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tiered pastry tray with tea sets on a table outside
(Victoria Wall Harris)

Pinkies up! 15 of the best spots to sip high tea like a royal

As Los Angeles prepares for the imminent reopening of the Huntington’s prestigious Rose Garden Tea Room, on May 24, expect that tea as a social engagement will only become more popular.

Many Americans associate formal tea with Britain and the pomp and circumstance of the monarchy. But a tea party, at its core, transcends the court of the queen. . Traditional British tea service takes place midafternoon and involves tea poured from floral china pots, finger sandwiches and scones, but in and around Los Angeles, California variations on the theme and a formal Chinese tea ceremony have also cropped up. Steep LA co-owner Samuel Wang is quick to remind us that tea is from China, and the British tradition derives from that history.

“We’re not trying to be snobs about tea,” he explained. “Our way is not the only way. We’re sharing our knowledge, not teaching.”

Wang and co-owner Lydia Lin hand-select all of the tea that’s poured at Steep, sourcing from farmers in China and Taiwan. The ceremony consists of first selecting a personal cup, then a preferred blend from the list of black, oolong, green and pu-erh teas, with fragrance and taste profiles described on the menu. Then, the host will find the right water temperature, carefully steep the leaves in the pot for the correct amount of time, and be sure to refill guests’ cups throughout the service. All the while conversation flows, revealing the real purpose of the ceremony: connection.

Afternoon tea also proves a wonderful social occasion for the sober community. As Gen Z showcases a much different relationship to alcohol, and members of older generations rethink their own relationship to drinking, gatherings that aren’t centered around booze have gained traction. Almost any traditional afternoon tea menu includes the option to add bubbles, if desired, but it’s an afterthought — the tea will always be the focus.


With that in mind, here are 15 of the best places to pop in for a cuppa, or host a full-blown tea soirée. Get your best gloves and fascinator out of the closet and give it a whirl.

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A spread of tea, sandwiches, pastries  champagne, savory sandwiches, scones and sweet treats.
(Fairmont Miramar Hotel & Bungalows)

Fairmont Miramar

Santa Monica Teahouse $$$
With a chef-driven menu designed to offer updates to traditional tea accompaniments, Fairmont Miramar’s brand-new afternoon tea is a full-on culinary experience. Taking place in the recently renovated Fountain Room and Library spaces on weekends, seatings are limited to just 25 people, which allows each table to have what amounts to a personal butler who explains each tea varietal and dish and paces out the service across three courses. Beginning with Lot 35 loose leaf teas, the coursing moves into sandwiches like turkey, goat cheese and fig chutney, or a savory crab roll with Old Bay aioli and preserved lemon, and then gets into scones and sweets. Profiteroles with chocolate and sea salt caramel steal the show, but Basque cheesecake with marmalade is an unexpected treat too. Follow the suggestion of food and beverage manager Malik Washington and order the Joie de Provence, an herbal blend that splits the difference between Rooibos, berry, rose and French lavender. Standard tea service is $95 per person.
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An overhead shot of a tiered tray of pastries, a dessert plate, cups of tea and a tea pot.
(Eddie Sanchez)

Lilly Rose at the Wayfarer 

Downtown L.A. Teahouse Bar/Nightclub $$
High tea and highballs is a decidedly boozier, modern take on a traditional tea service, even if the sandwiches and sweet treats are on par with the classics. Located in the basement of the Wayfarer Hotel in downtown L.A., this speakeasy parlor sets the Mad Hatter tone immediately with a room full of plush, Victorian-era decor that skews slightly witchy. The “not so proper” tea time ($65 per guest) begins with a house-made concoction of apples (or peaches) and cream. Then comes the three-tiered tray of tiny blueberry scones, sandwiches and sweets. That, along with a special selection of Damman blended teas and whimsical cocktails available to add on, make this one of the most unique tea experiences in the city.
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An overhead shot of a tiered tray of pastries, a floral teapot and teacup with a saucer.
(The Biltmore Los Angeles)

