For those who want to try something different in San Francisco there's the Imperial Tea Court[a] in San Francisco's Chinatown. The place is something as un-western as a tea salon where you can sample a wealth of teas.
This is the interior. A plethora of tea cups, tea tasting sets and bags of tea fill the shelves.
This is what is served: One cup for each sort of tea that you have ordered, and a kettle of hot water. The tea leaves are already in the cups.
My two teas - the left one is "Monkey Picked Tieguanyin" and the right one is "Silver Needles". You start off by soaking the leaves in a splash of water and smelling them. Then you fill the cup with water and use the lid to push the leaves around, squeeze them against the side of the cup and push them into the water. (The people working there will give you a quick rundown on how to do this.)
It takes a little time before the tea leaves start to give maximum taste to the water. Plus, you do have to push them around. My first cup had a refined taste of warm water and not much more. It wasn't until the second cup that I got the hang of it and managed to produce something that possessed the "slightly buttery taste" that I had been told the tea had.