Your Guide to Afternoon Tea in Los Angeles
Afternoon tea at the Getty Villa
Kathy A. McDonald
The world is divided between tea people and coffee people. Tea lovers know what it means to snuggle up to a warm cuppa, whether it be black, green or rooibos, whether you have a kettle or cheated by using the microwave. But sometimes it's nice to dress up and experience tea culture as it used to be, an afternoon event for ladies and gentlemen to socialize over fine china and scones.
High tea used to be the kind of thing you did with your grandmother, but the success of businesses like Adagio and Teavana has signaled a renewed interest in tea drinking -- and that's not to mention our country's obsession with the customs we see on Downton Abbey. From the glamorous hotel parlor rooms to the charming niche houses, here are 10 places, listed alphabetically, where you can find a tea ceremony.
Rare is the tea room that will let you swap out Earl Grey for a Taiwanese oolong. Located within the Japanese American National Museum, Chado Tea Room has a casual ambience that focuses more on actual tea than on the fussy customs surrounding it. Guests choose from 367 blend varieties for their pot of tea, which comes with a selection of toasted sandwiches, scones, jam and a slice of cake. 369 E. First Street, dwntwn.; 213-258-2531. $18 per person.
The Four Seasons hosts a dainty, white-gloved tea experience that is one of the classiest you'll find in Southern California. If you're one of those people who enjoys tea for the trimmings, then all the lace doilies, bone china and edible flowers on display will make you very happy. Choose two tea varieties for the table, from options like French caramel crème brulee, Royal Wedding and the house blend, a mix of Darjeeling and Assam. The meal comes with five finger sandwiches, egg-washed scones, a cappuccino square, shortbread and lemon bar. 75 N. Baldwin Ave, Sierra Madre; 626-355-0045. Tues.-Sat., 11-4 p.m. $22 or $17.50 per person.
The Getty's beloved Tea Room may have closed in 1997 but the afternoon tradition lives on. In the Founders Room, guests can take in picturesque views of the Villa while tasting tarts, cheeses, paninis, wine and, of course, tea, from the Mediterranean-inspired menu. After your repast, take a tour of the Getty's re-created ancient Roman gardens. 17985 Pacific Coast Highway, Pacific Palisades; 800-369-3059. Thurs. and Sat., 1 p.m. $36 per person.
In addition to its impressive art collection, library and three acres of roses, the Huntington has a charming tea room and café. Enjoy a pot of black tea and a buffet with unlimited sandwiches, seasonal fruits, salad, black olive tapenade, tartlets, petite mousse cups and more. Reservations are required at the Tea Room, but children get a reduced rate. 1151 Oxford Road, San Marino; 626-683-8131. Mon., Wed., Thurs., Fri., 12-3:30 p.m., Sat.-Sun. 10:45-3:30 p.m. $29.50 per person.
Tea at the Langham is a tradition that started in London in 1865 but has since expanded across the world. The name of the game here is luxury. A traditional Tiffin tea costs $39 but for an extra $17 you can have the royal Tiffin tea, which comes with Champagne. The Tiffin chocolate tea, only served on Sunday, surrounds guests with edible sculptures and a chocolate fountain for dessert fondue. 1401 S. Oak Knoll Ave., Pasadena; 626-585-6218. Mon.-Sat., noon-4 p.m. $39 or $56 per person.
While primarily known for its steaks, Pacific Dining Car hosts tea in the late afternoon. Guests choose between Champagne and sherry before starting on a pot of organic tea, with selections including Egyptian chamomile, white tip jasmine and classic English breakfast. Tea includes finger sandwiches, a scone and petits fours. 1310 W. Sixth St., dwntwn; 213-483-6000. Daily 3-5:30 p.m. $25.95 per person.
The Peninsula serves high tea in an elegant living room, scored by a classical harpist in the corner. Take a traditional tea with scones, berry tarts and chocolate-vanilla profiteroles. Or, for an additional $20, step up to the Imperial Tea, which comes with Champagne, caviar and a ganache cupcake shaped like a pageboy's cap.9882 S. Santa Monica Blvd., Beverly Hills; 310-975-2736. Daily at noon, 2:30 and 5 p.m., $42 or $62 per person.
A haven for Brits and Anglophiles, Rose Tree Cottage in Pasadena serves one of the most authentic English teas in the city. Owners Edmond and Mary Fry have worked carefully to transform a California house into a cozy English sitting room. Everything is certified British, from the twee antiques to the loose-leaf tea to the clotted cream straight from Devon. Tea is served in Royal Crown Derby china, with finger sandwiches, scones and shortbread. After your meal, visit the gift shop to browse through a collection of books, pottery and Barbour clothing, a favored brand of the royal family. 801 S. Pasadena Ave., Pasadena; 626-793-3337. Tues.-Sun. at 1, 2:30 and 4 p.m. $34.50.
The dining room of the Scarlet Tea Room edges on camp, with its golden chandelier and passion-red curtains -- a drama that makes it great for Valentine's Day parties and bridal showers. They offer two tea services, the three-course Parisian and the lavish five-course Scarlet Tea Ceremony. Both of these include desserts, sorbet and various savory items, with an optional Champagne addition. 18 W Green St., Pasadena; 626-577-0051. Tue.-Sun. 11 a.m.-4:30p.m. $30 or $32 per person.
Tired of all the scones and finger sandwiches? Jose Andres' Tres hosts a highly unusual spin on afternoon tea, with a menu of snacks that include "tomato caviar," beet macaroon with goat cheese and a guacamole cone. Rather than tarts and shortbread, the sweets are playful things like rice crispy bon bons, chocolate pop rocks and pink lemonade pate de fruit. 465 S. La Cienega, Beverly Grove; 310-247-04000. Every day from 3-5 p.m. $32 per person.
Get the Squid Ink'd Newsletter
Sign up for our weekly food newsletter, which features top local food news and events, plus interviews with chefs and restaurant owners, dining tips and a link to our print review.