Lovejoy’s Tearoom

Lovejoy’s tea service ranges from a classic Cream Tea with scones, Devon cream, and fruit ($18.95), a customized tea ($19.95—pick two of scones, petit fours/ biscuits, or sausage rolls) to an indulgent Queen’s Tea ($31.95—choice of two tea sandwiches, scone, crumpet with Meyer lemon curd, cabbage salad in caraway cream dressing, fruit, a petit four, and a tea biscuit). Very popular in health-conscious San Francisco is its Healthy Tea ($20.95—smoked salmon served with whole-grain or gluten-free crackers, yogurt, organic greens, walnuts, and fruit). For the weight-conscious, there’s a Light Tea ($21.95—a tea sandwich, a scone, fruit, and a tea biscuit). Children under 10 can enjoy a Wee Tea ($19.95— cream cheese and jelly sandwich or any other sandwich, a scone, a petit four, fruit, and tea or hot chocolate). Approximately a dozen types of tea sandwiches are served, and flavors are changed every few weeks. Pub fare, like shepherd’s pie and pork sausage rolls, is also served. Gluten-free choices are also available.

Popular green teas among the 36 teas served are Dragonwell (a Chinese green tea) and Genmai Cha (a Japanese green tea blended with toasted, puffed rice that has a nutty, mellow flavor). While Lovejoy’s sells Taylor’s of Harrogate’s Tea Room Blend, it’s happy to blend any teas to customer specif cations. A monthly special tea is offered.

“It’s a place for people to connect. We have regulars who come in for a joke or a chat,” says Celine O’Driscoll, Lovejoy’s current co-owner, who notes Lovejoy’s isn’t “stuffy” like afternoon tea at local luxury hotels and is far less expensive. A native of County Cork, she and Donita Murphy, who hails from Nottingham, England, bought the tearoom in 2016. The women knew of Muna and Gillian from a mutual friend.

For outdoor dining during COVID-19, they built a wooden “parklet” with a plastic roof in the street, adding lace curtain-draped windowpanes as dividers between tables. During fall and winter, the City by the Bay boasts many mild, sunny days, unlike its notoriously foggy, cold summer. Both tearoom and shop are open Friday to Sunday, 11:00 a.m. to 3:00 p.m.

Lovejoy's Tearoom
Current owners of Lovejoy’s in San Francisco, Donita Murphy, left, and Celine O’Driscoll, right.

A few years ago, Muna and Gillian decided to license Lovejoy’s. They still own Lovey’s in Pacifica, a suburb, but sold the San Francisco tearoom to Celine and Donita. A former employee owns Lovejoy’s in Redwood City, another suburb, while a past customer owns a location in Portland, Oregon. The pair plan a second Oregon location in 2021, in Ashland.

It’s not a franchise, whose many requirements mean every location is identical, says Muna, noting many people inquired how to open a tearoom over the years. “Typically, they share the vintage chic, mismatched décor that’s a signature part of our brand, the same menu with our recipes, the same color scheme, and a traditional old-fashioned feel. We train extensively to our very high standard of customer service. But each proprietor puts their own stamp on it.” For example, Celine and Donita repainted their walls from light pink to lavender and add fresh flowers each week (Celine is a former florist).

“It was our great honor and joy to shape it into the landmark it became,” Muna adds. “It’s always a place guests have sought out to celebrate a special occasion, find comfort during a difficult time, or share good news.”

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