Spot of Tea

You don’t have to go to England to enjoy a proper cup of tea. A small cottage on the Boulevard offers that and more.

Lifting your little finger when holding a teacup is no snobbish affectation, says Jenn Dodsworth, owner of High Tea Cottage in Woodland Hills. When pinching the handle between your fingers (never shove fingers through the delicate handle to avoid cracking the porcelain), the extended pinkie helps balance the cup. 

Avoiding accidents is important when serving on vintage Lady Hamilton china, a tradition at the charming establishment. Manager Richard James assures us that no guests have broken the dishes in its 11–year history.  

Some etiquette websites frown on pinkie extension—but one can’t help but prefer Jenn’s no-nonsense advice. She’s the voice of authority, overseeing the cottage’s several small tearooms. Multi-course tea service choices often include some combination of petite tea sandwiches and house-baked scones with Devonshire cream and jams. One particularly festive item: diminutive desserts served on a tower that get sweeter as you go from bottom to top. 

Jenn, an Australian who has lived in England, has taken tea with dignitaries and royals throughout the world, including Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth II. Oh the stories Jenn can tell you about the Queen’s little corgis, so upset during the Princess Diana-Prince Charles divorce that an animal psychiatrist was apparently called in. The expert suggested the split no longer be discussed in front of the dogs.

Expect not only dainty delicacies, but also a comprehensive tea education from Jenn, Richard or Jenn’s husband, Dr. Ken Dodsworth, a certified tea sommelier and tea master. More than 100 varieties of tea are served, and each has a story.  

A recent whirlwind of sampling included: bright Sencha Kyoto Cherry Rose, spicy Royal Bengal Tiger (“the ginger claws out at you,” says Richard), a smoky Czar Nicholas Russian Caravan, and the Palace of Holyroodhouse herbal infusion, a soothing blend of Egyptian chamomile, South African Rooibos and vanilla. We’re told the Palace variety was favored by the Duchess of Cambridge during her pregnancies.

High Tea Cottage does not serve coffee but offers iced teas (sometimes attractive for men who find hot tea too “girly”) and lemonade for children who often arrive with their moms—all dressed to the nines—for birthdays and sparkly special occasions. Young guests receive a festive menu and are told to be sure to “keep an eye out for our tea fairy,” who always provides a surprise. She is welcome at our table too—as long as she keeps her tiny hands off the tarts.

High Tea Cottage, 21938 Costanso St., Woodland Hills,