Lovejoy’s Tea Room

SAN FRANCISCO, Calif.

A handful of tables in the cluttered, sunny teashop sport signs reading, “Reserved for the Queens,” an apt title given the number of dashing effeminate men, smartly dressed gray-haired women, and the sole lady dressed in black Victorian garb sipping tea from delicate china cups.

Lovejoy's Tea HouseRoyalty or not, the quality of goods and service at Lovejoy’s Tea Room in San Francisco truly meets regal standards, even if the china doesn’t mach. Based on the crowd on a quite mid-week afternoon, others must agree.

“I think in part it’s an affordable luxury,” said co-owner Muna Nash, who has been running Lovejoy’s with her partner Gillian Briley for 12 years.

In a time where nice cocktails can run $15 each, Nash is on to something. For under $30 you can enjoy a feast of delicate goodies and bottomless pots of locally blended teas picked from their menu chock full of elaborate and satisfying menu options.

Lovejoy'e Tea RoomIf you want a light bite or are on a budget, you can choose a basic Cream or Savory Tea for $14.95, which includes traditional, fresh-baked scones with preserves and a luscious ball of Devon cream, or, two of their delectable sandwiches. The most expensive option is their $26.95 Queen’s Tea, an all out feast of organic spring greens with mandarin oranges, scones, hot buttered crumpets with lemon curd, fresh fruit, shortbread tea biscuits, coleslaw, and a choice of petit fours. It also comes with two types of sandwiches including the sharp, classic Branston pickle chutney with cheese, salmon mousse, pear and Stilton cheese, cream cheese with green apple, and a handful more.

Across the way, the owners operate Lovejoy’s Attic, a retail shop that sells everything tea oriented you could possible want. This includes fun teacups, hand-made aprons, and the teas they offer with service like our afternoon tea choices: A delightful vanilla Earl Grey with lavender that remained bright and floral without that dreaded soap flavor, and a bright basic peppermint to help digest all the goodies. Lovejoy’s has also experienced success through their catering business, a side that boomed as the economy started collapsing and more people wanted to have tea parties at home.

“The teashop though, is our bread and butter,” said Nash, who added that the retail section, which usually breaks even, mostly remains for fun and storage.

Before Nash and Briley owned the shop it was an antique store named after a dealer in Jonathan Gash’s two-decade-long series of satirical novels. The shop served tea as well as antiquities and soon it became apparent people visited more for a scone, a cup, and a chat, than to buy stuff. Hence, the tearoom thrived and outlived the artifacts. It was bought by Briley and Nash in 2000, a move that had the added bonus of providing Nash with a place to keep her vast collection of teacups, pots, and paraphernalia.

Today most of the income comes from the actual tea service, and while most places wouldn’t prosper in such a kitschy setting, Lovejoy’s actually benefits from it. The mobiles of teaspoons, intricate shelves of various teacups, saucers, and pots, and the colorful aprons and pillows thrown about the place give it an Alice in Wonderland vibe that only gets better when you actually taste the solid, high-quality tea and intricate, well thought out nibbles.

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