In the last couple of months (March to May 2009), I've gone to the Golden Tea Garden three times, and I'm planning on going at the first opportunity. That should tell you how much I adore this new little tea house surprisingly located in Hayward.
The Golden Tea Garden is a labor of love - and it shows. The small shop is appointed like a garden, with a green carpet, a running fountain and comfortable white iron tables and chairs. The room is decorated with an impressionistic garden mural and incredibly beautiful tea pots and tea cups. I'm not a tea cup aficionado, but even I was lusting for them.
The place is also terribly comfortable, a room and atmosphere that invites you to relax and linger - two of the times I went I stayed there for at least 3 hours (the other time I went with my 7-year old, who has a limit on how long she can stay sitting down). Beware, however, that if you go on a Saturday you must get a reservation - during my last visit (the other two had been on Sundays), we had to wait an hour for a table.
The Golden Tea Garden has become very popular for birthday parties, showers, and all other occasions when women get together. It also seems popular for mother-daughter teas, there were quite a few nicely dressed up girls during my last visit. And while you won't be uncomfortable wearing shorts and jeans at this place (it does look like a garden, after all) - you may also want to dress up a little bit and get into the "garden tea party" theme of it all.
Service is quite good. The owner is affable, enthusiastic and open to suggestions. She clearly takes the running of a tea house seriously. That said, service can be slow when the place is very busy - understandably so.
When I went with daughter they gave her a toy package with a tiara, earrings, necklace, etc. - and she could not have been more delighted. Indeed, she spent the whole visit telling me how cute the place was and how happy she was. She felt like a little princess.
If you like flavored tea, chances are you will find one you like at the Golden Tea Garden. Their list of flavored teas is very extensive (as you can see online). Most of the ones we tried were very good, the blood orange tea in particular. When I went with Mika (my 7-year old), she had the caramel tea and loved it. The one area in which they don't do well is in black teas. The only non-flavored one is the English Breakfast, and I found it too weak for my taste. I've been drinking Earl Gray since, which is fine, but not outstanding. The other problem is that they don't bring you milk and sugar unless you ask - of course, many people don't take milk and sugar with flavored teas, but they are a must for me. Last time (when it was incredibly busy) I didn't get any at all, and found out that Earl Gray can be pleasant without them, but I'd still prefer that they at least ask whether you want them.
The menu includes several options for teas and goodies. I always order the dessert sampler which includes a pot of tea with 3 large slices of cake; these include a Red Velvet cake from Marita's, which I absolutely adore. The other tea menus do not offer as much food, but what is given is quite good. The three little sandwiches in the tea and sandwiches menu were to die for - I just wish they'd been bigger and there had been more of them. Their scone also suffers from being too small, but it's the best scone I've had this side of Lovejoy's. It's light and flavorful, and incredible with their raspberry? jam. Other small pastries vary from time to time, most of what we've had has been quite good. All the items come from local purveyors, and the owner is very careful as to quality.
Other things that make the Golden Tea Garden special include the background harp music - very relaxing and just loud enough to not interfere with conversation - and the extra attention. On our first visit we were brought a couple of more slices of cake, after lingering for a couple of hours, and we were even given the table flowers to take with us.
In all, I can't stop raving about this tea house - or going there. It's just great.
The Golden Tea Garden
22630 Main Street
Th-Su 12 - 8 PM