Food: 🍰 🍰
Ambience: 🌸 🌸 🌸 🌸
Overall rating: 💖 💖
Tags: outdoor, japanese, casual
Flowers blossom year-round
Among beautiful gardens
The Japanese Tea Garden in Golden Gate Park is an appealing destination for the garden, not the tea. They don’t really offer an afternoon tea service all all — just a menu of à la carte tea and food options — but we bent our H.A.T.S. rules and paid them a visit anyway.
In this casual, open-air tea house, customers order at the window and then claim seats. (No reservations are possible, and the tea house can get crowded at popular hours.) We bought nearly everything on the menu, to very mixed results. The only tea we adored was the nutty sencha. The hojicha, genmaicha, and jasmine tea were merely passable, and the matcha cold and unappetizing (though impressively presented in a big ceramic bowl and served with delicious red-bean-paste-filled mochi).
The standout foods were a green tea cheesecake that perfectly balanced sweetness and strong matcha flavor, and a picturesque (and tasty) assortment of flavored mochi squares. The edamame and miso soup were solidly executed standards. The cracker assortment (arare) and cookie assortment disappointed: they were clearly just overpriced selections of store-bought items. The fortunes inside the fortune cookies were bland truisms, and two of our six cookies contained the same fortune.
“Love will find you soon”
“One door closes, one opens”
While the tea house itself is casual, with uncomfortable low stools and plastic cutlery, the surroundings create a wonderful ambiance. We followed our tea with a stroll through the garden. Its five acres are densely packed with beautiful sights, including a “dry landscape” rock garden, small waterfalls, stone lanterns, and dramatic bridges. We got up close to wildlife: koi, squirrels, and a fearless blue heron. Hydrangeas, lotuses, and azaleas were in bloom when we were there; other times of year will bring other wonders. Feel free to skip the tea — but don’t miss the garden.
Date attended: August 20, 2018
Attendees: Hannah, Ilana, Marissa, Erica & Tom
Price/seat: $6 (San Francisco residents) /$9 (non-residents) for garden entry; we averaged $20 for food and tea
Location: 75 Hagiwara Tea Garden Drive, San Francisco