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With a Flourish of Crumpets, Samantha Just Brings the Art of High Tea to Hollywood

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Instead of whiling away the cocktail hour swilling martinis or Perrier, nowadays Hollywood’s elite can sip sherry or P.G. Tips tea. Between nips, the social vanguard takes tasteful little bites of such English goodies as scones and jam, singing hinnies (round cakes), lardy Johns (spice cakes) and Eccles cakes (sinfully good currant tarts once banned by Oliver Cromwell). The stately old English rite of high tea has arrived in the U.S. with as much of a bang as that tea party in Boston. The instigator—calorie counters would call her the perpetrator—is Samantha Just, 37, a comely Englishwoman who was once a top model and a star of British television’s Top of the Pops, the trendy ’60s showcase for musical groups.

“I am probably more qualified than most to do this,” says Samantha, who now runs a Los Angeles catering service, “because I’ve done so much research into the history and traditions of British tea. Besides, I’ve got my 73-year-old mum to make sure everything is just right.” Just also gets an assist from Ami, 14, her daughter by Mickey Dolenz, late of the Monkees, whom she met on the group’s TV show and divorced seven years ago.

Samantha got the idea for “The Art of English Tea,” as she calls her service, six months ago, when she realized that tea was the British tradition she could least do without. “At 4 in the afternoon, there is nothing more wonderful than tea at somewhere like Harrods,” she says. “In L.A. there is nothing like that.”

Her clientele has included the British Olympic Association and the hosts of a baby shower for an expectant father. Costs range from $9.50 to $15 per head, depending on how much double Devon cream is served. Samantha and her mother, Phyllis, get up at 5:30 a.m. to start cooking. Members of L.A.’s British colony sometimes provide authentic accents as maids and butlers. Samantha has a harpist on call and can provide chamber music for really tony bashes. The British, it appears, are no longer coming. They have arrived.