Advertisement
YOU ARE HERE: LAT HomeCollections

Steeped in Beauty

Four spots to savor the soothing alchemy of tea and garden

January 22, 2006|Ann Herold

Such is the pacifying effect of tea in a garden that in one of the early scenes in "The Last of the Mohicans," the general's daughter and her ill-fated beau are nonchalantly seated at a table in a meadow, tea in fine china before them, and the idea that there's a war peopled by French brigands, desperate farmers and much of the Iroquois Nation unfolding in the dark woods around them seems inconceivable. They might as well be in Kew Gardens. Such is the trance state that even as the lovely lady admits she feels only "friendship" for her suitor, the slap of rejection falls like a feather on lace.

Certainly the gentle brew that scholar Okakura Kakuzo celebrates as having neither the "arrogance of wine, the self-consciousness of coffee" has its tranquilizing properties. But there's something to be said for the well-being that comes from being outside, observing the impressionistic play of the light that is uniquely ours as it paints the leaves one way in the morning, another at midday, and abandons us altogether at dusk, when candlelight changes our sensibilities to those of a great chiaroscuro master.

After an hour or two in L.A.'s drinkable landscapes, we may well understand Henry David Thoreau's epistle: "To affect the quality of the day, that is the art of life," and periodically re-create it for ourselves in the simple alchemy of tea and garden.

*

Jin Patisserie

Morning is eclectic at Jin Patisserie in Venice, probably the best time of day to experience this stripped-down garden on Abbot Kinney Boulevard, the Tigris and Euphrates of idiosyncratic boutiques. Afternoon tea can be ordered as early as 10:30 and includes exquisite egg salad sandwiches, quiche, scones and tea breads and the thing that owner Jin Choo is known for, the best sweets in L.A. Teas range from green to black to very black to a white tea from China. Purple plexiglass screens off the sights but not necessarily the sounds of the street. Minimalist aluminum furniture sits amid a garden where less is more. All very reassuring, especially after a few mood-elevating chocolates. 1202 Abbot Kinney Blvd., Venice; (310) 399-8801.

*

Huntington Botanical Gardens

More is more at the former estate of Henry Huntington in San Marino. Inside the very English tearoom, refrigerated buffets have replaced the charming cloth-topped serving tables, but the food still is plentiful, an all-you-can-eat lunch with sandwiches, fruits and cheeses, tarts, cookies and breads. Overeaters can walk off the guilt by ambling through the Japanese garden, hopping like a 'roo through the Australian garden or running across the lawns to the lily ponds. Or not. There are many benches from which to ponder the privileges of wealth. Or to reach that state where it doesn't really matter. 1151 Oxford Road, San Marino; (626) 405-2100.

*

Hotel Bel-Air

Gather your mental postcards on the way to the outdoor terrace where high tea is served in the late afternoon. The arabesques of the swans suspended on the pond; the gold chakras of the sycamore leaves fluttering onto the lawns; the green on green of a shade-shrouded garden where it always seems to be dusk. The tip-top scones are served with a trio of sandwiches and sweets. A fountain plays in the background and there's no lack of warmth from scores of heaters and a fireplace. Review those mental postcards while heading back into the madness that is the 405. 701 Stone Canyon Road, Los Angeles; (310) 472-1211.

*

Elixir Tonics and Teas

This tea garden is best experienced at night, when the candles and torches turn the bamboo-screened nooks and recessed corners of the outside deck into make-out heaven. The ailing and stressed-out bring their troubles to the tea bar at this West Hollywood shop, where they can order from a short list of potions with names such as Chi Devil, Blues Buster and Mind Over Muddle and a very long list of teas, most from China, with a couple of Indians and Africans thrown in. It's all about healing, but you've gotta have faith in the properties of the plants. It helps that L.A. doesn't look so judgmental in light that would have sent Caravaggio to the easel. 8612 Melrose Ave., West Hollywood; (310) 657-9300.

Advertisement
Los Angeles Times Articles
|
|
|