Afternoon Tea, Angelino Style
By May 4, 2010
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Seven Definitive Tearooms Making Steam in Los Angeles

If you are as particular about your tea as I am, you already know that L.A. is a mecca for tea lovers. From rose petal elixirs served in tearooms on Melrose Avenue, to sleek tea-based cocktails you’ll discover out on the town, L.A. is stronghold for both unique and classic tea spots. The following are a sampling of the city’s steamiest hot spots:

1. Jin Patisserie

Jin Patisserie takes afternoon tea to the beach—Venice Beach, that is. Nestled behind an orange door on eclectic Abbot Kinney Boulevard, Jin Patisserie’s tranquil garden welcomes tea goers with soothing sounds of fountains and urban forests of bamboo. The owner, Kristy Choo, hails from Singapore and is a graduate of the California Culinary Academy in San Francisco. Her teahouse is a fresh blend of Asian aesthetics and fusion pastry concoctions.
Imagine classic ingredients like caramel, truffles, chocolate mousse, mascarpone cream, pistachio, and marzipan, paired with traditional Asian flavors like lychee, ginger, jasmine, green tea, and chrysanthemum. The outcome is an artful synthesis of spices.

Choo’s über-fancy creations shine like gems inside the pastry counter. Try the Lavender Gateau, a lavender-infused cake filled with buttercream and chocolate ganache. Or sample Tropical: coconut and mango mousse with caramelized pineapples and hints of cinnamon, anise, and vanilla. Another surprise is Ye Yek, a traditional shortbread cookie from Choo’s homeland.

Jin Patisserie
1202 Abbot Kinney Boulevard
Venice, CA
310.399.8801

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2. The Ritz-Carlton, Marina del Rey

At the Ritz, you’ll sip your tea with the ocean breeze in your hair, gazing at the lovely panoramas of the marina from your table. The Ritz Royal Afternoon Tea is a swanky occasion, where classic fare is transformed with a contemporary twist. Your afternoon tea can be paired with champagne or a tea-infused cocktail. The tea sandwiches are culinary gems. You’ll find Smoked Salmon and Caviar with Dill Crème Fraiche on Brioche alongside Smoked Chicken, Goat Cheese Mousse, and Truffles on Wheat Bread with Grapes. Plus the classic finger sandwiches are all present, albeit elegantly dressed-up.

The pastry course showcases a creative sampling of fruit tarts, cakes, and cookies. Show-stoppers like raspberry pistachio eclairs and chocolate-coffee macaroons accompany fresh-baked scones in creative flavors like lemon-blueberry.

The Ritz-Carlton
4375 Admiralty Way
Marina del Rey, CA 90292
310.823.1700

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3. Rose Garden Tea Room, Huntington Library and Gardens

A ticket of admission to The Huntington is required to visit this busy tea house, as are reservations. Perhaps a big part of the allure here is that the afternoon tea is served buffet style with plenty of fancy finger sandwiches and pastries to go with your pot of tea and scones. Beyond the usual tea menu, fresh salads and a selection of cheeses beckon, accompanied by crackers and spreads like hummus and olive tapenade.

Perched in the middle of The Huntington’s rose garden, this popular tearoom is lined with grand picture windows that show off a sea of roses. It’s the perfect setting for a post-meal stroll through L.A.’s best botanic gardens. Standouts include the expansive desert garden, the traditional Chinese garden, and the Japanese garden—a Hollywood film favorite.

Huntington Library and Gardens
1151 Oxford Road
San Marino, CA 91108
626.405.2100

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4. The Peninsula, Beverly Hills

Often touted as the best spot for afternoon tea in L.A., I wouldn’t be one to disagree. This classic five star hotel located in the heart of Beverly Hills commands upscale elegance from the moment you step through the fancy double doors. Afternoon tea is served in the Living Room, named for the casual arrangement of plush sofas and coffee tables where you take your tea, creating a relaxed atmosphere that perfectly compliments the swanky setting. Tall windows overlooking a garden fill the space with sunshine, and on weekends a harpist strums away. Four tiers of afternoon tea are offered here, and the exquisite Imperial Tea includes champagne and caviar on top of all the regular trimmings. Need I say more?

The Peninsula
9882 South Santa Monica Boulevard
Beverly Hills, CA 90212
310.551.2888

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5. Rose Tea Cottage

If you fancy being waited on by a butler in a tux and white gloves, then this is the place for you. You can rub elbows with British dignitaries who often frequent the joint (when I last visited the British consulate general was sitting down to his afternoon tea). Authentic to the core, the Rose Tea Cottage has been serving traditional English fare for nearly 30 years. The owners, Edmund and Mary Fry, often wait on you personally, and are very attentive—keeping your tea cup full at all times. Both the cuisine and the decor are traditional English, and there is also a well stocked gift shop where you can buy imported English specialties and cookware. By reservation only, Rose Tea Cottage is a formal dining experience, and an unforgettable one.

Rose Tea Cottage
801 S. Pasadena Avenue
Pasadena, Ca 91105
626.793.3337

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6. Scarlet Tea Room

Step inside the Scarlet Tea Room, and you’re enveloped by live piano music. Lit with red and white crystal chandeliers and draped in red curtains, this seductive tea room serves both full meals and afternoon tea. Located in Old Town Pasadena, the Scarlet Tea Room’s 5-course Scarlet Tea Ceremony begins with sorbet, followed by the arrival of a classic 3-tier tray filled with goodies: finger sandwiches, scones with all the trimmings (the ginger scones are delicious), fresh fruit, and assorted pastries. The grande finale is Strawberries Romanoff, a pile of chopped strawberries drenched in orange liquor and awash in a sea of whipped cream. You can also add champagne or wine to sweeten the deal, and the tea menu has a large selection of fruit-infused teas. Best of all, afternoon tea doesn’t end early—you can enjoy it well into evening.

Scarlet Tea Room
18 West Green Street
Pasadena, California 91105
626.577.0051

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Weekend Trip: Off the Beaten Path

7. Penelope’s Teas & Gifts

Penelope’s is a must-go destination for serious tea lovers who have exhausted all the hit L.A. haunts. Located between Santa Barbara and San Luis Obispo on the central coast, Penelope’s is a great excuse for a weekend getaway. Look for the white wooden teapot on Ocean Street in Old Town Lompoc, California. Inside the decor is charmingly victorian. Mismatched chairs—leather, wood and wicker—are paired with velvet love seats and surrounded by green floral wallpaper, antiques, and a cozy fireplace. Tucked into little nooks and corners of the room, the lace-covered tables are lit with tiny lamps and set with fancy china that is decidedly floral.

Penelope’s tea selection is massive, as Penelope’s sells roughly 70 teas, many which can be sampled. The menu is extensive and includes traditional English fare like Cottage Pies, Pasties, Sausage Rolls, and Ploughman’s plates, along with four options for afternoon tea. With the Elegant Afternoon Tea you get sorbet, tea sandwiches, scones with all the trimmings, plus mixed desserts. Go big and order the Royal Tea, which includes all of the above, plus sparkling wine (with refills!). Or go small with the Light Afternoon Tea, a similar selection with smaller portions. For kids, there is even a Teddy Bear Tea: peanut butter-honey sandwiches, cheese finger sandwiches, fresh fruit, and either tea, hot chocolate, milk, or lemonade.  The food is delicious and the service friendly, making Penelope’s a unique stop on the Southern California tea map.

Penelope’s Teas & Gifts
105 West Ocean Avenue
Lompoc, California
805.736.1122

Gayle Wheatley is a writer and artist based in Los Angeles, and the editor of the blog CultureVixen.com. Images by Gayle Wheatley and courtesy of Jin Patisserie and Scarlet Tea Room.

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