Treating a little one for afternoon tea is a special experience, something to savor and remember. Depending on your mood (and your child) the perfect tea destination might be a fancy English tea with pretty cups and dainty sweets; tea in view of a lively koi pond with nearby stepping stones to hop across; an authentic Chinese tea house conjuring up centuries of history; or Taiwanese bubble tea to-go before you head to the playground. It's just as much about the ritual as it is about the tea, and there are always plenty of kid-friendly tea alternatives as well as caffeine-free options to keep everyone happy.
Tea & Polo
Tal-Y Tara is San Francisco's only Tea & Polo Shoppe, located way, way out in the outer Richmond (California and 27th Avenue) not far from the Legion of Honor Museum. You'll know you're in the right place when you see the giant horse "mannequin" out front. At Tal-Y Tara you can enjoy tea and sample scones, English trifle and a very unique specialty, the "motor loaf" (a fun take on tea sandwiches, from a "secret" family recipe). Have your tea right in the shop or out on the patio out back if the weather is warm.
If you're on the hunt for a classic English tea service, look no further than Lovejoy's Tea Room (Church and Clipper Streets in Noe Valley), the Secret Garden Tea House (Lincoln at 8th Avenue), or Dartealing Lounge (3rd and Stillman Streets in SoMa). The tiny sandwiches and desserts are guaranteed to be a big hit with little ones, but you may want to think twice with squirmier kids, since a room full of delicate collectibles and antiques may be just too stress inducing for mom or dad.
[Dartealing Lounge, image by A Little Yumminess]
For that very special occasion, get dressed up and splurge on a special afternoon steeped in both glamour and history. The magnificent Garden Court of the Sheraton Palace Hotel is as elegant as it gets, serving classic high tea or "prince and princess teas" just for little ones. A hike up Nob Hill rewards you with breathtaking views and another iconic spot for traditional high tea, The Fairmont Hotel.
[Garden Court, Sheraton Palace Hotel]
Imperial Tea Court
The Imperial Tea Court is a wonderful place to introduce a little one to a centuries old tradition, simply known as "the way of tea". Along with meticulously handpicked teas, you can sample traditional teahouse fare from savory dumplings to sweets and snacks. Considered the first traditional Chinese teahouse in America, The Imperial Tea Court now has two locations, which both also happen to excellent for pre or post tea strolling (Ferry Building in San Francisco, and Shattuck and Vine in Berkeley).
If you want to learn more about "the way of tea", the Asian Art Museum has regular tea ceremony demonstrations which are open to the public and free with museum admission. Check here for upcoming dates and times.
[Image by Imperial Tea Court]
Tea in a Garden
One of the loveliest settings of all for tea is located right in the heart of Golden Gate Park at the Hagiwara Tea Garden, sandwiched between the de Young Museum and Stow Lake. You can sip green tea and nibble on sesame cookies or mochi while you watch the colorful koi in the pond and the constant parade of visitors wandering the garden paths. It's a lovely stop during a park expedition (perhaps after doing some boating at the lake and scrambling over the famous Drum Bridge in the tea garden). If you're up early or have a day off from school, admission to the tea garden is free every Monday, Wednesday and Friday between 9:00 and 10:00 a.m. and you'll find the teahouse blissfully empty.
[Image by A Little Yumminess]
There are dozens and dozens of places to try Taiwanese and Hong Kong-style bubble teas around town (especially Chinatown, Irving and Clement Streets). Some bubble teas contain actual tea, other times they're more smoothie or juice-like but there are usually dozens of exotic flavor combinations to try. The tapioca pearls (the bubbles in bubble tea), which you drink up along with your "tea" using jumbo straws, are best for older kids since drinking and chewing at the same time is more of an acquired skill. For the most adventurous and authentic bubble tea drinkers, track down the Boba Guys, who take bubble tea to the next level with Strauss organic milk and artisan tea at "pop up" locations around the city.
[Image by Boba Guys]
Stacie Dong and Simran Singh are San Francisco moms with a passion for cooking, eating and exploring the world through food. On their blog, A Little Yumminess, they share recipes from around the world, favorite foodie destinations and ideas for bringing up adventurous eaters. In addition they teach kids' classes and camps throughout the year and are also available for private workshops and events. You can also find them on Facebook, Twitter, and Pinterest.
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