Best afternoon or high tea in SF or Marin?
I'll agree with Samovar for the High Tea with a twist. Besides their classic "British Tea," they have full meal offerings with appropriate tea pairings:
Moroccan with grilled haloumi cheese kebabs, spreads and flat bread, and stuffed dates for dessert.
Russian with blini, salmon, beets and all the tea you can drink from their samovar.
Indian with fabulous curried tofu, rice, and raita served with creamy spiced chai.
If you want a more traditional, classy (and expensive, $30+ a person) High Tea, I recommend the Rotunda in Neiman Marcus. Make sure to order a pop-over...
Neiman Marcus Cafe
400 Stanford Shopping CT, Palo Alto, CA
Only the Samovar at Yerba Buena (listed as Howard St) has the tea and food pairings from around the world. The other two branches are still charming. I like the matcha brownies.
Lovejoy's and DarTealing are girly girly/baby shower/Laura Ashley territory. Most men and some women would run screaming.
Tal y Tara tea and polo shoppe on California near 25th Avenue would be my other choice for afternoon (not high tea). Get a motorloaf or trifle and sit in the garden. Not fussy at all.