Tea at the Huntington Rose Garden

“There are few hours in life more agreeable than the hour dedicated to the ceremony known as afternoon tea.”
Henry James, The Portrait of a Lady

Another birthday, another tea party.

For my birthday last year, I wanted to spend another afternoon dressing dapper and attending an afternoon tea. I invited some close friends, my mother and my grandmother, as they hadn’t been to a tea room before and wanted to try it.

I have found that there are several tea room and afternoon tea experiences around Southern California if you use Google to find them. Price ranges and experiences differ depending on the location, obviously; I’d like to venture out and visit all of them.

This time around, I found that The Huntington Library, Art Collections, and Botanical Gardens in San Marino (near Pasadena, California) has a Tea Room dining experience in their Rose Garden promising “an elegant and memorable experience inspired by the tradition of English tea service with a distinctive California twist”.

I made reservations through OpenTable and started thinking about outfit ideas for the day.

My birthday weekend rolled around and everyone invited gathered at my house so we could carpool together. My mom offered to drive and there was minimal traffic on our way to the Pasadena area.

One nice thing about going to the Huntington is that parking is free. However, admission is $25 for adults (19-64), $21 for seniors (65+) and $13 for kids (4-11). Admission includes access to all of the Galleries, Gardens and Special Exhibits that they are currently offering but the afternoon tea at the Tea Room is a separate price ($35); I do wish that they offered a special admission price if you were dining at the Rose Garden.

After buying our tickets, we venturing into the vast expanse of the Huntington Grounds to find the Rose Garden. Even with maps in hand and signs to point us in the general direction, we got slightly turned around but still made it on time to our reservation.

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Photo from the Huntington’s Rose Garden Tea Room official Instagram @rosegardentearoom

The Tea Room was housed in a smaller building directly adjacent to the Rose Garden. Blissfully, when we opened the door, a burst of cold air and a welcoming hostess greeted us. We were shown to our table and I took the chance to snap a few pictures of the room.

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The rose motif was featured in small pictures around the room.

The Tea Room housed about 17 small tables filled with groups of ladies enjoying their tea. The large windows allowed sunlight to fill and brighten the room and offered views of the surrounding garden.

 

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Our waitress was very friendly and took the time to explain how afternoon tea works to my mom and grandmother. She mentioned that the two types of teas that were listed at the top (The Huntington Signature Blend and the Huntington Rose Blend) were exclusive to the Huntington and all of the other tea offerings were provided by the Art of Tea.

I like my tea sweet so I ordered the Chocolate Banana dessert tea. It was wonderful. There was a hint of banana and the sweetness of chocolate meant that I didn’t feel the need to add any additional milk or sugar.

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The food was brought out and again, our waitress explained how to eat the different tiers. My friend Shelby has a shellfish and mushroom allergy so our waitress made sure that there were additional sandwiches for her to enjoy.

 

We started from the top and each grabbed a scone. They were a bit dry but still very tasty. Different jams and curds were provided as toppings; I have to say I was partial to the lemon curd.

 

There were five different finger sandwiches: English Cucumber, Smoked Salmon and Caviar, Avocado Mushroom, Chicken Salad, and Truffle-Egg Salad.

 

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The English Cucumber sandwich had a small layer of cream cheese, thinly sliced cucumber, a few bits of radish and micro watercress on rye bread. It had just the right amount of crunch and the bread wasn’t dry.

The Smoked Salmon and Caviar sandwich was probably my favorite out of the finger sandwiches. The salmon pieces were thick with just a hint of smokiness and complimented well with the dill cream cheese underneath. The pumpernickel bread was soft and the small bit of caviar wasn’t overwhelming.

The Avocado Mushroom sandwich was covered in arugula. There was definitely more avocado than mushroom but it was nice because the mushroom taste wasn’t overpowering. There was a lot of flavor in the combination and it was slightly salty.

The Chicken Salad sandwich was wonderfully creamy. It was a light sandwich with pops of chicken and red bell pepper.

The Truffle Egg Salad sandwich was the cutest of the bunch. It was served in a miniature phyllo dough cup and looked like a quiche. It was creamy as well and had a lot of fresh flavor.

Lastly, there were six different desserts (Tiramisu, Rose Cookie, Coconut Macaroon, Red Velvet Petit Cupcake, Apple Pie and a Profiterole) and our waitress also surprised me with a birthday crème brûlée!

 

We probably would’ve spent a few hours looking around the Rose Garden and the other surrounding Gardens but since our reservation was at 2pm and we thoroughly took our time and enjoyed our tea, we ventured out to the Rose Garden around 4pm and the Huntington Grounds closed at 5pm. A security guard made his way around to gather us and other visitors and asked us to start heading towards the entrance of the Grounds.

Again, we took our time heading out, slowly admiring the buildings and plant displays as we followed the signs and pathways to browse the gift shop.

My favorite thing about trying different afternoon teas is comparing them. The atmosphere at the Huntington was my first experience in what I believe is a traditional tea room; the room itself was definitely smaller than I expected and the decorations were a bit bland compared to the gorgeous patio dining I loved at the Afternoon Tea at the Mission Inn. (However it was ridiculously hot that day so I appreciated the air conditioning). The food was great and your general “tea time” sandwiches and didn’t feel overly stuffed from the food and tea.

Overall, I think the tea at the Huntington was fun and enjoyable. If you want to visit the grounds of the Huntington, I would recommend trying to get an earlier reservation slot so you have to wander the grounds. Like I mentioned before, while the price of the tea itself wasn’t overly priced (I have found that most teas range from $30-$50 depending on where you go and what you order), having the additional admission price to the Grounds seemed a bit much to me.

Have you experienced tea at the Huntington Library? What did you think? Are there any other afternoon teas you think I should try? Comment below and let me know!

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