Gardens and Architecture, Getty Villa

Tea by the Sea, A Tribute to the Villa’s Past

Tea by the Sea, a new experience of the ancient Mediterranean inspired by the herbs and fruits of the Getty Villa’s gardens, kicks off December 2.

The idea of offering tours and tea at the Villa stemmed from the requests of visitors. Many of you fondly remembered the old Tea Room, which occupied the spot where the Outdoor Classical Theater stands now. From the time the Villa opened in 1974 through 1997, when renovations began, the Tea Room was a popular spot for lunch and treats.

Panoramic view of the Tea Room at the Getty Villa prior to renovation

View of the former Tea Room from what is now the Museum entrance

Views of the former Tea Room at the Getty Villa, which occupied the spot where the Outdoor Classical Theater stands now.

To heighten the multisensory experience that is the Getty Villa, we created a menu that would adhere to a High Tea tradition but incorporate quintessential elements of the Villa—hence the Mediterranean flavors of prosciutto, mozzarella, bocconcini, and fig jam. More traditional tea items, such as scones and tea breads, will be seasonally tailored to reflect the herbs and fruits in season in the Villa’s Herb Garden. The opening menu will feature quince paste, tarragon aioli, and fig scones—all featuring herbs or fruits grown in the Villa’s gardens.

(In case you’re wondering, the herbs and fruits aren’t picked from the Herb Garden itself; we leave them there for you to see and smell.)

Herb Garden at the Getty Villa

Further inspiration from the early days of the Villa came from Mrs. Garrett’s famous carrot cake, which was served in the Tea Room. Mrs. Garrett, wife of Stephen Garrett, the Museum’s first director, was famous for her culinary skills and used to cater parties at the Villa. Her carrot cake recipe has survived to this day, and Mrs. Garrett’s Original Carrot Cake will be part of the tea experience.

Tea will be served every Thursday at 1:00 p.m. Price per person is $36, and you can sign up here. After tea, be sure and take one of the garden tours—and spend the rest of your afternoon enjoying the galleries.

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9 Comments

  1. Posted August 7, 2011 at 2:21 pm | Permalink

    My family is visiting me for a weekend this summer and I’m wondering if this would be a good thing to bring them to. It would be my dad, step mother and two teenage siblings. Do you think the siblings would get bored? Do you get a view anything from inside the Founder’s Room or is it just an enclosed dining room?

    • Posted August 8, 2011 at 9:22 am | Permalink

      Hi Tina — Tea by the Sea can be a really fun activity for kids/teens, depending on their interests. The Founders Room overlooks the Cafe outdoor seating area and the Outdoor Classical Theater, and from some areas you can see the Museum Entrance and the sea beyond. I took my almost-tween nieces to tea and they enjoyed the food (pastries galore! unlimited cream! unlimited jam!) as well as the hot chocolate with whipped cream that’s offered for kids.

      The elegant presentation was also fun for them, although the pace was leisurely and meant for conversation, so if you’re looking for a quicker lunch, you might prefer the Cafe. Teenagers would very likely enjoy the tour portion of the program, which explores the gardens and makes connections with what you’ve just eaten. Here are links to a couple of photos, one showing a table at the Founders Room, the second showing an example of the condiments served with the first round of the menu; that’s a piece of lavender between the honey and the butter.

      – Annelisa/Iris editor

      Place setting and view from the Founders Room at Tea by the Sea

      Serving dishes for butter, cream, and jam served with scones at Tea by the Sea

  2. M. Giovannettone
    Posted November 3, 2011 at 9:36 pm | Permalink

    Nov. 3, 2011

    It was a very dissapointing visit to Tea by the Sea. My girlfirend and I made reservations to celebrate our 65th. birthdays and were really looking forward to
    the experience. The food was mediocre, almost non-edible – no variety or choices of sandwiches, scones or tea. The sconces were cold, not even warm. The presentation of the food left a lot to be desired. No doillies in the tray and the cheese and fruit plate was meager-one sliced strawberry, pieces of dried fruit and very small, tiny slices of cheese. We noticed that the table next to us had grapes instead of the one strawberry and the sandwiches were resting on pieces of lettuce (it looked more inviting that ours did).

