internal feeling of happiness that you may not have walked in the door with. Life today is composed of so much rushing about, that we often forget to take time in being happy with ourselves. 

"This [Leland's] is a place where you don't have to rush," Will said."We offer a comfortable environment to meet locals and friendly people, while also enjoying high-quality products."

He isn't kidding about the high-quality part, either. Eighty percent of Leland teas are hand-blended and the other twenty percent are made up of organic, base teas. The result is an environment that you'll want to return to again and again. It's not often you can choose to create your own custom blend of tea, which makes Leland Tea Company stand on a level all it's own. You can even create these blends online, so don't worry if you can't make it to the tea house in person.  

A kitchen you can feel at home in
It just so happens that Will's favorite tea is the signature house flavor named "Tiffany's" - a blend of black teas from Sri Lanka and China, with hints of jasmine undertones. Is this a coincidence that it turns out to be my name as well? I like to think it's fate instead.

Leland Tea Company was started as a labor of love, and it remains that way in every detail of the tea house: the exposed brick walls, polished hardwood floors, the Art Nouveau inspired paintings and even in the blueberry-colored ceramic tea pots. As if that weren't enough, Leland's also offers catering for special events. This is a place that welcomes you like your own home would - with charming quirkiness and a wholesome sense of affection. Not to mention, the toffee, espresso-bean flavored cupcakes are to DIE for.

Any tea drinker will tell you that drinking tea is more than just about actually "drinking" it. There is almost an art to it, where every detail combines to flirt with your senses. Leland Tea Company is the perfect place to wallow in this experience and I highly recommend it to anyone living in/passing through San Francisco. I assure you, you won't be disappointed. 

Click here to see all the photos from my visit to Leland Tea Company! 

I realize I haven't gone into extreme detail about the menu options at Leland's, but you can always check it out here if you want to know more!

From left to right: Carmen Ortiz (Will's mom), Will & Ronnie