American Tea Room at Fashion Island Introduces Afternoon Tea Service for Weekend Outings

I can't deny it; I have a tea problem. Whenever I travel, I seek out loose leaf tea stores and buy a few varieties. Unless there is a particular leaf I want, I check out the unique blends each spot has put together just to understand their style. Despite being unable to leave my fascination of tea, I have yet to enjoy an afternoon tea service outside of my single experience in DC a few years ago. Therefore, when I learned that American Tea Room in Newport Beach was introducing their afternoon "Tea Service" a few weeks back, I was immediately interested. This program is a result of collaboration with Valerie Confections and presented on custom boards from The Wooden Palate. We were invited in one afternoon to give them a try, and there was certainly quite the spread.

American Tea Room is well known in Los Angeles as a retail shop, tea lounge, and cafe so many in Orange County were glad to see its recent opening at Fashion Island in Newport Beach. Every time I've walked into the carefully curated location, there have been plenty of people either enjoying a delicious cup at the bar or studying peacefully at any one of their many tables inside. There is also an outdoor section where we ventured to enjoy our tea service.

There are several options for all types of afternoon tea enjoyers of which the American Tea is most popular:
  • A Little Less ($25 - your choice of a pot of Classic or Signature Tea, crème fraîche scone with tangier butter and preserves, watercress sandwich, panna cotta, petit four, and one truffle)
  • American Tea ($35 - your choice of a pot of Classic or Signature Tea, crème fraîche scone with tangier butter and preserves, chai chicken sandwich, watercress sandwich, smoked salmon & chive cream pinwheel, panna cotta, petit four, and two truffles)
  • A Bit More ($45 - your choice of a pot of tea including Single Estate and Rare options, crème fraîche scone with tangier butter and preserves, avocado sandwich, chai chicken sandwich, watercress sandwich, smoked salmon & chive cream pinwheel, panna cotta, two petit fours, and two truffles)
We enjoyed the third option, "A Bit More," but if you can't decide among those three presented, you can also order tea sandwiches, scones, and desserts à la carte.

With the "A Little Less" and "American Tea" tea service options, you can select teas from their Classic and Signature Tea selections. Classic Teas include options such as the Earl Grey Shanghai Organic, Marrakesh Organic, Big Red Robe Oolong, and Sessa Estate Assam teas while Signature Teas include selections such as their Romanoff Organic (lightly smoked Chinese black tea with blood orange), Tangier (Sri Lankan black tea blended with apricot and saffron blossoms), Immortal Green (sencha green tea blended with peach and passion fruit), Brioche Free Organic (almonds, cinnamon, apples, and beetroot), and American Beauty Organic (white tea blended with peppermint, rose, lavender, and jasmine). They were all beautiful selections from which we were offered the ability to smell each one of interest to determine what we preferred. I loved how helpful everyone at American Tea Room was and how they found great tea options based on our preferences.

With the "A Bit More" service, however, we also had their Single Estate and Rare collections open to us. Single Estate Teas included beautiful options such as their Silver Needles from Fujian, Golden Himalayan Tips Organic from Jun Chiyabari in the eastern region of Nepal, and Pu Er Impertial 2006 Organic from Yunnan. Their Rare Teas included the likes of Ancient Snow Sprout Organic (budset green tea Menghai in Yunnan, China, with notes of flower nectar, dried grasses, and moss) and Yame Gyokuro (rich, shade-grown green tea from Ohbuchi Farm in Fukuoka, Japan, with notes of aged cheese, watercress, and fresh-cut grass). We opted for the Yame Gyokuro which is the base for their matcha as it is shade-grown and organic; they grind it traditionally under granite blocks to transform these leaves to the coveted healthful powder. We had it in full leaf form and really loved its grassy yet sensuous flavor.

Along with a carefully brewed pot of chosen tea, the tea service comes with large boards topped with bite-size but filling foods. We began with the perfectly fluffy and buttery Crème Fraîche Scone ($4 à la carte - served with Tangier butter and preserves) which was already good in its own right. However, the Tangier butter took it over the top - this was a butter whipped with their Tangier tea, leading to a fruity and floral treat of a butter. We also enjoyed their Smoked Salmon & Chive Cream Pinwheel ($6 à la carte - smoked salmon, mascarpone, wild arugula, and Meyer lemon) presented in a half portion of their typical menu order. The mascarpone was a pleasant touch with the smoked salmon.

Next up were all of the tea sandwiches: Chai Chicken Sandwich ($6 à la carte - chai & curry spices, red onion, and apple), Watercress Sandwich ($6 à la carte - watercress, radish, butter, and fleur de sel), and Avocado Sandwich ($6 - avocado, mayonnaise, arugula, and pickled jalapeno). We found the breads on each bite drier than preferred but there was undoubtedly a lot of moist components to make it more palatable. The chai chicken sandwich was unique in presenting spices from their chai tea as well, and it had a balanced mixture of spices. My favorite of the three was actually the watercress sandwich, a classic tea sandwich for afternoon tea but highlighted with fleur de sel atop the smooth butter. As for the avocado sandwich, you'll have to want a small kick of heat in your bites because the jalapeno easily lent that to each bite.

The dessert portion of the service included their Tea-Infused Panna Cotta ($5 à la carte - matcha-infused panna cotta finished with whipped cream and black sesame seeds), choice of two Petits Fours ($4.50 à la carte - choose from matcha, champagne, rose petal passion fruit, and lavender), and choice of two Tea-Infused Truffles ($4 à la carte - choose from matcha, jasmine pearl, earl grey, and Marrakesh mint). The panna cotta did not quite have the true consistency of a traditional panna cotta; however, the matcha was quite strong in flavor here and blended well throughout. We enjoyed the champagne and lavender petits fours though as they were moist throughout and not too sweet. Their labeled flavors were apparent, and of course, their appearances were well-presented. The truffles were also fun to have, especially the jasmine pearl and earl grey ones we had.

It's easy to see how popular the afternoon tea service may become not only because of the novelty of the outing but also because the tea selection at American Tea Room is appealing to all types of tea and non-tea drinkers. The program is available on Saturdays and Sundays from 12-5PM at 549 Newport Center Drive, Newport Beach, CA 92660 in Fashion Island. We found that the "A Bit More" service was plenty of snackage and tea for two people so consider that if you want to share with a friend out on the patio in the lovely Orange County weather!

Photography by Duc Duong. More photos available on Facebook here.

American Tea Room Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato