Don't be discouraged by the star count, my friends and I had an excellent time together at Barbara's! The house is decorated beautifully and we were served by Barbara herself, she went over and beyond to make our tea service special. In particular, my best friend's boyfriend wouldn't touch sandwiches with mayonnaise or cucumber (and since our choices were chicken salad, cucumber and cream cheese, and egg salad, that meant he wasn't going to eat anything) so she prepared plain ham and cream cheese sandwiches just for him. There were three rooms sectioned off so the six of us had privacy even though our large table was technically in the foyer of the house. There was a lot of space on the table for all of our dishes and arms to rest, a real pleasure since two gentlemen in the party were broad. The atmosphere was honestly the nicest and warm I've felt at tea or any other meal. Now the food. I've already mentioned the three types of sandwiches, the egg salad was pressed into a shell shaped pocket of white bread and the other two were on small, freshly baked croissants (the bready kind, not the oily/buttery kind). There were definitely enough sandwiches to fill everyone, but overall the fillings were only slightly above average in taste. There were sweets such as lemon bars (good), thumbprint type cookies with fruit preserves in the center (alright), and chocolate dipped strawberries (good). This was the first tea experience for half of the party, so they enjoyed everything. For me, the tea selection was surprisingly on the small side and set already. The only choices we had were between the three types brought to our table: Earl Grey, Raspberry/Orange, and Rooibos. I do not believe the tea was brewed in the pots since there were no strainers and I didn't see any leaves. Not sure what the method was, but I would have loved a loose leaf Yorkshire or English Breakfast that I could watch steep. But the scone was a hit, warm and flaky with raisins and served with the usual Devon cream and preserves. Since they were good, everything else kept its rosy glow. I was the only one to try the Queen's tea, and the quiche was the BEST part of my meal. I'm not sure if it was prepared onsite, but it seemed to be, and it was delicious with broccoli and mushrooms (I think those were the ingredients, it's been a month or two). So though I was neither impressed nor disappointed with the sandwiches, the scones and the quiche are definitely items I plan to order again. Those combined with the quantity of food, atmosphere and attentive service made up for the restricted tea selection and average sandwich fillings. I should also mention that though I call the food average, it was a real bargain to be filled from a tea service for $15 a person. A very fair price for the Lady's Tea. I would definitely return with friends for the ambiance, but I would likely choose a smaller tea (and possibly buy the quiche a la carte, if possible). As far as southern California tea rooms go, I think Barbara's qualifies as Very Good.
What a find! This place has the atmosphere of a cafe, but without the overpowering coffee smell...and so many tea choices! There were so many varieties I almost didn't know where to start, but the proprietor is extremely helpful in finding a blend you like based on your current favorites. He blended a decaf black with an orange flavor for me that turned out fabulously! I brought my friend who lives out of town, who is both an avid tea drinker and familiar with English teas and services from her semesters in London a couple of years ago. She was very impressed, as was I, and I have visited many tearooms throughout California (many in San Francisco that I have also reviewed). We ordered a tea service for two and picked separate blends of tea. We each had four quarters of sandwich, a salad, fruit, scones with orange marmalade and devonshire cream and cookies, all for $18.95 total. The sandwiches were delicious, we tried four of the six selections: Tomato, Brie and Basil (fantastic!), Ham and Gorgonzola (delectable), Turkey and Swiss (tasty as expected), and Cucumber with Cream Cheese (tried and true favorite). We were told that the honey whole wheat bread and marmalade were made in store and they were wonderful. I'm thinking of returning to purchase the bread alone. We had plain scones with the tea which were very buttery in flavor and on the dry side (great for eating with beverage) and I also bought the apple cinnamon scone and bread pudding to go, both were worth trying. The interior of the place is so warm and interesting...I really loved the entire experience and I plan to return soon with my normal tea going friends for a break from our usual doilie-tabled tea joints. Leland's atmosphere was very laid back, with many people just enjoying a cup of tea while clicking away on laptops or reading a book. This is definitely the place to go for tea and scones without loud baby showers going on in the background. When you factor in a tea service for you and a friend that costs under $10 per person, I can't recommend it enough!
