The Interval at The Long Now Foundation
Jeremy's rating: ★★★★★
For a space where you can just as easily discuss a legendary Chinese king as you can appreciate Brian Eno music, giant mechanical clocks, or the future of the world.
Jen's rating: ★★★★★
For a space with dope industrial vibes and a bounty of natural light streaming in through the large warehouse windows. Full of worn-in leather couches that would make any butt smile.
Legend has it that a king of China was taking a stroll through his imperial gardens one day with a steaming hot mug of water to drink. As he strolled, likely mulling over his kingdom and the priorities of his day, a tea leaf fell from a plant and landed in his mug.
Open to experimentation, the king let the mixture steep, enchanted by the aroma suddenly emanating from his brew. After mixing the tea and water, the king proceeded to take a sip, becoming the first human to ever have tea. Astonished by the exquisiteness of the drink, the king went on to pursue large scale cultivation of the plant, ultimately making tea one of the most popular drinks in the world.
With an origin so simple, how could tea be anything but the most basic of drinks? Dunk leaves in water, maybe a bit of milk or sugar, stir, enjoy. Why complicate this process?
Well, simply, because it makes a world of difference. And, despite what that legendary king of China may have thought, the drink isn't as basic as he would have you believe.
Everything from the leaf-to-water ratio, the amount of time the leaves are allowed to steep, the temperature of the water — which critically varies for each tea type — how much you agitate the water once steepage begins ... God! That's enough, I'm sure you're thinking.
... and I agree with you. I always thought I was a tea lover, but I would take my tea for granted and skimp on the level of detail to make a good cup (and I still do, unfortunately, out of sheer laziness). I'd heard of some "tea snobs" going above and beyond in the preparation, but really, how big a difference could that make?
Shortly, it changes everything. The Interval — the cafe at The Long Now Foundation, which is dedicated to fostering long-term thinking — knows this, and the results are incomparable. Little did I know when Jen and I went there for drinks we would end up witnessing alchemy, transforming a Buddha's Hand Oolong (the "bartender's" leaf recommendation) into something near indescribable.
She began by measuring precisely the amount of tea leaves going into the brew on a gram scale. Meanwhile, water was boiling to a precise temperature, selected to best extract the tea's flavor without burning the leaves (the darker the tea, generally, the higher temperature the tea leaves can withstand). The leaves and water were then combined and left to steep for an exact amount of time, determined down to the second.
Amber, smokey, floral goodness that flowed over the tongue with the gentlest touch. I can only compare it to a smooth masterfully distilled Scotch, in which a range of competing flavors are balanced perfectly, flowing over the tongue in unison without competing.
The second result was a very happy Jeremy.
And even if my waxing on about tea hasn't convinced you to visit The Interval — Jen will also confirm that their milk tea is phenomenal (or in her words, scrumdiddlyumptious) — then the building itself is worth a visit. Built in a former industrial space in the Fort Mason Center, the cafe has views of the Golden Gate Bridge, Alcatraz, and the shoreline.
The Interval pays homage to the building's prior history as a military forge and machine shop. Sticking to its industrial style, the cafe is home to a variety of mechanical wonders as well as a floor to ceiling library containing works for how to sustain, and rebuild, civilization in keeping with The Long Now Foundation's stated purpose.
All together, The Interval functions as a comfortable space where anyone can have a good drink, relax, and think over the marvels of human civilization so far and how it will be possible to keep our good run going.