Let’s talk tea, shall we? It’s coffee’s sophisticated cousin. It’s a ritual—a warm hug in a mug. Tea is a great way to calm down or catch up. And have you ever seen the over-the-top platters that go with your Earl Grey or English breakfast? To die for. There’s something sweet, something savory, and it’s all miniature and finger-food friendly. You may not realize it, but we actually have some pretty posh tea places here in Southern California. We’ve dotted our i’s and crossed our tea’s to make a list of the best tea houses for a pot. No need to steep it a secret! Spread the brews.
This place is as cute as they come. What feels like an old farmstead cottage is actually a charming Los Rios district restaurant—creaky floorboards and all. There’s a huge wrap-around deck that makes for the perfect place to cheers over a chai or gossip over an Earl Grey. Be sure to snap a photo in the fluorescent pink phone booth and scope out their on-site shop filled with exotic teas and all the trinkets.
Location: San Juan Capistrano
This hip, new Huntington Beach cafe has upgraded the traditional for a modern elevated twist on tea. This place is light, bright and bubbly—which, speaking of, you can also upgrade to if you want something stronger to sip on. Try their Wagyu cookies with truffle butter for a crazy flavor combination. They are also serving up some serious signature coffee creations like their crème brulee latte. The modern high tea runs $65, with the traditional tea priced at $50. Feel free to bring the little ones with you; they can enjoy their very own version of this afternoon ritual.
Location: Huntington Beach
This is one of the hottest reservations in town when it comes to booking a tea time. You’ll be able to enjoy the flatlay of your dreams with feminine tea sets and tablescapes, which make for an amazing Instagram opportunity. The tea service costs $49 and includes four finger sandwiches, a seasonal scone, three petite desserts and a pot of fine tea. They have really fun tea flavors like cucumber melon, peaches and cream, and honey lavender, so there’s something for everyone. Plus, you can shop at the on-site boutique afterward for a little post-sipping retail therapy. Just be sure to book in advance because reservations fill up quickly!
Who doesn’t love a themed experience? The Hello Kitty Grand Café at Irvine Spectrum is Sanrio overload, offering afternoon tea from 11 a.m. until 2:30 p.m. Wednesday through Friday and starting at 10 a.m. on the weekends. For $60 per person, you can enjoy strawberries and cream, savory sandwiches and seasonal scones. Everything is cute and Hello Kitty themed. You can even get some Sanrio swag to-go after scoping out their expansive array of Hello Kitty merchandise. This place is photogenic and friendly and a great spot to spend an afternoon.
Location: Irvine Spectrum
There is nothing like high tea at a fancy hotel. It just fits the whole vibe; plus, you usually get to people-watch the loiterers in the lobby, which is its own version of tea. We love a good sip and scope. Enjoy live music and plenty of delicious munchies like macarons, aged white cheddar and chive muffins, and mini pastries. They offer this unique service Thursday through Sunday from 1-3:30 p.m. at $52 per person. What a great excuse to catch up with a friend or sneak away for a little afternoon self-care.
Location: San Diego
Rendezvous Court is as grandiose as it comes with its high ceilings, gold-leaf accents and rose marble fountain that sits central to the venue. Afternoon tea here feels like an elevated experience complete with champagne and chivalry. At $75 per person, admission includes a specially curated menu that pairs perfectly with your choice of tea. Oh, and did we mention it also includes a glass of bubbly? Yeah, the Biltmore really knows how to host a high tea.
Location: Downtown Los Angeles
The Peninsula Hotel is a fixture in the land of film and television. Its iconic interiors have been graced by the likes of all of your favorite celebrities, and this is your chance to soak in the history over a spot of tea and some clotted cream. The Living Room is a glorified lobby restaurant that has been offering afternoon tea for ages. They do it well and they do it right. Their traditional tea includes a tray of all of the classic sweet and savory snacks as well as a glass of champagne for $135 per person. Upgrade to bottomless bubbles for an additional $35.
Location: Beverly Hills
The Langham is synonymous with luxury. Their afternoon tea is a staple at this worldwide hospitality hotspot. Fluffy scones? Check. Fine pastries? Check. Savory finger sandwiches? Check, check and check. This specialty service is offered Thursday through Sunday from 10 a.m. to 3:30 p.m. and starts at $50 per person. They are also hosting a Teddy Bear Tea on various dates throughout the month of December, featuring a reading of “A Visit from St. Nicholas,” a puppeteer’s performance from the Bob Baker Marionette Players and a visit from the finest Santa Claus on this side of the North Pole (and his inimitable helper Jack Frost).
This is one of the hidden gems of San Diego and an experience to remember. Inspired by the traditional European afternoon teas, Marlene’s has created a sippers sanctuary where English breakfast enthusiasts can enjoy tea and treats in a relaxed setting. This cute little locale is situated about 20 minutes inland from Del Mar and Solana Beach in Rancho Santa Fe and is closed Mondays and Tuesdays. At $35 per person, this spot is doing an upscale afternoon tea at an affordable price—that is something we can put our pinkies up for!
Location: Rancho Santa Fe
This old Victorian home becomes tea town every Thursday through Sunday, when it transforms into a brewhouse serving up scones, sweets and flavors that are steeped. This spot is tucked away in Heritage Park overlooking Old Town and feels like a respite to the hustle and bustle of big city life. The chocolate chip toffee scones will make you forget your problems, and the surrounding estate is ideal for a post-tea stroll. Reservations are highly encouraged as the venue gets crowded quickly.
Location: Heritage Park
Originally published in Locale Magazine
Text by Jane Adler