Pastel china, raised pinkies, and steamy pots: these are the city's best tea houses
6430 California, SF. (415) 751-9275, www.talytara.com
SECRET GARDEN TEA HOUSE
There are so many bric-a-brac shelves in Secret Garden that some of them are brac-less: they exist only to be shelves. Such is the décor reasoning at this parkside parlor, where pastel-colored church hats hang from the walls for insta in-house cred. Upon my visit to Secret Garden I sipped lemon chiffon tea and consumed the Sweet Surrender plate: an ungodly amount of lady fingers, French macaroons, petit fours, and powdered sugar-dusted fruit slices. I also heard the next table over in raptures over glimpsing the royal family on a recent London vacation. Bring your grandma, or a small royal-watcher: there is an ample kid's menu here.
721 Lincoln, SF. (415) 702-0398, www.secretgardenteahouse.com
You will undoubtedly be distracted by the fetching jars of pink malt balls and rooster-decorated Sriracha truffles that greet you upon entry into this hideout from the bustling tech world of SoMa. But push on past the retail space: rewards await in the form of comfy sofas be-pillowed with intricately embroidered soft things. Once settled in the space, choose a tea service (blends include cheekily named flavors like "Cabana Boy," with a sweet tropical fruit taste) that includes options from the sandwich menu: Dartealing has a vast array of crustless wonders, the tofu-and-citrus ginger-soy glazed option being a favorite. Just make sure you leave room for dessert — the lavender-dusted scones that arrive with a ramekin of clotted cream are the dreamiest.
470 Third St., SF. (415) 644-0142, www.dartealing.com