Tea Time in Newport Beach
Having recently completed a wellness cleanse that nixed my morning ritual of caffeine (and thus, coffee) for 21 days, I’ve come to experience a newfound appreciation for tea, especially the decaf variety. Now that this cleanse has officially ended, I still find myself seeking out the beverage’s brilliant herbal goodness. And, in Newport Beach, there are a multitude of choices readily at hand not only for me, but for all of the many other tea lovers out there as well. From restaurants to hotels, and of course, teahouses, here are just some of the area’s top choices when it comes to places where you can enjoy a delicious spot of tea … and maybe some treats, too. After all, I did say that cleanse has officially ended!
Ultra-luxurious The Resort at Pelican Hill has updated the age-old custom of meeting for English Afternoon Tea with its new Tea Moderno service, available Friday-Sunday in the Tuscan-inspired Great Room Social Lounge from 2-4 p.m. That’s when you can try out contemporary blends featuring classic and emerging tea market selections — including Organic Jasmine Pearl, Imperial Green, Organic Chamomile Flowers, Earl Grey, English Breakfast and Organic Peppermint — while savoring Italian-inspired small bites. (Think cured salmon and grapes on French ficelle bread, cucumber with tatazki and mint on flax ficelle, yellow beets with goat cheese on squaw raisin, machengo and lemon preserves on a French baguette and more.) Did we mention the chef’s scrumptious selection of pastries? Among them: Grand Marnier cream puffs, hazelnut chocolate and mixed berry Bavarian tarts, pistachio madeleines, raspberry lychee rose cups and assorted éclair macaroons. Tea-based cocktails also are available à la carte, for $10-$14, from the Té Bellino (Jasmine tea, peach puree, fino sherry and villa Sandi) to mint tea julep (peppermint tea, Sazerac rye, BrancaMenta and fresh mint). Tea Moderno is $55 per adult, $35 per child ages 4-16 (excluding tax and service charge), plus free bomboloncini and hot cocoa for children ages 4 and younger. For an extra $75 per person, you can even magnify your tea experience with a glass of Prosecco and American caviar.
New on the Scene
The gourmet tea purveyor known for its exclusive global blends recently opened its first O.C. locale at Fashion Island (adjacent to R+D Kitchen and Canaletto Ristorante Veneto, in the Neiman Marcus wing). Not only does the American Tea Room bar and shop offer a curated selection of 200-plus high-quality loose-leaf teas hand chosen by CEO David Barenholtz, it’s also the only tea vendor in California to use the BKON Craft Brewer, which can create a perfect pot of fine tea in less than 60 seconds. Among the wide range of tea choices available here: rare matchas, whimsical rooibos mixtures, USDA-certified organics, Earl Grey blends and more. And, get this … customers even can select teas based on their current moods, from calming to invigorating. Tasty selections will be available March 2016 to accompany your meal — from sandwiches to panna cotta. On the hunt for some designer teaware? You can find that here as well — everything from Japanese cast iron teapots to porcelain teacups.
Market and More
Also found at Fashion Island, the natural and organic Whole Foods Market has a new bulk tea section with some beautiful selections at its Tea Hive, a fusion cafe and tea bar. Customers can choose green, black or oolong tea in almost any imaginable form — whether frozen, sparkling, iced or steamed. Specialty drinks are made in martini shakers by “Tea Tenders.” Among the offerings: the Pomarita (a blend of pomegranate and tart lime with green tea) and Chocolate Chai (black tea, spiced chai, chocolate and cinnamon). Paired with these delicious beverages, are natural fusion entrees, such as bowls and wraps using local and organic products.
The 2.2-acre Corona del Mar horticultural retreat Sherman Library & Gardens is a great place to see living plants displayed amid a setting of pristine gardens, patios and conservatories. But it’s also the perfect location for some tea and crepes. Visit the attraction’s casual and serene outdoor Tea Garden Creperie to partake in specialty teas served alongside handmade crepes, pastries and sandwiches. Or enjoy Afternoon Tea among the beautiful floral setting of the Gardens. Held on the second Wednesday of each month (at 2:30, 2:45 and 3 p.m.) and the last Wednesday of the month (at 2:30 p.m.), the tea is $32 per person (plus gratuity, tax and $5 garden admission) and includes a pot of tea (choose from High Mountain black tea, apple green or strawberry red), along with a petite currant and chocolate scones with homemade strawberry jam, lemon curd and sweet butter, tea sandwiches (including herb cream cheese and roasted red pepper, petite brioche pain with Kurobuta ham, gruyere and moutarde, and more). What’s for dessert? Chocolate truffle cappuccino chantilly cup cream puffs and strawberry lemon tartelettes.
And, this just in … Highly acclaimed Newport Beach restaurateur Rich Mead (formerly owner/chef of Sage restaurants) will be offering a traditional type of afternoon tea monthly as executive chef/owner of the new open-air Farmhouse restaurant at Roger’s Gardens, opening at the Corona del Mar nursery in June. Stay tuned!
But that’s not All …
While these are some of the highlights, tea can be found in yet more places all across Newport Beach. Be sure to check out Fashion Island’s True Food Kitchen for a refreshing Vanilla Lemongrass Sparkling Tea (vanilla, lemongrass, lemon and cane sugar) and Sambazon on W. Balboa Boulevard for some delicious Guayaki Yerba Mate — the strength of coffee, health benefits of tea and euphoria of chocolate, all in one beverage. Cheers!