Samovar

Samovar and Tree

In addition to being a feng shui consultant, food and wine connoisseur, and writer, I also hold a BFA in Theater Performance.  A few years back, I was in a production of Chekhov’s Uncle Vanya when I first heard of an intriguing item called a samovar.  For those unacquainted with the term, a samovar is a large metal or brass urn  with a spigot, used to boil water or tea.   Of Russian origin, they first hit households around the 1820’s, gaining quickly in popularity,  Nearly every Victorian home in Russia possessed one.  Although the originals used coal to heat the water, modern-day versions are electric.  In Uncle Vanya, it is mentioned directly by the playwright in Act I, and in most productions used as a set piece during the scenes that take place in colder months.  (The production I was in sadly did not have one.)  Having only seen pictures online of this vintage kitchen appliance, I was surprised to find a tea house in San Francisco named for this very illusive item.

Samovar Signage

Samovar has three different tea lounges located throughout San Francisco.  I frequent the one bordering the Castro (pictured above).  My best friend Wendy and I came here for an incredible brunch.   One can order items individually, or one can do a tea service,  We both went with the British Tea Service, which was the most “brunchy” of the options.

English Tea Service

We each received a small tray with a steaming pot of their Breakfast Blend Black Tea, a stimulating and robust brew that was incredibly delicious.  This also included honey, cream, and coconut nectar.  The evaporated coconut palm nectar is the brown granules that look like brown or unrefined sugar, but it’s actually healthier for you.  Imported from farmers in Bali, Indonesia, coconut palm nectar is the sap of the coconut plant dehydrated into crystals.  The result is coconut palm sugar which is low on the glycemic index, and full of potassium and micro-nutrients.  It can be substituted for table sugar and in baking.  I found it to be just as sweet as sugar, and went perfectly with the Breakfast Blend.

Tea Service Caddy

The food for the tea service was presented on a three-tiered tray.  (I think I need to invest in one of these for my own home use.)

Quiche and Salad

A savory and mouthwatering vegetable quiche was presented alongside a salad with mixed greens.  Their quiche selection changes somewhat depending on the season.  I loved every bite.  The salad had a pleasing vinaigrette with complimented the quiche perfectly.

Oat Scone and Cream

Cherry Oat Scone – A decadent scone with oats throughout, served with preserves and clotted cream.   I could consume one of these every day.  It was fluffy and not overly dry as scones can sometimes be.  Samovar uses only the evaporated coconut nectar for their baking (there is no refined sugar in any of their baked items).   The amount of cream-to-scone was the ideal ratio, and really made the whole meal truly British.

Fresh British Fruit

An offering of fresh fruit concluded the feast, and accompanied the aristocratic scone ideally.

Asian Statue in Niche

The environment of Samovar is one of peace and contentment.  Choice pieces of art, like the elegant statue above, grace  the room, providing a sense of beauty and culture.  The statue is also a brilliant example of the earth element, due to its earthen material.

Samovar Curtains

Billowy curtains shield patrons from the sun’s rays, and help to foster a more intimate atmosphere between seating arrangements.  I also love the lantern in the window, and the high ceilings that allow chi to move freely throughout the space.

Restroom and Curtains

I really like how Samovar has concealed the bathroom with bamboo.  One knows it’s a bathroom, but it doesn’t feel like one is sitting near a bathroom.  I also like the further use of curtains to conceal unsightly storage.

Red Brick Wall and small Samovar

The elements of fire, earth, and metal are in perfect harmony here.  The red of the walls, the brick and the smaller, metal samovar coexist in a beneficial manner because each of these elements feed into one another.

There are many health benefits to drinking black tea.  Of the three main caffeinated tea categories, black tea Samovar Menu Flowerhas far less caffeine that its green or white counterparts.  The low amounts of caffeine found in tea can help stimulate blood flow to the brain without overcompensating the heart, which helps to increase energy levels.  And, unlike coffee, tea releases it’s caffeine slowly over time rather than all at once.  Black tea also contains L-theanine, an amino acid that helps one to focus and relax.  Polyphenols in black tea, which contain antioxidants, help oral and heart health, and may aid in the prevention of certain cancers when consumed on a regular basis.

Samovar also has a highly impressive website and blog.  In addition to having vast amounts of tea information, they also have a terrific online store where one may purchase any of their teas, as well as tea accessories (the teapot, tray, teacup and coconut nectar crystals pictured in the tea service can all be purchased).  They also have “tea gurus” who offer private tea classes.  The lounge has limited seating; I suggest making reservations beforehand (but walk-ins are also welcome).  On my next visit to San Francisco, I plan on trying some of their medjool dates stuffed with chevre cheese (Wendy swears by them), and one of their tantalizing rice bowls.  Until then, I will drink tea here in Los Angeles, read some Chekhov, and long for that delicious oat scone.

