Getting my inner hippie on at OmShanTea
I’ve known about OmShanTea for a few months now and have been meaning to check it out. It isn’t that close to my neighborhood, but when I got a Living Social deal I decided the time was ripe to investigate.
You can just tell by the website and the menu that this place is a little hippy-dippy. Temple Dancers? Check. Open Heart Poetry? Check. All vegan food with a great tea selection? I’m there!
I’m not a complete flower child, but I do have my tendencies. I’ve got Thich Nhat Hanh books, mandala beads and Tibetan prayer flags. My refrigerator contains a jar of miso, hemp seeds and soy milk. I’m artsy-fartsy, mostly laid back, and far more comfortable in Birkenstocks than I am in high heels. I managed to talk my friend C.W. into going with me. She is neither vegan nor hippie, but is the free-wheeling adventurous type, and today up for a free lunch.
OmShanTea is on the edge of the Mission District which is rife with hipsters of all varieties. I had no idea what to expect when we went in, but here’s a photo of the lovely decor, below:
The menu here is fairly simple and consists of variations on a theme. Soups, salads and quinoa bowls with various sides was our cuisine for the day. The quinoa bowls come with chopped sweet potatoes, beets and butternut squash. I had two side dishes of collard greens and snow peas (not pictured). It was simple and hearty vegetal fare, which provided a good backdrop for our teas.
I was intrigued by their pu-erh collection, but unfortunately our server was fairly new to the teahouse and couldn’t answer my questions about the flavors. I am a raw pu-erh aficionado, but there are some that I find a little too rough and gnarly when they are younger. Like a fine wine, they have a tendency to mellow out and improve with age. I decided to go with the 2007 Wild Mountain Green and C.W. got the 2007 Silver Needle White Cake.
The sheng is pictured above, along with the teaware. Tables at OmShanTea are unique, in that the tabletops are made of this patterned, perforated metal which safely allows any tea to spill and collect underneath. I assume they get cleaned fairly often but didn’t ask about that. You get a pitcher of hot water, a yixing teapot for the tea, a pitcher, a strainer, and a cup. Kind of an elaborate setup, but nice in a ritualistic sort of way. The hot water is poured into the teapot, then strained into the glass pitcher and finally poured into the cup. Unfortunately, the Wild Mountain Green was not really to my liking. The wet leaves of the tea had a very smoky and vegetal aroma, which I loved. But even with very short steeps of 5 seconds, the tea was stubbornly bitter after multiple infusions. The Silver Needle White Cake was much more pleasing to us, with a fairly light flavor and a delicate creaminess. It was infused many times and was still wonderful.
OmShanTea has quite a few pu-erhs, so I hope to go back someday and try some others. Even for San Francisco, it is fairly unusual to find raw pu-erh being served. In the Chinatown teashops, you find quite a few shou pu-erhs, but the raw is much more difficult to find. I could have used a more seasoned tea barista to pry information out of, but it was a peaceful lunch in a laid back atmosphere. Farewell, OmShanTea. It was quite an adventure and one which this hippie-dip would gladly repeat someday.