I pored over reviews on this site for a worthwhile tea service near Orange County. I live near Berkeley/San Francisco and am accustomed to some wonderful tea menus, so hyping up the tea experience to my parents and sibling living in Southern California was a little nerve-wracking when it came time to deliver the goods. My sister was celebrating her 21st birthday three weekends ago so I finally decided to trust the reviews for Two A Tea and suggested my family convene for their first high tea experience. I was very impressed with Two A Tea! The value was honestly more than I could have hoped for, everyone in my party of six had the Royal High Tea: tea, scones with clotted cream, lemon curd and preserves, sandwiches--I think there were 6 quarters/1.5 whole sandwiches, soup of the day, salad, a lot of fresh fruit, and a dessert from a fantastic selection. All that for $18.95, it was ridiculous. Tea was loose, a very small but noticeably thoughtful touch. I had a decaf Vanilla that was aromatic and smooth, others had Peach Apricot (a must try!), Cherry Vanilla, Raspberry and Irish Breakfast (the server helped my boyfriend reach his desired steepness so the tea came out beautifully, I plan to order this tea next time). I believe the soup was Chicken Tortilla, an excellent tomato blend made that day by the proprietor--she knows her spices! The salad was delicious with a tasty cheese (can't remember if it was goat cheese or Roquefort now, but I really enjoyed it). Each person had a quarter of six different sandwiches, there was one with vine tomatoes, one with turkey, and maybe a pesto something?...three weeks ago is too long to remember exactly, other than I thought they were all very tasty (but I was already pretty full from the tea, soup and salad). The fruit included extremely fresh pineapple, grapes and blueberries. Now the desserts, they were so wonderful! They change frequently, but either the proprietor or one of the assistants made a chocolate mousse...it was delightfully light and sweet. Even if they gave you a bucketful, you could eat the whole thing and convince yourself you could eat more. There was a cobbler, apple and pear I think, a lemon custard cake that was a new concoction of the owner's and a bread pudding type thing made with croissant dough among other tasty ingredients. We got to try all four choices plus duplicates thanks to my party's size and every one was delectable. I still can't get over how good the chocolate mousse was, but I'd gladly return for the others as well. The service was fantastic, everyone was so polite I almost didn't know what to do with myself. I stepped in one of our server's way and she apologised so sincerly for getting in *my* way I almost couldn't believe it. They warmed our pots and were very attentive to all of our requests. The house is decorated very delicately with pretty doilies and pictures, but as soon as any male guests get ahold of the food none of that matters. I definitely plan to return on my next trip south, and my family said they never knew what they were missing! I highly recommend Two A Tea, it *almost* beats my favorite SF tea room, Lovejoy's, and that's a feat.
In sum: Secret Garden is great for a quick pot of tea with their excellent scones or small desserts. Stick with these items and you'll be satisfied. For a full tea service (sandwiches, fruit, the works) that will leave you absurdly happy with the amount and quality of food, as well as price, go to Lovejoy's Tea Room. Lovejoy's was booked a couple of Saturday's ago for my party of 5 so I decided to try Secret Garden. Tea selection was interesting, nice balance of decaf with the usual caffeinated variety (fruit blends, black teas, etc). Scones were slightly crisp on the outside, I was very surprised at how good they were. The little desserts with the most expensive tea service ranged from 'great!' to 'blah', the best was a memorable raspberry cheesecake square that was delicious (there was also a nice but small macaron, and some type of blah cookie). Those were the high points, now the low. Service wasn't exactly atrocious, but almost. The place is small as mentioned before, approx 7 tables that can each seat 5 people or so. All tables were occupied during my reservation and the servers appeared harried. I think our table was checked on once (other than the times when parts of the tea service came out). It was rather funny, because the time they actually checked on us they asked if we needed our tea warmed. Three people said yes, two said no but they ended up warming only one pot...hilarious (I would have insisted on the other two but got caught up in conversation and didn't realize they forgot the others until our pots ran dry, by then we didn't want to wait another hour). We had to pester them over and over for glasses of water and finally I stood at the register to get them to produce the bill. The most expensive service (Bedford's Delight) came with six sandwiches, by six they mean six quarters (equals 1.5 full sandwiches). Each sandwich was an interesting combination of flavors on the menu, but indiscernable on the palate. This service also had a 'savory' which was a mini, flaky pastry filled with either a curried meat or buttery blend of something. It was bite-sized and the buttery one was worth eating, but the curry flavor in the other variety didn't pair well with tea or the other tea foods, don't know who thought that one up. The Bedford's Delight left us hungry (6 quarters of sandwich, one savory, one scone, three mini-desserts) and at $18.95 I must say I felt pretty sad as I was paying. The Queen's Tea at Lovejoy's Tea Room is $1 more but leaves you stuffed (two full sandwiches, scone, fruit, crumpet, salad, petit four), plus their a la carte menu is rather extensive if you need more food. In the future I plan to reserve ahead of time for a full tea service at Lovejoy's, but I would return to Secret Garden for another scone (it really is worth recommending) and possibly that raspberry cheesecake dessert with a pot of tea.