    We love going to tea and discovering new places, but I have to honestly say that this was the worse tea we have ever been to and we have experienced many places from hotels (the Beverly Hills Hotel, the Bel Air Hotel, the Peninsula) to small, quaint tea houses (High Tea Cottage, Rose Tree Cottage, The Tea Gardens) all
    over Southern California.

    The tour of the gardens was very pleasant and informative and we enjoyed visiting the Modern Antiquity and Molten Color Exhibitions.

  3. claudia cevenini
    Posted November 10, 2011 at 4:10 pm | Permalink

    Dear Ms. Giovannettone,

    I am so sorry you had a disappointing experience when visiting our Tea Room as we strive to offer the best dining experience we can.

    When we started thinking about the menu for the Tea Room, it was always our intention to offer a different tea experience that would tie in with the beautiful Mediterranean setting that surrounds us and that would differentiate us from traditional English teas. Using ingredients, both in our exclusive tea blend and in our food, that are to be found in the Getty Villa’s gardens, was important to us; that meant breaking away from tradition. To that end, we do not serve English scones but American ones studded with Mediterranean fruit that are not meant to be served warm (and, incidentally, it’s the most requested recipe at both the Getty Villa and Getty Center).

    The lettuce wraps you saw on your neighbors’ table were our gluten-free version of the sandwiches you were served.

    I do hope you might be willing to give us a second chance in the future or choose on of our other dining options when you next visit either Getty location, and thank you for taking the time to share your comments.

    Claudia Cevenini – Director of Operations, Bon Appetit at the Getty Villa

  4. Vinnie
    Posted July 23, 2012 at 1:06 pm | Permalink

    Hello, I’ve been trying to make a reservation at Tea by the Sea for over a month now but I can’t seem to reach anyone when I call or get a call back.

    Actually, that is not entirely true. I did get a call back on one occasion, but the gentleman spoke so softly I could not hear what he was saying. I offered to call back, thinking I could go somewhere quiet and really focus on trying to hear him. I was never able to reach him again despite many calls and leaving many messages.

    I am beginning to wonder whether this event genuinely welcomes the general public, it if is staffed to any extent, or if it it even exists at all.

    My enthusiasm for Tea by the Sea is somewhat dampened, but I remain curious. Could someone please communicate with me and let me know what is going on and what I must do to pay a visit?

    • Annelisa Stephan
      Posted July 23, 2012 at 4:03 pm | Permalink

      Hi Vinnie, Thanks for leaving this comment to let us know about your experience! Tea by the Sea definitely still exists and takes place Thursdays and Saturdays at 1pm. I’ve let our colleagues know to please return your call again. For reference, there are two ways to sign up, either via the Tea by the Sea reservation line at (800) 369-3059 or by email at BonAppetitReservations@getty.edu. Thanks and we hope to welcome you soon!

  5. Kay Clark
    Posted April 11, 2013 at 4:05 pm | Permalink

    I would like to bring my Red Hat group, but one lady had a question – is this a served tea, or a buffet? It sounds like a served one, but I don’t want to promise without checking.

    • Annelisa Stephan
      Posted April 11, 2013 at 4:36 pm | Permalink

      Hi Kay,

      Thanks for the question, it’s a good one! Yes, it’s served. Each table gets a bounteous serving of each type of delicious food, and then all the diners at the table can help themselves from the serving dishes.

      Annelisa / Iris editor

  6. James Mullay
    Posted September 6, 2013 at 5:01 pm | Permalink

    While we did have a bit of a problem making our reservation, it was sorted out by a very professional staff. Except for the reservation system, we quite enjoyed the experience. The setting is most pleasant, the staff very attentive, the tea quite good, with eye-pleasing delicious food pleasantly and appetizingly presented. We’ve enjoyed the tea experiences in many places, each unique and enjoyable. We are pleased to recommend this experience to those who visit The Villa. We happily look forward to enjoying Tea By The Sea in our future visits to Malibu.

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