Rendezvous Court at the Biltmore

Downtown L.A. Teahouse $$$
It’s hard to beat the setting for high tea at the historic Biltmore hotel in downtown Los Angeles. Hosted on a biweekly basis, the cathedral-like former lobby includes Moorish carved wood ceilings with gold-leaf accents, a fountain made of rose marble and a sprawling Baroque staircase, all within a century-old room that’s been used in countless film and TV projects. Post-church families and women dressed to the nines share space next to the babbling fountain, drinking out of Royal Albert Bone China while classical music pours into the room from hidden speakers. Blends from St. Bastian Tea Company are served strong and piping hot, while a glass of champagne or sparkling cider comes standard. Though the tea sandwiches and sweets are fairly standard here, the buttermilk scones with cherry jam are a standout, and the space itself is an easy favorite. Tea service is $75 per person.
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A selection of tea sandwiches
(Jose Lopez)

Rose Garden Tea Room at the Huntington

San Marino Teahouse $$
After a three-year closure, the $11.2-million renovation of the Huntington’s Rose Garden Tea Room is complete. The remodeled space will reopen for tea service ($62 per guest) on May 24, and reservations can be made beginning May 10. Updating the historic space meant building additional space for more guests, including the new Herb Room on the west side near the herb garden and an outdoor space, the Shakespeare Pavilion, that opens into the Shakespeare Garden.

The menu from executive chef Jeff Thurston nods to English tradition with plenty of room for California influence. Butterscotch maple scones are a sweeter update to the British original, and a cucumber sandwich with peppery radish and watercress is more vegetal than some versions. On the lavish side of things, caviar service and a lobster salad with black truffle are decadent treats. For the tea itself, both the Huntington signature and Huntington rose blend are a great place to start. Roses were the favorite flower of Arabella Huntington, wife of Henry Huntington, who founded the Huntington Library.
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A cup of tea and a pastry with jam and clotted cream on floral china from Rose Tree Cottage.
(Rose Tree Cottage)

Rose Tree Cottage

Pasadena Teahouse $$
Hands down, Edmund and Mary Fry deliver the most personal tea experience in all of California. Growing up near Windsor Castle, Edmund was born during World War II and might share his earliest memories of the blackouts and bombings if you strike up a conversation during tea. While the actual cottage is filled with British goods, old-world tchotchkes and all manner of English paraphernalia, most of the tea service ($65 per person) is hosted outdoors, in a rose garden adorned with posters of “Downton Abbey,” Union Jack flags and colorful decor. Even with the astroturf and mismatched lawn chairs, there is an air of gentle elegance, heightened by Fry in his tails, escorting guests to their seats and offering tips on proper etiquette, if desired.

The hosts at Rose Tree Cottage pour the tea for you so it remains hot throughout, serving a single proprietary English Village Tea blend of Ceylon, Indian and Kenyan teas, and the most authentic British treats, hot from the specialty Aga oven. Warmed savory pastries include beef wellington, jubilee chicken and toad-in-the-hole or Welsh rarebit. Scones, sweets, fresh fruit and a sparkling, nonalcoholic elderflower cordial round out the courses. This is also where Meghan Markle learned to take tea with the late queen, and fans of the Duchess will get a kick out of imagining her holding court at one of the tables in the back.
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An overhead shot of a tea spread with pastries, dried fruit, a vase with flowers and magazines
(Connie and Stewart)

Steep LA

Downtown L.A. Teahouse $$
For Steep LA co-owner Samuel Wang, the process of sitting down for a tea ceremony is as much about building community and having deep conversations as it is what’s in the cup — but he has feelings about that too. The menu describes the process of brewing tea correctly as “kung fu,” or a learned skill, perfected. A full pot serves up to four people, comes with two pastries and one serving of dried fruit per person, all served on handmade ceramics.

