The Huntington Library is hands-down one of my favorite spots to visit in Los Angeles. Founded in 1919, this historical landmark has it all. Art galleries, manuscripts, outdoor garden wonderlands–tea culture is brimming at every corner here. But as much as I loved their gardens and gift shop (my favorite gift shop in LA!), I could never fully endorse the afternoon tea there. I found their buffet-style tea a little too casual and unfinished. In a setting as impressive as these gardens, the tea experience itself was rather disappointing. I’m very happy to report that the tea service at The Huntington has been revamped and born again! Gone is the central island filled with tea sandwiches and sweets placed side-by-side. You can now expect a more traditional, 3-tiered English-style presentation, but with a California twist. The tea selections are now exclusively offered through Art of Tea, LA-based tea makers who specialize in handcrafted artisan and organic teas.
I’ve gotten into a habit of always ordering the venue’s signature tea, so on the day I visited I enjoyed the Huntington Blend. This black tea reminded me of Earl Grey, but more fruity and with softer bergamot notes. The tea was perfectly steeped and definitely in keeping with the floral and Victorian inspiration of the gardens.My table faced the French doors overlooking the quaint herb garden. The waiter mentioned how the doors are sometimes opened for special occasions like Mother’s Day, when guests can stroll directly into the gardens after they’ve enjoyed a leisurely afternoon tea.
Here’s a closer look at the savories and sweets. I particularly loved the delicate Truffle Egg Salad Phyllo Tart and the Mushroom, Arugula and Tomato Sandwich–strong in flavor, but wonderful with the tea. I’ve always enjoyed the scones here, so the fresh crumpet was unexpected, but also delicious.If you like caviar, get the Sturgeon Caviar on House-Made Blinis. These were a real treat, and definitely an item that reminded me how much tea at The Huntington has changed from days past!You’ll have to purchase an entrance ticket in order to enjoy tea at the Rose Garden Tea Room (unless it’s Free Day, the 1st Thursday of the month!), so it’s a good idea to plan a solid half-day for your visit here. After you’ve finished afternoon tea, don’t forget to make plenty of time to roam about the gardens. The Huntington has made huge strides in making their landscapes drought-tolerant and sustainable. Fun fact: they even use leftover steeped tea leaves from the tea room as compost!
Special thanks to Hristina Pesheva of Bon Appétit Management Company for coordinating my visit.
The Huntington Library & Botanical Gardens
1151 Oxford Road
San Marino, CA 91108
626.405.2100 (For reservations-not required but strongly suggested)