Rosa Jaime, Owner and Manager of The FourSeasons Tea Room, serves up this Victorian British ritual with a Mexicanperspective.
By Brandon Lomenzo Black, Images Courtesy of The Four Seasons Tea Room
Years ago Rosa Jaime, owner andmanager of The Four Seasons Tea Room in Sierra Madre, was asked a ratherimpolite question. Fortunately, it required an effortless answer that came fromher heart.
A woman who had just opened upa restaurant nearby had come into the Tea Room for afternoon tea and uponmeeting Rosa bluntly asked, “What is a Mexican woman doing in an English tearoom?” Slightly surprised, Rosa responded sincerely and simply, “Following mydream,” she replied.
Behind the ivy-covered walls ofthe The Four Seasons Tea Room’s quaint, English-style bungalow and the refinedand elegant decor of its interior, there exists a little known story of a womanwho grew up with an unshakable interest in the grandeur of the Victorian Era,whose dreams from a young age were filled with roses, tea, and ornate napkinsand linens.
Newly married and 17 years old,she decided to leave her native San José in Guanajuato, Mexico, to come to theUnited States with her new husband. Here, inspired by the memory of hergrandmother, who had raised Jaime and her siblings after the tragic death ofher father, she planned to pursue her dream.
“Everything she did I admiredand learned from,” recalled Jaime affectionately about her grandmother. “Istill see her in every corner of this place and in a way the Tea Room is atribute to her.”
Jaime vividly remembers herchildhood and the tradition that took place every Wednesday in hergrandmother’s backyard. It’s really the origin story of her love of tea.
“When I was little my grandmotherwould have over to her house, girls and their mothers to teach the girls how tocrochet and embroidery.” While the girls and Jaime were busy with their crafts,her grandmother would make tea for the ladies who would drink it while sittingunderneath the shade of a lemon tree in plain view of the mountains. It wasritual that Jaime admired and deeply informed her affinity for high tea.
Although the United Statesrepresented opportunity, and Jaime never lost her love for tea, it would be some years before she could beginto bring her dream to fruition. Jaime worked originally at the landmark BeadlesCafeteria on Colorado Boulevard rolling silverware and folding napkins. Overthe years she worked her way up to eventually managing the now-shuttered cafeteriafor 15 years. “I never went to school to learn English after coming to the U.S.Beadles was my school,” said Jaime who attributes much of her professional andpersonal development to working at Beadles.
Unbeknownst to many, she hadbeen collecting English bone china teacups and dishes, and old linens sincearriving in Pasadena in 1976. Many of these pieces rotate in and out of the TeaRoom today.
Opened in 2004, The FourSeasons Tea Room has been serving guests from across Los Angeles a traditionalEnglish tea along with a delectable menu that changes with the season. Savoryscones with cream and jam are complemented by tea sandwiches, some of whichsubtly introduce Jaime’s native culture.
“When I make sandwiches Ialways include a little bit of my ‘MexiCality,’” Jaime said with a smile.
“For example, the roasted bellpepper with sundried tomato tea sandwich includes a bit of cayenne pepper. Notonly does it complement the other sandwiches but it’s a way to add a dash of myown spice,” she continued.
Her facility with nativeMexican cuisine led her friends and family to originally question her decisionto open a tea room, rather than a boutique Mexican restaurant. But Jaime wasadamant. “I likechallenges. Opening up a Mexican restaurant would have been easy, but there’stoo many here. With my reading [Jane Austen] and collection of teacups andlinens, and the passion that I have for tea, opening up a tea room was mydestiny,” said Jaime.
It hasn’t all been easy. Shehas persevered through financial hardship including the Great Recession – aperiod she describes as “terrifying” – and which required putting the entiretyof her life savings into keeping the business afloat. Be through it all thestrength of her passion has allowed her to face down all challenges.
It’s all about defining who youare and what you want to do with your dreams according to Jaime. “I’m 60 yearsold. I never dream of being rich. I dream about living my dream andexposing the romance of the Victorian era and the poetry of tea to those whovisit the Tea Room.”