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Best Tea House San Francisco 2002 - Imperial Tea Court

The Imperial Tea Court is an oasis amid the cacophonous electronic crickets and elbowing crowds of Chinatown. Its calm grace envelops you as soon as you step through the door and survey the polished wood chairs, ornate bird cages, and red lanterns that adorn the room. The extraordinarily friendly waitstaff will hold your hand as you choose from a dizzying variety of over 60 teas -- green, white, black, oolong, puerh, and herbal infusions -- which are described on the tasting menu with the earnest vocabulary of connoisseurship: Jade Fire, for example, is "rich, full-bodied, and smooth, with a delicate hint of smokiness. Exceptionally flavorful and refined." The orchid and jasmine infusions taste almost as good as they smell, and all of the teas are so fresh that the leaves need to steep for only a minute or two in your delicate porcelain cup. Snacks include toasted almonds or tasty peanut cookies, both of which complement the teas nicely.

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