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The Tea House Spa is more than a getaway for relaxation, refuge and rejuvenation. It is a place to seek peace.

The spa’s roots go back to the late 1940s, when a Santa Cruz native known as Anne Sunlight established a traditional Japanese tea garden just off Pacific Avenue. Memories of World War II and the internment of Japanese Americans were still raw, and Anne wanted to create a space that fostered understanding between East and West — a radical move considering the animosity many Americans still harbored against Japan. Dressed in a kimono, Anne would serve tea to her guests while facilitating conversations on how to heal the wounds of the recent past. A steady clientele, composed mostly of progressive women, kept the tea garden afloat for over ten years.

In 1970, the current Tea House owners moved to Santa Cruz and into the apartment building that sits in front of the garden to this day. Eight years after they had settled in, they purchased the property from Anne and got to work clearing out the wild roses and jungle plants that had overtaken the garden. Soon enough, the bamboo grove was back, more peaceful and majestic than ever.

Between 1978 and 1984, the garden was open for business and improvement proposals — everything from an AA meeting place to a greenhouse was suggested. In 1984, the present building was erected and opened as a spa. A major overhaul took place in 1996, and the spa reopened as the Tea House in October of 1997, offering shoji spa rooms, cedar-lined saunas, superb massage therapy and a world-class selection of tea. Almost twenty years later, we at the Tea House still love to offer locals and visitors what this space has always stood for: peace.