[Photo Credit: Object, 1936 by Meret Oppenheim The Museum of Modern Art]
Everything we'd heard about Modern Tea in Hayes Valley prepared us to dislike it. Fundamentally, we just didn't believe that someone could start from zero, ignore preconceptions about tea and the traditionally twee culture of tearooms. And we knew the owner, Alice Cravens, is a disciple of the late Helen Gustafson, the charismatic (translation: mad as a hatter) tea lady of Chez Panisse.
Except that Modern Tea is quite amazingly wonderful. Our trail to MT began at Blue Bottle, where we were buying ginger scones. More precisely, Treasa Ewing's ginger scones. And we kept hearing the baristas saying "we don't serve tea" and then it was "go to Modern Tea." in the end, what we didn't reckon with is the Bay Area's continued ability to support ideas that might seem doomed elsewhere. Like the Internet, but that's another story from a long time ago.
Let's get this one objection out of the way: the food at MT gives new dimension to the term light fare. We required a burrito two hours later. That quibble aside, the baby mixed chicory and lettuce from Star Route with baby beets was exceptional. Loved the polenta with roasted vegetables. And pastry chef's Ewing's chocolate squares are sublime. This could become the next place for dessert, in the way of Elizabeth Falkner's Citizen Cake. True tea believers, a great pastry chef, beautiful setting. Outstanding.
Modern Tea does not serve coffee.