Offering the basics of a traditional Chinese tea ceremony, down to steep time and water temperature, patrons are also welcome to select and brew their own tea, or order a single cup of iced or hot tea. Started in 2019 as a pop-up, the shop also offers Steep After Dark, a tea and spirits menu, from 4 to 10 p.m. on select evenings. With a contemporary living room feel and a brand-new Sunday afternoon tea service, Steep is a serious contender for those looking to expand their tea knowledge in a relaxed environment. Tea is also for sale, as are small savory bites and seasonal noodle and rice dishes.
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Kei Okumura opened Sugarbird Sweets in Montrose at the end of 2022, offering one of the more affordable tea services in town, including a pot of tea with unlimited refills and one large scone or two small scones, with additional desserts and tea sandwiches available to add on.
(Sugarbird Sweets)

Sugarbird Sweets

Glendale Teahouse Pastries $
With a reputation for remarkable scones that‘s already been co-signed by Bristol Farms, the opening of Kei Okumura’s Sugarbird Sweets Cafe in Montrose is a boon for the area. Classically trained as a pastry chef in Paris, Okumura combines her Japanese heritage and California ingredients with traditional French methods, resulting in scones, pastries and sandwiches that are distinctly her own and a bit more casual than some of the fussier British tea services.

Okumura’s tea service includes a pot of tea with unlimited refills and one large scone ($15 per person) or two small ones ($18 per person), along with a couple of mignardises, or tiny sweets. Tea sandwiches and a cheese board can be added for an additional cost. The bevy of scone flavors make choosing hard, but the classic buttermilk cream cheese, matcha and white chocolate lavender are top-notch. Tack on a tray of tea sandwiches on Japanese milkbread with fillings like fig, brie and arugula for a truly perfect setup.
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A three-tiered tower with sausage rolls, sweet pastries and a pot of tea from The Cat & Fiddle Pub & Restaurant.
(Philip Guerette)

The Cat & Fiddle Pub & Restaurant

Hollywood Teahouse Pub $$
Relocated from its former home on Sunset Boulevard, the family-run Cat & Fiddle has successfully brought the British pub experience to Los Angeles for years, so why not add tea? With a menu full of homemade classics and the incredibly accessible price point of $38 — for serving sizes that are quite a bit larger than many of the hotel counterparts, no less — don’t be surprised if you’re seated next to charming regulars who extol the virtues of this place. A beloved longtime fixture in the Hollywood dining scene, the traditional sausage roll and Tottenham cake are not to be beat, followed closely by an expert take on a minted cucumber and mascarpone sandwich. Add a split of bubbles for $12 and call it a day, or follow the owner’s advice and pick up a takeaway box for a snack before a weekend show at the Hollywood Bowl.
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British tea spread with savory sandwiches, sweets and tea in floral china.
(The Langham Huntington, Pasadena)

The Langham Huntington

Teahouse $$$
The Langham Huntington is a winning choice for a fancy tea party. Held in the Lobby Lounge, which is set just a little ways back from the actual lobby and bookended with views of the Horseshoe Garden and the rest of the grounds, floor-to-ceiling windows make this a light and airy space for a formal occasion. Cherry almond scones and strawberry lychee macarons are standouts on the spring menu at this traditional British tea service ($75 per person), with signature three-tiered trays for savory sandwiches, a host of sweets and tea taken in delicate floral china.
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A tray of pastries and sandwiches, cups of tea, glasses of champagne and cake
(Vanessa Tierney Photography)

The Living Room at Peninsula Beverly Hills

Beverly Hills Teahouse $$$$
The Peninsula has long been held as the gold standard for afternoon tea service in L.A., and it’s hard to argue with that distinction. As the sole outlet that offers tea seven days a week, its commitment to the ritual is apparent, and the tranquil setting in the Living Room off the lobby, with a live harpist, custom-made china, plush velvet chairs and garden views, is a superb place to unwind.

The only difference between the two tea options ($125 per person) is whether a glass of sparkling rosé or champagne is offered to start. Scones, sweets and savories are all prepared fresh to order, and a tomato sandwich with grilled asparagus is a refreshing vegetarian option among the traditional tea sandwiches. To close out the service, a lemon-almond bundt cake with hibiscus cream is the platonic ideal of a tea cake — soft, tart and warm. For those who want to linger longer or take tea to a more energetic place, the hotel just launched a new weekend Tea Party on the Belvedere Terrace, which features bottomless bubbles, DJs, floral cocktails, iced tea and a host of fashion and beauty collaborations.
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tiered pastry tray with white tea set
(The London West Hollywood at Beverly Hills)

