Best Teahouse: Altruistic urban vibe
Deep Roots Urban Teahouse
The moment you take a chair at Deep Roots, proprietor Frances Aviani lets you know you're walking into a community space. She brings over a ewer of scented water and invites you to hold out your hands to be washed and perfumed, a Middle Eastern gesture of hospitality so far beyond the normal smile-and-a-latte that it inspires humility and devotion. A no-alcohol spot, the teahouse -- a small, butter-yellow place insulated from the bustling strip all around it -- attracts neighborhood activists, families, and customers too young to gather in bars. Born of a onetime event to celebrate schoolteachers working in the neighborhood's many small charter schools, Deep Roots still focuses on students and teachers. After school, Aviani offers cups of sweet, milky chai to kids who promise to crack their books while they sip. She brings in hip-hop artists to give free concerts and hosts drumming lessons. A former Numi Teas employee, Aviani searches out quality organic teas and works with Sustaining Ourselves Locally and the Oakland Permaculture Institute to supply her with organic produce, grown in the neighborhood, for her soups, salads, and sandwiches. Putting down roots, indeed.