O Christmas tea, O Christmas tea! For people who love the beverage, there’s no better way to mark the holiday than with a sit-down tea. Some of Southern California’s most elegant hotels offer guests a chance to visit their lobbies and stroll the grounds, drink aromatic teas and nibble on finger sandwiches and scones with blackberry jam, and then top it all off with a Champagne chaser.
It’s a perfect time to introduce children to the custom of afternoon tea. While Earl Grey might not be to their liking, they’ll love the sweet stuff, such as petits fours and bonbons. Or hire a sitter, leave the kids at home and enjoy the tea party with a group of friends. Make sure to make reservations before you go. Here’s a sampling of local hotels that put on a spread.
Waldorf Astoria Beverly Hills
At the hotel’s Nutcracker Tea, a harpist plays on weekends, and the holiday menu includes scones, sandwiches and pastries, many featuring seasonal ingredients such as chestnuts and pumpkin. The annual tea usually includes a ballet performance at the beginning of the holiday season inspired by the Los Angeles Ballet’s rendition of “The Nutcracker.” Held in the lobby lounge, the party includes Nutcracker tea by Tealeaves ($75); add a little bubbly with a glass of champagne ($95 to $145).
Dates: 2-5 p.m., now through Dec. 29
Details: Waldorf Astoria Beverly Hills, 9850 Wilshire Blvd., Beverly Hills; tea reservations: (310) 860-6700.
The Peninsula Beverly Hills
Sip in the living room at the Peninsula Beverly Hills, where you’ll listen to classical harp music and lounge in large sofas in front of the room’s two fireplaces. Guests can choose from 19 loose-leaf teas custom-blended for the Peninsula Beverly Hills; and holiday treats, which include gingersnap truffles and cranberry orange cream puffs. The Royal Tea features a pot of tea, a glass of Champagne, scones, tea sandwiches and pastries. The Imperial Tea comes with all of the above plus a savory caviar cake and a Peninsula Page Boy cap cake wrapped to take home. $78-$95 per person.
Dates: Teas held year-round; served daily at noon, 2:30 and 5 p.m.
Details: Peninsula Beverly Hills, 9882 Santa Monica Blvd., Beverly Hills; (310) 551-2888.
Wolfgang Puck at Hotel Bel-Air
Looking for a tea with a Los Angeles-style twist? You’ll find it in the Bel-Air, which has an emphasis on SoCal’s organic flavors. Fifteen loose-leaf teas are available, accompanied by savory bites, scones with homemade preserves, and a selection of sweets. Prepaid reservation required; it costs $60 for adults, $36 for children.
Dates: Fridays and Saturdays year-round, 3 to 5 p.m.
Details: Hotel Bel-Air, 701 Stone Canyon Road, Los Angeles; (310) 909-1644.
Take a break from holiday shopping in downtown L.A. at the Biltmore’s iconic Rendezvous Court, known for its Moorish carved-wood ceilings and marble fountain. The afternoon tea, featuring live music, includes selections from a miniature patisserie, as well as caviar, smoked salmon and goat cheese tea sandwiches; $65 for adults, $33 for children.
Dates: 2 to 5 p.m., Saturdays and Sundays through Dec. 29.
Details: Millennium Biltmore, 506 S. Grand Ave., Los Angeles; (213) 612-1562.
The London West Hollywood
Pretend you’re a Brit at this English-style tea party, which takes its inspiration from Henrietta Lovell, founder of the Rare Tea Co. in London. Guests can choose from eight specialty Rare Tea types, then dine on traditional sandwiches such as English cucumber with lemon and watercress; house-made pastries such as gingerbread cookies, peppermint macarons; and nutmeg-spiced custard. It costs $48 per person.
Dates: 1 and 4 p.m., Saturdays and Sundays through December. Reservations required.
Details: The London West Hollywood, 1020 N. San Vicente Blvd., West Hollywood; (310) 358-7788.
Langham Huntington Hotel
There’s only one Teddy Bear Tea in Southern California, and it’s at this Pasadena hotel. A longtime holiday tradition, the kid-friendly event includes a puppet show, storytelling and pictures with Santa. Children can skip traditional tea party foods in favor of cookies, hot chocolate and milk. Guests are asked to bring one unwrapped, packaged gift for donation to a children’s charity. It costs $73 per adult and $58 for kids younger than 12.
Dates: 10 a.m. on Dec. 16, 17, 18 and 24; 10 a.m. and 1:30 p.m. Dec. 14, 15, 19-23.
Details: Langham Huntington Hotel, 1401 S. Oak Knoll Ave., Pasadena 91106; (626) 585-6218.
Resort at Pelican Hill
Santa stays busy during the holidays at the Resort at Pelican Hill, which schedules Kris Kringle story time and gingerbread house decorating, in addition to a Yuletide Tea in the Great Room Social Lounge. Guests can sip contemporary blends while enjoying savory and sweet small bites. Tea-based cocktails and sparkling wines available à la carte. Price: $85 for adults, $65 for children.
Dates: 2 to 5 p.m. Fridays through Sundays, until Dec. 22.
Details: Resort at Pelican Hill, 22701 S. Pelican Hill Road, Newport Beach.
Ritz-Carlton Laguna Niguel
Get a first-rate view of the Pacific while you sip tea at Ritz-Carlton Laguna Niguel, which is holding its Holiday Tea in its oceanside restaurant Raya. The menu includes traditional tea canapes such as cucumber and herb cream cheese plus local flavors such as lobster tails and avocado hummus and alfalfa sprouts. Sweets include pumpkin tart cranberry whip and chocolate yule log. It costs $78 per person.
Dates: 2:30 to 3:30 p.m. Mondays through Thursdays, until Dec. 19.
Details: Ritz-Carlton Laguna Niguel, One Ritz-Carlton Drive, Dana Point.