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Imperial Teahouse
Ferry Bldg. Market Place
1 Ferry Bldg. Plaza #27
San Francisco, CA 94111
(415) 544-9830

The last time I was in the San Francisco Bay Area I saw this tearoom taking shape in the old SF ferry building. I was godsmacked and elated that there was a tearoom coming ... not just a tea room, it was a tea court.The tea court wasn’t ready yet and by the time it would open I would be back in Seattle.

Anyway I waited until this past year (2004) to go down and vist my mum, but also to make the special trip to the tea court.

It was a Wednesday when my mum and I went to SF from Oakland, via the ferry. It was exciting for me because I waited a whole year to come and visit this place, and to my surprise it was brilliant.

Its way too hard to describe this teacourt, because its so beautiful. Mostly it makes you feel like you're not in SF, but someplace in China, or someplace where you can relax. Granted there are the usual modern day amenities, but the tea court does a great job making you feel as if you have been transported to another place.

When you walk into the tea court the furniture is what you notice first. The carved gate that covers the entrance, and next, the cherry polished tables, and sturdy chairs. The ceiling had rice paper lanterns placed among the cages also hanging from the ceiling. The wall had a beautiful cabinet which had more then a dozen well crafted xiying pots, and empty tea containers which can be purchased.

The tea court wasn't full at the time my mum and I were there, andthe wait staff were thrilled to to have us there. It was nice that it was somewhat empty ... you could savour the ambience of the court. The waiter brought us menus, each of them having a short list of blacks, oolongs, greens and whites. My mum, who was a first time tea establishment drinker, asked the waiter the usual recommedation questions. I was happy to see how educated the wait staff was when it came to questions my mom asked.

My mum ordered monkey handpicked TiKuanYin Oolong, and I had Red Peony, which is a black tea. The tea is served in a Gaiwan cup and you pour water into the cup, let it steep, and use the lid as your “spoon” to hold back the leaves. My mum order dime sized peanut butter cookies, cute and tasty. There is a limited list of dessert items and food items. You can get a mini dim sum sampler to try. There is tea to purchase as well, by the ounce. It can get pretty expensive if your choosing good quality tea, but then again if money's no object and you love tea, you don’t mind spending it for the good stuff.

Overall, whatever I didn’t talk about you have to just go see for yourself. I have to give this a three teapot rating. I love this place because of the unique feel of the court, and the good quality of tea. Once you've had tea at this place the rest of the time spent in SF can be enjoyable as well.

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