Samovar Storefront

Samovar Tea Lounge:  Mission/Castro

498 Sanchez Street, San Francisco, CA 94114

415 626-4700

Hours:  Daily 10:00 am – 10:00 pm

http://www.samovarlife.com/

Cinnamon as an Aphrodisiac

Mentioned several times in the Bible, and in ancient Chinese writings, the fragrant spice known as cinnamon has been enchanting civilizations across the world.  Originally from Sri Lanka, cinnamon is derived from the inner bark of the cinnamon tree (part of the Evergreen family).  Cinnamon sticks, as we know them today, are pieces of the dried bark which naturally curls under heat.  These are then kept as sticks, or ground down into the powdery substance that most people use today.

The history of this well-traveled spice is quite colorful.  Those in ancient Egypt and Rome would use cinnamon for its sublime taste in various cuisines, and as incense.   It was also used for the embalming process during mummification, and taken medicinally.  The Romans would burn cinnamon as part of a funeral pyre, or in honor of the recently deceased.   During the Middle Ages, only the very elite could afford the spice, as most seasonings of that time where exorbitantly expensive.  Cinnamon was also valued for its preservative qualities when applied to meat, due to phenols which inhibit bacteria growth responsible for spoilage.  The fragrant aroma of cinnamon also helped to mask the stench of aged meat.

Cinnamon has many health benefits.  In addition to being a viable source of fiber, calcium, magnesium and iron, this natural substance can also lower cholesterol, aid in weight loss, and regulate blood sugar.  According to the U.S.  Department of Agriculture, use of cinnamon has been shown to suppress the growth of lymphoma and leukemia cancer cells.

From a feng shui perspective, cinnamon is very yin in essence, as are most spices.  Because it is more sweet than savory, its nature is even more yin than other seasonings.  As for the  elemental connection, it has  strong wood element, as it’s quite literally tree bark.  Its comforting brown hue is an example of the earth element.  I also feel that cinnamon has a bit of fire attached to it as well, as it conjures a natural warmth on the tastes buds.

Cinnamon has also been used throughout time as an aphrodisiac.  For both men and women, the use of cinnamon as part of one’s regular diet has been shown to naturally increase sex drive, due to its ability to  enhance blood circulation, gently heating up the body from the inside.  According to a study performed by the The Smell & Taste Research Foundation, located in Chicago, of the over two hundred scents tested on men, Cinnamon was the victor in causing and sustaining male arousal.   In feng shui terms, this makes complete sense.  Passion, romance, and sex are all controlled by the fire element.  The wood element feeds fire.  Cinnamon is wood, and therefore the use of this wooden spice assists in feeding the flames of passion.

There are many ways to add cinnamon to one’s way of living.  Below are the ones I personally use:

  • Sprinkle some on Hot Cocoa.
  • Sprinkle some on Vanilla Yogurt or Apple Sauce.
  • Add it to your Coffee!  Not only do I sprinkle it on top, but I mix a tablespoon of cinnamon in with the coffee grounds, when making a full pot.  It tastes sensational.
  • Cinnamon Toast.   I spread coconut oil over my toast, sprinkle cinnamon, and spread it all around.  Delicious and satisfying.
  • Aromatherapy.  Light cinnamon scented candles to heighten the romantic mood.  These are available from a variety of distributors, but the best time to buy this scent of candle is after the winter holidays; they’ll usually be on sale.
  • Mulled Wine and Sangria.   Whole cinnamon sticks are a great enhancement during autumn and winter.  Allow the stick to just lounge about the glass within the beverage; this adds a festive enticement to both beverages.  (This can work for other drinks as well)
  • Add to anything Pumpkin or Sweet Potato related.

And some other things I haven’t tried, but am going to:

  • Sprinkle some on Oatmeal.
  • Enchilada Sauce.  Add a teaspoon or two to canned (or fresh) enchilada sauce while it’s on the stove.  It adds a little mole flare to it.
  • Honey Tea.   One part cinnamon to two parts honey, combined in hot water, makes a delicious, healthy tea.  A tea bag could also be added  for further flavor.
  • Essential Oil.  Cinnamon scented oil is another way to influence a room’s chi and scent.
  • Cinnamon Buns.  Cinnamon buns are one of the best breakfast foods after a night of romantic bliss.  Those Cinnabon people are quite clever.
  • Sprinkle on top of Roasts, be it ham, pork, or lamb.
  • Lotion.  Various lotions and massage oils on the market today are cinnamon scented.  I need to purchase some.

Another way of using Cinnamon goes all the way back to biblical times – literally.   Proverb 7:17 is about a seductress luring a man to bed.  It indicates that the woman in question used cinnamon, myrrh, and aloe to “perfume” her chamber.   Aloe has a sweet, woody aroma, whereas myrrh has a very distinct, nutty scent.  Combining these two with enticing cinnamon, and you have an ideal olfactory recipe for creating a deeply sensual environment.  Try adding some more cinnamon to your world, and you may notice a very definite increase in passion…