In the mood for something elegant, something genteel, something that takes you back to a time that was more refined, more social, and definitely slower than the average instantaneousness of texting? Then you will be happy to know that right on the Inner Harbour, in the Lobby of the Fairmont Empress, is a true Victoria ‘don’t miss’ experience: an amazing traditional Afternoon Tea.
The Tradition of the Afternoon Tea in Victoria
The lore that has sprung up around the start of the traditional English Afternoon Tea goes like this: By the early 19th century, lunch was served at 12 noon, dinner was not served until 8pm, and the Duchess of Bedford (a lifelong friend of Queen Victoria’s), would experience a faint, light-headed feeling around five in the afternoon.
She soon found the solution that would tide her over until dinner-time, and being a social sort, the Duchess began to invite a few friends over for the ‘meal-ette’, which consisted of tea (considered a very hip drink at the time, Darjeeling being her usual choice), some bread & butter and small cakes (which of course have come to be known as ‘tea cakes’).
The afternoon tea events became quite popular amongst ladies of leisure – and a tradition was born, which quickly filtered through to the upper and middle classes of England, where it has remained a staple of reminding us of a traditional Victorian England.
Afternoon Tea on vancouver island at the Empress delivers this fine tradition as if an art form. Served in several different rooms at the Empress, the most traditional location to enjoy the Tea is in the Tea Lobby, a large and grand Victorian space. Fabulous views regale you by way of the large bay windows which run the entire length of the room.
The Tea of the Afternoon Tea
There are eight fabulous teas on the menu, selections of which include: Earl Grey, a Green Jasmine, an herbal, fruity Berry blend, and more, but the pies de resistance is The Empress blend; nine high quality teas come together, a combination of Assam (thick malty and full bodied), Kenya (floral-like), South India (superbly fruity), Ceylon (airy, almost piquant), and China (burgundy with oaky notes) – creating a tea lover’s nirvana.
The Food of the Afternoon Tea
Afternoon Tea has come a long way since the day of the Duchess, an exquisite silver service appeared, filled with fruits and finger sandwiches filled with cucumber, smoked BC salmon, carrot and ginger with cream cheese, open-faced shrimp mousse and curry mango chicken salad. Next were Scones, with strawberry preserves and clotted cream, which were followed by an assortment of pastries, including chocolate truffles, fresh berry and lemon tarts, green tea cheesecake, and rose-petal shortbread cookies.
They are able to accommodate people with food allergies and special dietary needs, Including diabetics and those who are gluten sensitive, and they’ve even created a Prince and Princess Tea for the kids, which I think is very cool.The Afternoon Tea seating begins at 11:30am daily. Due to its popularity I recommend you make a reservation at least a week prior to your visit and plan to arrive a few minutes early, as reservations are only held for 15 minutes past the time of your booking and the place is always full.The Dress code,: casually elegant, no ripped jeans, short shorts, cut off pants, beach wear, flip flops or baseball caps.
The Tea Room has a policy: (which I love) ‘For the comfort of all guests, it is requested that cell phones be turned off during Afternoon Tea.’ Oh yes, a truly genteel environment harkening back to a more elegant, relaxed, time period – like pre-texting 1999.
It is not an inexpensive Tea, but the quantity and quality are abundant, (some people skip dinner that day or ask for a ‘doggy bag’) and for most of us it is a once in a lifetime amazing moment in time.For more information about Afternoon Tea at the Empress
Creative Commons Attribution: Permission is granted to repost this article in its entirety with credit to Amazing Vancouver Island and a clickable link back to this page.
Featured image credit: www.victoriaexplorer.com