Patreon From the Land of Tea Nov 2022 Old California Tea Rooms

From Mystic Tea Room

Jump to: navigation, search
From the Land of Tea

In this installment of "From the Land of Tea," we take a sneak-peek look at an upcoming page that will eventually be on display to the public. As a Patreon supporter, you have access to the page one full year before the public does.

  • Patreon Release Date: November 28th, 2022.
  • Public Release Date: November 28th, 2023.

Please tell your friends that they can subscribe to my Patreon stream for $2.00 per week:

Old California Tea Rooms!

And once again we return to the theme of Tea Rooms by Location. These are old postcards, and each one has a caption explaining it, with some additional text. These images will eventually be on display at the Mystic Tea Room web site. As a Patreon supporter, you have access to them one full year before the public does.

To place this work in context, please read the following introductory pages



The Tea Rooms of California vary greatly in style, but two aesthetic themes stand out from the rest: The Craftsman or Mission Style Tea Room and the Cantonese Tea Room. California had no Colonial tea room history to exploit, and no great connection to Jolly Old England, but at the height of the tea room craze, Mission style oak furniture, which had first become popular in California, could be found all up and down the coast, and lent itself well to the conversion of small homes, lodges, hotels, and shops into tea room spaces.

The influx of immigrants from China, began during the Gold Rush of the early 1850s and continued on as Cantonese workers came to provide labour on West Coast railroads during the late 19th century. When the development of the railroads was completed and families settled down, this wave of immigration left in its wake hundreds of Chinese tea rooms, restaurants, and gift stores, all along the Southern Pacific line, "On the Road of a Thousand Wonders."

The great earthquake and fire that destroyed much of San Francisco in 1906 struck just as the postcard craze was getting underway, and San Franciscans took great pride in showing the world their rebuilt tea rooms in the form of advertising postcards just as soon as they reopened for business.


The Tick Tock Tea Room at 1716 North Cahuenga Blvd., Hollywood, California, was a one-of-a-kind place. It was founded in 1930 by Art and Helen Johnson, a former auto mechanic and a waitress from Minneapolis, Minnesota. The couple came to California, sold their car, and used the money to buy the Laurel Crest Tea Room at New Hampshire and Beverly Boulevard. Unfortunately, the tea room's sign did not come with the tea room, so they took the Tick Tock name from a restaurant in their old home town and hung a cuckoo clock on the wall. Their offer of a 65 cent turkey dinner proved so popular that they sold from 30 to 100 meals a day and had to move to larger quarters twice to make room for all their customers. In 1934 they opened on Cahuenga Blvd. with room to seat 300 people and serve 2,000 meals a day, six days a week. Patrons brought them cuckoo clocks and they hung them up until the walls were covered with them. The food was cooked home-style -- plentiful and inexpensive, changing with the seasons -- and there were fresh flowers on every table. A staff of 75 employees, including at times Art and Helen's five children and 13 grandchildren, worked in the tea room. There were special meals and decorations for every holiday. The couple passed away in the 1980s and by 1988 the Tick Tock Tea Room was no more. This linen-finish postcard dates from the 1940s-1950s. Don't you wish you could visit the Tick Tock Tea Room? Well, i can, in my memory. It was a grand experience to eat there as a child in the 1950s, and i think the world would be a better place if tea rooms like the Tick Tock still existed.


The Rose Tree Tea House, Pasadena, California, exterior. The town of Pasadena was incorporated in 1886 and was known as somewhat of a suburban artist's colony. It was developed with an eye for beauty, and most of the residential streets were lined with trees and flowering gardens. The widespread use of Craftsman style bungalow architecture gave the town a unified look, with all of its parts in human scale, very homey and welcoming. This real photo postcard of the Rose Tree Tea House from around 1905-1915 shows us Pasadena at its best.
The Rose Tree Tea House, Pasadena, California, interior. This real photo postcard shows us the Mission Style interior of the Rose Tree Tea House, circa 1905-1915, with tables situated before a cozy fireplace.

San Francisco

George Haas established his first candy factory and store in San Fracisco in 1868. In 1882 the George Haas and Sons candy company opened a shop in the triangular Phelan Building at the corners of Market Street, O’Farrell Street, and Grant Avenue. The building and its beaux-arts interiors were designed by William Curlett. After the great earthquake and fire of 1906, the Phelan Building was reconstructed on the same lot, again under the direction of William Curlett, and reopened to the public in 1908. It is this second incarnation of the Geo. Haas and Sons tea room, the New Tea Room on the second floor, that we see on this postcard: "A Lovely Place to Lunch -- Rich and Restful in Tones of Old Ivory and Wedgewood Blue." The text on the back of the card reads, "New Tea Room of Geo. Haas and Sons, Phelan Building Candy Store. Entrance 51 O'Farrell Street, near Grant Avenue, opposite Kohler and Chase."
The New Tea Room of Geo. Haas and Sons was part of a complex within the Phelan Building that also included a shop selling fancy boxed candies, shown at left, and a combination ice cream parlour and soda fountain, at right. The Haas candy company ceased operations in 1940 but the original Haas candy factory and the Phelan Building still stand, and both have been designated as Historic Landmarks.
Hale Bros. Inc. Cafe and Tea Room, San Francisco, California. Hale Bros. was a department store chain that originated in Sacramento, California and spread throughout the region. After the 1906 earthquake and fire destroyed much of San Francisco, Hale Bros. boasted that their new building, which was completed and opened in 1912, was the "First Store rehabilitated since the great fire.". The tea room and cafe is done up in the popular Craftsman style of the period, complete with potted palms. The Hale Brothers Department Store building still stands at the corner of Market Street and Fifth, and is on the National Register of Historic Places.
Hee Jan and Co. Chinese Restaurant and Tea Garden, San Francisco, California. One of many elaborate Cantonese-style buildings in San Francisco, this building also boasted a rather unexpected moving picture house on the ground floor. The advertised Kinetoscope was a one-person peep-hole viewer, not a projector. Introduced to the public in 1895, Kinetoscope Parlours were rooms filled with these machines, in which operators stood by to assist the customers in viewing short films that were accompanied by sounds played on synchronized photograph disks. The advent of film projection brought an end to the Kinetoscope in 1914, this giving us a date-range for this postcard. The text on the back identifies the card as part of the Southern Pacific Railroad series "On the Road of a Thousand Wonders."

Santa Rosa

The Tudor Rose English Tea Room in Santa Rosa, California, from an online photo taken in 2020. The Tudor Rose Tea Room was founded in 2013 by Angela Grant, a native of Wallasey, Merseyside, England, a town across the Mersey River from Liverpool. The ambience and menus were British, with an emphasis on high tea and themed tea parties for special occasions.
Another View of the The Tudor Rose English Tea Room in Santa Rosa, California, from an online photo taken in 2020. Alas, the Tudor Rose English Tea Room was hard-hit by the Covid pandemic, and although Grant pivoted to dinners-to-go and re-opened for tea once indoor dining restrictions were lifted, the Tudor Rose did not survive. The final closure, after almost ten years as a beloved downtown institution, came in January 2023. We will miss it!

catherine yronwode
curator, historian, and docent
The Mystic Tea Room

See Also

Personal tools