The history of tea is long and complex, spanning thousands of years and as many cultures as there are in the world. While many cultures claim tea as a cornerstone to their traditions, the carnellia sinensis originated in southeast Asia and migrated throughout the world, often used not only as a beverage but also as currency.
My personal history with the piping hot beverage, however, is that I inherited the traditions of two cultures which are almost satirically obsessed with tea. Every family meal for as long as I can remember has ended with tea -- served in tea glasses, not porcelain cups and saucers; a bowl of sugar cubes (always) on the side, and each cube would be held between the teeth during sips -- and rarely dropped directly into the cup. Tea was always a closure to a Shabbat evening - or other Jewish food&family centric holiday, and would be accompanied either by calm and quiet, or more frequently, manic chatter. This part of the tradition is inherently Persian in character. The other side of my cultural heritage, hailing from England, is the traditional, slightly uptight version: tiny tea sandwiches and fresh scones piled high on tiered china accompanied by the most proper of manners. While one tradition is casual and relaxed, the other is buttoned up and proper. Different as they are, the two share a common love of tea.
Being with my family in Los Angeles was an opportunity to do both. Of course, this post is about the English variety. My mother, sister and I visited The Peninsula Hotel in Beverly Hills to enjoy their afternoon tea. On the menu, from top to bottom: Champagne, Tahitian Vanilla Tea, strawberries with freshly whipped cream, scones (plain and currant) accompanied by devonshire cream and a mixture of jams (including the most amazing raspberry chocolate jam... next time, I'm getting a whole jar to-go), a mixture of tea sandwiches (curried chicken, smoked salmon, egg, watercress, roasted vegetables), and of course, petit fours (raspberry macarons, opera cake, chestnut mousse...). The entire service was impeccable and with a harpist behind us in the (honestly) beautiful space, it was a really wonderful setting for a girls outing.
So, perhaps you've noticed before that I'm a bit tea-obsessed, and hopefully this imparts a bit of wisdom as to how that came about. I can't imagine any family function in my life without tea as a centerpiece to the event.
Photos taken with a 5d, 50mm lens.
The Peninsula Beverly Hills
9882 South Santa Monica Boulevard (at Wilshire)
Beverly Hills, CA 90212
For reservations, call 310.551.2888