We’ll admit right away that KitTea is not a traditional afternoon tea experience. But we are ailurophiles here at the Highfalutin’ Afternoon Tea Society, and this Japanese-inspired cat café in Hayes Valley is our personal catnip. (Should we find a way to change our acronym to C.A.T.S.?) We paid them an official Society visit in April 2019, but most of us had been before. Ilana has even visited enough times to fill up two loyalty cards.
KitTea serves a limited afternoon tea menu, but due to San Francisco health regulations regarding the separation of food and animals, you can’t have your scones and jam in the same room as the kitties. It is still possible to sip tea while petting the cats, though: there are pitchers of Japanese green teas (sencha, genmaicha, hojicha), and tumbler-shaped ceramic cups, on a console in the cat lounge.
Our midafternoon visit meant that some of the cats were down for their catnaps at the time. Still, their lounge was an oasis of calm and cuteness, where all guests must be in stockinged feet. There are fluffy pillows and cushions to sit on, and adorable felines curled up on chairs or cautiously approaching the new crop of visitors. Soon, some of them were climbing all over us (they especially seemed to like Ilana and Tom). There’s also a separate room in the back where the cats can retreat to if they decide they don’t feel like socializing that day. Because sometimes cats need to do that, you know?
The café section of the business offers more beverage options, again with a focus on Asian tea varieties (e.g. wakoucha, Iron Goddess oolong, “Black Cat” pu’er). Tom ordered the matcha latte, which the menu described as “ceremonial grade” and “one of the creamiest Matchas available.” It did not disappoint. It’s also the most expensive beverage on the menu at $7.50 for a bowl (most of the teas are $7 for a pot).
The café also serves food and snacks à la carte. We ordered the “English scone service” and were pleasantly surprised by the quality of the candied-ginger scone: it had a good texture and didn’t crumble under the pressure of the knife. It came with jam, butter, and “whipped Chantilly cream”; sadly, we must add KitTea to our list of Bay Area tea establishments that don’t serve real clotted cream, though at least they don’t engage in false advertising.
As the H.A.T.S. project has proceeded, we’ve formed a lengthy list of specifications for our ideal tearoom: real clotted cream, charmingly mismatched teacups, the ability to control your tea’s brew time. After our visit to KitTea, we’re pretty ready to add “adorable cats” to our list of things that make an afternoon tea ideal. Anyone want to put up the funds so we can open our dream teashop and call it The Cat With The Cream?
Date attended: April 21, 2019
Attendees: Marissa, Ilana, Erica, Jasmine, Tom, & Karen
Price/seat: A 1-hour visit with the cats is $20 on weekdays or $25 on weekends. Food and tea à la carte, $3.50-$8.
Location: 96 Gough St, San Francisco
More information: www.kitteasf.com