A powerhouse trio of women-owned businesses in San Francisco is teaming up to offer an afternoon tea that breaks from the usual Earl-Grey-and-finger-sandwich standards to showcase rare Japanese teas paired with treats from a star pastry chef. The Holiday Tea Tasting pop-up will take over Millay wine and sake bar for the first three Saturdays in December, and includes a flight of three teas and a bowl of ceremonial matcha from Tekuno tea company, as well as pastries from Melissa Chou of Grand Opening. Tekuno founder Catherine Jue says the event format is inspired by what you’d experience if you attended a traditional Japanese tea ceremony, which usually features tea paired with some sort of sweet confection.
Tekuno is a San Francisco–based company that sources rare teas from Japan, and Jue says she selected the three teas for the flight with the goal of demonstrating the expansive breadth of single-origin and single-cultivar teas. “For people who haven’t had a lot of Japanese teas, the range of styles is quite surprising,” she says, noting that teas can range from being “grassy and floral” or “unctuous and rich, like a meal in and of themselves.” The flight will feature two different varieties of sencha, as well as one hōjicha. Each tea will be brewed to order, with the casual, multi-course tasting lasting about an hour.
Chou, who has been luring fans to her Chinatown pop-up with gorgeous burnt honey cakes, tasted through all three teas before settling on pairings that are “complementary to the savory style of tea,” Jue describes. Chou is offering two desserts, with a milk chocolate and chantilly ganache bar, and an orange-scented almond cake with osmanthus sabayon. And Millay provided a the perfect setting: It’s that cool shop at Church and Market, which was formerly a wine shop called Fig & Thistle, but rebranded over the summer to be more of a wine and sake bar called Millay. The owners were hoping to host more tastings, in addition to still selling bottles to go, so a pop-up makes sense, so you could start with tasting some tea and pastries, and always pick up a bottle of sake to take home or give as a gift.
The idea for a tea tasting event around the holidays has been on the table for a while now, Jue says, and dovetails with Tekuno’s mission to source and highlight Japanese teas from small-scale producers. Plus, doing it around the holidays means facilitating a way for people to gather together with friends and family — which feels all the more poignant after the forced separation of 2020. “I study traditional Japanese tea ceremonies, so I love bringing those concepts into a more modern setting,” Jue says.
Tickets to the pop-up cost $40 per person and are available on Tock. Most reservations are for two guests, but those looking to make a larger reservation can email firstname.lastname@example.org for help. A limited amount of tea will be available for retail purchase at the event, but Tekuno also has a retail showroom in the Inner Sunset.