The Arts District has a friendly neighbor who invites all of LA over for a convivial cup of tea. And instead of doilies and fine China, you’ll be welcomed by a tea garden entry and then sip from modern, double-walled glass cups inside a lofty space bedecked with wood, stone, and contemporary art. With a selection of over 200 teas, American Tea Room (909 S Santa Fe Ave, Los Angeles, CA 90021) has purveyed teas in Beverly Hills since 2003. They opened this Downtown outlet (a couple of blocks from Bestia) last fall.
Already a serene work-remotely or unexpected business meeting spot, American Tea Room serves tea-infused lunch fare. Their tasty food—the creativity of Valerie Gordon, the chocolatier of Valerie Confections fame—has spun the savory and sweet cafe menu into a distinctive afternoon tea service.
The tea service includes three options and an a la carte menu. For a well-rounded tasting, I recommend the American Tea service. For $35 per person, this includes a pot of tea, creme fraiche scone with Tangier butter and preserves, chai chicken sandwich (if you like curry, you’ll love this), watercress sandwich, smoked salmon and chive cream pinwheel, and a few sweets, including the tea tradition: petit fours.
You can order champagne for your unbirthday party and anything else that strikes your fancy, whether it’s an elegant glass tea pot or the rare 1992 Vintage Pu Er tea from Yunnan China, with notes of chicory and chanterelles. Which brings me to the best part: the tea. Many of which are prepared with a techie BKON craft brewer that uses reverse atmospheric infusion technology to brew a cup of tea in t-minus 60 seconds, which means no having to wait three or five or however many minutes for your tea to steep.
The informed staff can help you select, and you can also sniff for yourself in the interactive Tea Zone. You can’t miss it when you walk inside the glass doors. Rows of beakers containing leaves, berries, and other dried delicacies are color-coded according to tea type. You can scan the tube’s barcode to read more about it on a large screen on the wall. Smelling the aromas of your brew ahead of time creates a refined sensory experience—one whiff of sweet croissants from the Brioche Organic and I was in. The Tea Zone also helps narrow your mood as it can be hard to select from the myriad of blacks, greens, oolongs, whites, matchas, and herbals available.
And now, a few of my introductory American Tea Room sips in no particular order but all particular in their own way:
With slices of almonds, cinnamon, and safflower blossoms this black tea blend delivers the decadence of a morning pastry sans the calories. I add organic half and half for daily indulgence.
My afternoon pick-me-up, this is a light-caffeine green blended with peach and passion fruit for a pretty sweetness. Divine on ice.
Arya Pearl 2016 First Flush Darjeeling
This just-plucked white organic tea tastes elegantly earthy. American Tea Room is the only place in the US that sells it. A real treat.