Business Not As Usual at Samovar Tea Lounge

For Jesse Jacobs, the way to connect is through tea—not the internet. Barry Boyce talks to Jacobs about his philosophy and his tea lounge, Samovar.

Being “connected” nowadays means you’re always plugged in. You’re phoning, texting, emailing, all the time, wherever you are. To Jesse Jacobs, who started Samovar in San Francisco, “connected” means something completely different, perhaps even the opposite. In fact, at Samovar’s three tea lounges wi-fi is decidedly unavailable. “If you want to really connect,” Jacobs says, “you have to disconnect.”

Jacobs grew up practicing meditation, yoga, and martial arts. His parents, Lenny and Barbara Jacobs, were publishers of the groundbreaking spiritual magazine East West Journal for almost twenty years. They provided an early example of the kind of social entrepreneurship exemplified by Samovar. After graduating from college, Jacobs went to work in high-tech, an easy step for someone in the cyber generation. “But after about four years,” he says, “I found myself totally disconnected from myself and other people. I was working on a dreary project in Seattle, looking out over a sea of cubicles. One day I was drinking a cup of Oolong tea from Taiwan called Monkey Picked Iron Goddess of Mercy that a friend had given me. It was delicious and aromatic and I suddenly paused completely. That’s when it came to me. I needed to do something…