The London West Hollywood

West Hollywood Teahouse $$$
Impeccable service is a hallmark of the London West Hollywood, and afternoon tea is no different. Head through the Lobby Bar and into the Sitting Room, where tea guests are serenaded by a harpist. Offering selections from the Rare Tea Company in London, tea service ($84 per guest), includes one tea pot per person, a selection of sandwiches, seasonal pastries and cake. Lemon verbena with honey is a mellow choice for cloudy weather. The bite-size sandwiches are fresh, but it’s the fine pastries that stand out here, especially rosewater shortbread and salted caramel eclairs.
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tiered pastry tray with teas on a table outside
(Victoria Wall Harris)

The Maybourne

Beverly Hills Teahouse $$$$
Tea service at the Maybourne Beverly Hills is elevated by servers who are extremely knowledgeable and well-informed about the tradition. The hotel serves blends from the Rare Tea Company, just like its sister property Claridge’s in London, and staff are happy to give recommendations on flavor and pairings (like trying the iced tea for a nice change of pace). Served on the Terrace, this service offers indoor and outdoor seating options.

A translucent glass teapot and silver tea strainer add a touch of elegance, with food options such as a ham and Gruyère sandwich on sourdough and an exceptional egg salad that combines hard and soft yolks for a Japanese-style bite. A plain Claridge’s scone with bergamot oil and a Maybourne scone with golden raisins are served before a sweets course with a lemon curd religieuse and coconut Bavarian cream. At $125 per guest, this tea has a higher price point than most, but the quality backs it up.
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A spread with tea sandwiches, pastries, salad, teacups, a teapot, a glass of water and champagne.
(The Tea House on Los Rios )

The Tea House on Los Rios

San Juan Capistrano Teahouse $$
While the number of tea rooms in Orange County is quite substantial, this historic, family-run spot is the unequivocal recommendation. Damian Orozco is the second-generation steward of the Tea House on Los Rios, a renovated cottage from 1911 that his grandparents Allan and Claudia Niccola bought and restored in the late ‘90s on a historic street in San Juan Capistrano. The menu is more extensive than what you’ll find at most tea houses, with full-size entrees, several multicourse tea experiences (running from $39 to $72 per guest), desserts, “young royal” experiences for children, and even a plain old pot of tea for $8. You might even meet Damian’s mom working behind the counter, if you time your visit right. Don’t forget to check out Teaque, the boutique next door, for tea cups and fascinators and 58 types of loose-leaf organic tea.
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pastries on plates on an outdoor table
(Valerie Confections)

Valerie Confections

Glendale Teahouse Chocolate shop Bakery $$
For close to two decades, Valerie Gordon has been a force in the confection world of Los Angeles. She’s recently expanded from her initial cafe in Echo Park to a more spacious flagship shop in Glendale and is hosting an afternoon tea ($65 per person) in the quaint outdoor garden area. Held just one Saturday per month to start, the first reservations quickly sold out and the shop is now booking for summer slots.

With a self-described style of “Euro Californian with vague Asian notes” (Gordon is half Chinese), the tea shop serves blends of Japanese tea from Kettl and crème fraîche scones that get better with every bite. Tea sandwiches on house-made milk bread include chicken salad, egg salad, and cheese and chutney, and guests can choose their own flavors from a petit fours selection, along with fresh fruit. All parties get some of Gordon’s signature chocolates as a take-home gift, and will likely be picking up more tea cakes and pastries on the way out. One suggestion: The gluten-free mochi shoyu caramel cake with a black sesame center. If there is a heaven, this cake is served there.
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a selection of pastries and jam on a tray
(Simone Dib)

Ye Olde King's Head

Santa Monica Teahouse $
Let Ye Olde King‘s Head tea expert Christine Mcintosh guide you through a lovely cuppa in the magenta and black tea room that’s tucked in the back of this Santa Monica staple. Just $35 for a tray of savory sandwiches (including an authentic sausage roll), pastries and scones, this tea service will even swap out tea for coffee if you prefer. With the added accessibility of weekday service and a glass of bubbles available for an additional $5, the kitschy pub experience is elevated by authentic floral china from Adderley Ceramics. There’s also a psychic tea option for $60 that includes a clairvoyant reading.
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