tea tent

Steeped in Tradition

“Tennis, tea and talk” is synonymous with the father of The Ojai Tennis Tournament, William Larned Thacher, whose love for his favorite sport, beverage and pastime coalesced into the showpiece of the oldest amateur tournament in the country — Ojai’s very own Tea Tent.

Exactly what makes the Tea Tent so special? Tradition.

For more than 120 years, nestled between the stately oaks and tennis courts of Libbey Park, tournament-goers and players have relished the comforting ritual of afternoon tea and conversation. Inextricably linked to a legendary and entirely true tale, the origin story of the Tea Tent is as charming as the Tea Tent experience itself.

William, brother of Thacher School founder Sherman Day Thacher, lived on the boarding school’s campus and was an accomplished intercollegiate tennis champion during his time at Yale. Endeared to the warm fellowship and lively conversation that emanated from sharing a cup of his favorite beverage with others, William would hang a sign marked “T” in his window to signal to students that he was available for tea and cookies.

As his vision for the newly created Ojai Valley Tennis Tournament came to life, honoring the community of players and tournament guests with the simple yet somehow deeply fulfilling pleasures of afternoon tea and cookies came naturally. Little did he know that, 120 years later, his unique expression of dignified hospitality would not only endure but become as widely revered and culturally integral to the tournament as the tennis itself.

From al fresco under magnificent courtside oaks to a modest veranda adorned with wildflower garlands, today’s elegant tea service is served from a striking pavilion-style tent and befits the renowned caliber of competition that has graced Ojai’s courts for well over a century.

More than 100 community volunteers, working in intricately orchestrated harmony, consider it a privilege to help pull off the annual fête. Polishers of exquisite urns, washers of hundreds of china teacups, slicers of freshly picked lemons, sparklers of silver trays and positioners of fine table linens all add meticulous elegance to every detail. At the appointed hour each day, an artistic floral arrangement designed by the Ojai Valley Garden Club magically arrives and is positioned, just so, on the table between two gleaming silver tea services. Voilà! It’s showtime!

Most importantly, the Tea Tent’s signature hospitality is graciously extended to every guest with the complimentary service of more than 1,500 cups of tea and thousands upon thousands of cookies from volunteers happily dressed up in Tea Tent finery.

All of this. Year after glorious year.

Perhaps the best evidence of how much this gracious tradition is revered by both volunteers and tea-takers is how the stewardship of this beloved custom has been lovingly handed down. Some families have participated for three-plus generations, including members of the present-day Thacher family. The warm glow of a job well done was felt when Ojai Wall of Famer and Grand Slam Champion Patrick McEnroe accepted the invitation to return to Libbey Park’s hallowed grounds as tournament honoree and specifically inquired, “Will the Tea Tent be open?” Truth be told, opening hours were enthusiastically adjusted to help warmly welcome one of our own storied champions back to the battleground courts of his college career. The Tea Tent never disappoints.

Tea and cookies will be served in Libbey Park in the afternoons near center court.

Please join us for “tennis, tea and talk” and enjoy The Ojai’s most treasured tradition!

Have any questions?

Ojai Valley Tennis Club