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Taking Time for Tea in San Diego, California

by Sally Bernstein

Afternoon tea was introduced in London in the 1840's by Anna, Duchess of Bedford.  The Duchess considered the hours between lunch and a late dinner too long to wait for sustenance.  Her habit of eating bread, butter, cakes, tarts, and biscuits was the beginning of what we now know as afternoon tea.

This is how Wikipedia defines Afternoon Tea:

Afternoon tea is a light meal typically eaten between 3pm and 5pm. It originated in the United Kingdom, though various places that used to be part of the former British Empire also have such a meal. However, changes in social customs and working hours mean that most Britons only take afternoon tea on special/formal occasions.

Traditionally, loose tea would be served in a teapot with milk and sugar. This would be accompanied by various sandwiches (customarily cucumber, egg and cress, fish paste, ham, and smoked salmon), scones (with butter, clotted cream and jam) and usually cakes and pastries (such as Battenberg, fruit cake or Victoria sponge). The food would be often served in a tiered stand.
While afternoon tea used to be an everyday event, nowadays it is more likely to be taken as a treat in a hotel, café, or tea shop, although many Britons still have a cup of tea and slice of cake or chocolate at teatime. Accordingly, many hotels now market a champagne cream tea.

I decided to find out what San Diego, California has to offer in the way of afternoon teas.  Here are seven that fit the bill.

1) Park Hyatt Aviara Resort, North San Diego
7100 Four Seasons Point
Carlsbad, CA
Tea served Wednesday-Sunday from 2:00 p.m.-3:30 p.m.
Reservations Suggested

Definitely the most upscale of those we visited, as only a Four Seasons can be, our afternoon tea was most enjoyable.  What better way to spend a few hours then listening to a harpist play lovely music and enjoying an unusual selection of teas? The Traditional included warm sultana scones, made in-house jellies and custards, finger sandwiches such as Black Forest Ham with Pineapple, Egg Salad with Bell Pepper Julienne, Roast Beef, Cucumber and Dill Cream Cheese, Citrus Crabmeat Salad, and Smoked Salmon Brioche.
Although my favorite loose tea was the Chocolate Orange Truffle, the Pear Caramel came in a close second.  Other choices include Green Teas, Herbal and Fruit Blends as well as the Classic English Breakfast Organic and Orange Earl Grey. And one tea not commonly found is the Silver Jasmine, a rare white tea tossed with jasmine flowers.

2) The Westgate Hotel
1055 Second Avenue
San Diego, CA
Tea served from 2:30 p.m.-5:00 p.m. daily
Reservations Suggested

Another location we visited that includes a harpist is The Westgate Hotel in downtown San Diego.  This sophisticated setting is the site for a long-established tea experience.  Choose traditional Earl Grey, Indian Masala Chai or White Ambrosia (a coconut and pineapple blend), to name only a few of the choices.  Tea sandwiches include prosciutto ham, pacific cold smoked salmon and bay shrimp salad with watercress. A compliment of sweet pastries, cream covered scones and seasonal berries give the experience a distinctively British tea-time ambiance.  A glass of champagne can be added for the asking.

3) The Grand Del Mar, Carmel Valley
5300 Grand Del Mar Court
San Diego, CA
Tea served Friday, Saturday & Sunday from 2:00 p.m.-4:00 p.m.
Reservations Required

Set in the resort Library, you’ll enjoy a perfect pot of fine tea and bite-size delights.  Enjoy three course tea service, complete with Bernardaud china and Italian linens. Offerings include: Tea Sandwiches, such as Egg Salad and Bacon; Smoked Chicken Salad; Smoked Salmon and Dill; Balsamic Mushroom Tarts; Scones - one traditional and one seasonally-inspired flavor and Pastries, such as fruit tarts, orange madeleines, cherry bombs and éclairs. $36 per person. The menu also includes a selection of wines including ports and sherries.

4) The AubreyRose Tea Room
8362 La Mesa Blvd.
La Mesa, CA
Tea served Wednesday-Saturday from 10:30 a.m. - 5:00 p.m.
Reservations Highly Recommended

The AubreyRose specializes in Theme Teas, Dress-up Parties, Birthdays, Anniversaries, and Bridal & Baby Showers ... any occasion to celebrate! Six different menus are offered that include tea sandwiches, scones and pastries ranging from $11.95 to $27.95.  Gluten-Free meals are also available.

5) Tea-Upon-Chatsworth
2180 Chatsworth Blvd.
San Diego, CA
Tea served Thursday-Sunday from 11:30 a.m.-5:00 p.m.
Reservations Strongly Advised

Located at the intersection of Chatsworth Boulevard and Voltaire Street in Point Loma, Tea-Upon-Chatsworth is an English-style neighborhood tea room where proprietor Joy Walsh serves an innovative seasonal menu to accompany a comprehensive premium tea list.  Their tea services include High Tea for $27.95 and Afternoon Tea for $22.95.  Cream Tea at $13.95 is on an availability basis only.  They also offer special events such as Opera Tea, Cinderella/Children's Teas, and Holiday Teas in addition to Birthdays, Bridal and Baby Showers. Inquire about the adult and children tea and etiquette classes.

6) Shakespeare's Corner Shoppe & Afternoon Tea
3719 India Street
San Diego, CA
Tea served Thursday through Sunday from Noon and their last sitting is at 4.00 p.m.
Reservations Are Required

Owner Selina Stockley offers an authentic British Afternoon Tea on Shakespeare's charming patio. Although a bit hard to locate, it is worth seeking out. Afternoon tea includes a wide range of teas, including black, flavored black, green, tisanes, and white tea. My favorite was the Cream Earl Grey, with a noted creamy taste slightly mellowing out the bergamot flavor. Next time I will try the Black Forest Gateaux, including chocolate flavour with cherry and cream notes. Afternoon Tea, besides the actual tea, includes a lot of food. Think Assortment Finger Sandwiches, Fresh Baked Sausage Roll with Branston Pickle, Shoppe Baked Scone with Double Devon Cream & Jam or lemon curd, Shoppe Baked Cake Medley, Shoppe Baked Biscuits and Fruit. Shakespeare can cater for groups of up to 35 people and they also offer a vegetarian afternoon tea & gluten- free offerings. There is also a special tea service for children. Before or after you enjoy your tea, save time to shop at Selina's adjacent store which includes a wide range of authentic British products, from Biscuits & Crackers; Cakes, Puddings, Desserts; Cheese, Cream, Butter; Clothing; Curry; Drinks; Fish; Sweets; Tea Accessories and much more.

7) Hotel Del Coronado Victorian Tea
1500 Orange Avenue
Coronado, CA
Tea served November & December only; from 12 p.m.- 4 p.m.; call the hotel for dates.
Reservations a Must

The Del only serves their Victorian Tea during the end of the year holidays.  When the hotel first opened in 1888, afternoon tea was a popular daily event when family and friends would gather for fine food and congenial conversation.  This tea service was a daily event until the 1950's.

The Victorian Tea is a special treat for tea lovers or those who just want to relax and enjoy the holiday piano entertainment. The cost is $39 for adults, $19.50 for children ages 6-10 and free for kids ages 5 and under. Expect tea sandwiches, scones and pastries.

Note: This information was accurate when it was published. Please be sure to confirm all rates and details directly with the businesses in question before making your plans.

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