Saturday, February 6, 2016

My Country, 'Tis of Tea — California

As I explore the history of tea in America this year, I'm well aware that some states may be a little more difficult to research than others. California was not one of them. I could easily write several blog posts about all the fun tea-related news out of California, but I've limited myself to one!

• Who can think of California without thinking of Hollywood? I sure can’t. I’ve seen lots of great photos of movie stars with teacups over the years, but this publicity still from MGM’s “Mogambo” in 1953 is one of the best yet. From left are Donald Sinden, Grace Kelly, Clark Gable, Denis O'Dea, Ava Gardner and Eric Pohlmann. (Photo courtesy of Wikimedia Commons) Click here for another photo of Grace Kelly and Clark Gable taking what is described as “a coffee/tea break” on the set of this film.

• Is tea grown in California? I wondered. Why yes, it is, and the name of one grower is probably quite familiar to some of you. Roy Fong, who founded the Imperial Tea Court in San Francisco and is known for bringing quality Chinese teas to this country, apparently bought a 23-acre property and learned to grow his own tea. The screen grab above is from the website, where I found the post on "Roy Fong's Tea Farm." The site doesn’t appear to have been updated since 2012, but there are some great articles and photographs there if you have time to browse. And for a few more words about Roy Fong’s tea-growing operation, Fresh Cup magazine has a nice piece as well.

• Finally, when I wrote my book about department store tea rooms, "Dainty Dining," back in 2011, I learned about the old Bullock's Wilshire Department Store in Los Angeles where Mae West once shopped and Angela Lansbury once worked. (Who doesn't love Angela Lansbury? "Murder She Wrote" remains one of my favorite TV shows to this day.) The beautiful menu cover above is something from the Bullock's Tea Room I collected for my book, and after it was published, I found yet another vintage postcard of the tea room from yesteryear. I included a famous oriental chicken salad recipe from the tea room in the book, but I have since learned of something called Heavenly Pie (or Heavenly Lemon Pie) that was associated with Bullock's as well. Here's the recipe if you're as curious as I am!


  1. I use to shop at Bullock's too. Loved that store, but never had tea there. What fun to see some stars from old having a cup of tea. Yes, Roy Fong is still working on his tea farm and there is at least one other tea farm in Northern California too. So many tea stories definitely could come out of California.

  2. When I think about tea and California, I think of all the tea rooms I would like to visit some day; Rose Tree Cottage and Paris in a Cup, for example!

  3. Well you should certainly be able to find a tea room in California! These articles are so fun Angela!

  4. I'm enjoying this new series. Learn something new every week.

  5. Very entertaining post, Angela, those recipes sound delicious. I love the photos you included, with Grace Kelly and Clark Gable - two of my favorites! Thanks for another great series. Hope you have a nice weekend, Joanie


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