State of Fancy Tea Service in LA
Yesterday, LAist ran one of its insipid pieces, in which the writer "discovered" afternoon Tea at the Langham Hotel in Pasadena. The vacuous author seemed unaware that there are other places in the city offering displaced Brits and Britophiles a relatively authentic tea experience. Par for the course for LAist, which describes itself as a "cheerleader" rather than a critical voice.
But I realized that I haven't checked out the tea options around here for a while, and I wonder if other hounds have a handle on the current availabilities. Is Rose Cottage still happening? Is the Peninsula still doing its tea? Is the one at the Santa Monica beachfront hotel any good? Does anyone offer real clotted cream? Fresh jams rather than little bottles? Freshly backed scones? Fresh smoked salmon sandwiches? You know, the good stuff.
Oh, and how's the tea itself?
For a tea service that is about the tea, and not the accompaniments, head to Funnel Mill. Teresa really cares about what's going on.
Not a British tea service, though, but Chinese.
Many of the high teas in the area involve a lot of good baked gods, and crappy bag tea.
Since you're talking about Brit tea, I'm assuming you want the Indian stuff. The best for that is the various branches of Chado Tea House - serious enough that they not only have darjeelings and nilgiris from particular estates, but they have them sorted by *harvest* and *flush*. (Best darjeelings are, I believe, second flush - that is, you pick the leaves once, they grow back, and you pick them again, in a single harvest.) (But don't quote me on this - my brain is farting right now, I might have proper flush flipped.)
So, they really know their teas, they have an immense selection, it's really fresh. They also do high teas with various tasty tastums, but the emphasis is good tea.
They have decent Chinese tea, spectacular Darjeeling, really spectacular Nilgiris (they converted me), and Assams. Normally, I'm not a flavored tea person, but their imperial grade earl grey is actually spectacular.
I think they do tastings when the harvests come in, every season.
Chado has excellent tea and an amazing selection...but their food is far from fancy. I enjoyed tea there (Pasadena location) but found the frantic and homespun vibe of the dining room a turn off, as were the large roughly cut (regular bread, halved in triangles) sandwiches with thick spreads (a curry chicken, maybe? memory fails). It was definitely affordable, but also lacked any sense of formality or refinement.
Rose Tree Cottage had lovely food, but it did feel cramped and awkward (old location, haven't felt inspired to try the new one) and like you were a somewhat unwelcome guest in old Aunt Agnes' home. Stuffy.
There's a more laid back tea in Montrose at the T Room. I believe it is run by an Armenian or Middle Eastern family, so there is a distinct influence in the food that strays from the traditional British.
I have enjoyed tea at the Langham in Pasadena--it's definitely a "special occasion" tea--and feel it's very similar to the service held previously there by the Ritz Carlton. I don't recall the Ritz using tea bags, however. Langham (I believe) uses loose tea, but it's brewed behind the scenes.
I haven't tried the Peninsula or other BH/West side "posh" hotel services. Nothing has ever compared to the tea I had at the Empress Hotel in Victoria, BC.
I would agree that British (or, in my case) Canadian "refugees" in Los Angeles don't have much to go to in terms of true comfort, save some hotel teas (and, for divergent tastes, pubs). Pasadena still seems to thrive when it comes to tea, I've noticed. LA is not a high tea town.
I'm in Montrose a bit, but don't recall the T Room. I'll look that up. Thanks.
The Empress is great, but I'm not so familiar with the Canadian offerings. My favorite would probably be the Balmoral Hotel in Edinburgh. The Scots are very serious about their tea. In London, the Ritz was surprisingly just okay (weak on service, bread was stale), Fortnam and Mason was a little better, but the old Connaught Hotel was our favorite. At least this discussion here will get us out for some tea sooner.
The Four Seasons serves afternoon tea on Fridays/Saturdays (no holidays) from 3-4. Doubt that you'll find tea bags there (but who knows?).
I've always loved Tudor House in Santa Monica. I can't speak to the tea selection as I'm pretty set in my ways and forget what else they have, but their food is great IMO. And the clotted cream is real and fabulous...brings me back to an Easter vacation eating cream tea all the way through Cornwall. Mmmmm.
Great, unintrusive service as well.