The writer’s daughter, Olivia, practiced her table etiquette at the most recent Imagine Tea. // © 2015 Chelsee Lowe
Feature image (above): While guests enjoyed their tea and snacks, budding magicians performed slight-of-hand tricks. // © 2015 The Langham Huntington, Pasadena
The tradition of afternoon tea dates back to the 1800s, when Anna Maria Russell, the 7th Duchess of Bedford, began requesting tea and snacks in the afternoon — and rightfully so, since English custom at the time was to eat breakfast and a late dinner, with nothing in between.
It wasn’t long before sitting down for tea became a popular social event, pretty dishware and teapots included. In some circles, white gloves and long gowns were even part of the party. In 1865, The Langham, London — the earliest property for the luxury brand — became the first luxury hotel to serve afternoon tea in Europe.
Today’s renditions of afternoon tea range widely in style, price and fare; in more formal settings, it’s no surprise that children aren’t always the most welcome guests. But three times per year at The Langham Huntington, Pasadena in California, kids of every age are invited to play the part of duchess or duke at Imagine Tea, an inspired event that combines high-end tea snacks with arts and crafts, photo-booth fun and, perhaps best of all, a little magic.
As part of its mission to promote the art of magic, Los Angeles’ iconic Magic Castle and its nonprofit trains budding magicians through its Junior Program of the Academy of Magical Arts — and where better to practice their newly acquired skills than in a room full of tots? As my daughter, Olivia, and I munched on mini cream-filled waffle cones and colorful macarons at the most recent Imagine Tea, slight-of-hand tricks kept our eyes as happy as our bellies.
And while tea in The Langham’s Lobby Lounge always feels prim and proper — the lounge was once the hotel’s entrance and overlooks the lovely Horseshoe Garden — crown-making and giggling costume-clad children make Imagine Tea a lighthearted, relaxed affair that would surely make the 7th Duchess of Bedford smile.
Once we had consumed our sweet treats, Olivia and I picked out adorable paper props for a vintage photo session courtesy of Snapgram Photobooth. After that, Olivia shadowed a toddler who was dressed up as a princess before settling next to the project table run by local craft shop Little Junebugs. Letter stickers, sequins, doilies and more were transformed into personalized paper crowns here. Kids of all ages zipped hither and thither, parents dashed after them and a few babies cried. But in the end, not a single dish was broken.
Families can join the fun at the June 7 and Sept. 13 Imagine Tea events; reservations are required. The price for adults is $48, and children ages 4 to 12 are $36. Guests under the age of 4 are not charged. A portion of the proceeds benefits Five Acres, a local child and family services agency. Come the holiday season, the hotel’s Teddy Bear Tea offers a similar experience that includes storytelling and photos with Santa.