The Empress Hotel has been serving Afternoon Tea for over a century. It is served in the relaxing atmosphere of the Tea Lobby. This elegant space overlooks Victoria’s picturesque harbour.
The Fairmont Empress Hotel was originally built over one hundred years ago. Throughout the last century Afternoon Tea has been enjoyed by guests of the hotel which have included royalty, dignitaries and celebrities.
You will be seated in the the beautiful restored tea lobby that has polished hardwood floors, extravagant moldings, a hand painted ceiling and Victorian furniture.
You have your choice of several teas, although I would recommend to have the tea that has been specially blended for the hotel, the Empress Blend. If you are a black tea lover you will enjoy this full bodied tea that is a blend from Assam, Kenya, South India, Ceylon and China.
Your waiter or waitress will provide you with attentive service from start to finish of your afternoon tea. The server will frequently be back to make sure you tea cup is filled and will even put your desired amount of cream and sugar into your first cup.
The first treat to arrive will be a dish of fresh seasonal berries with cream, we had strawberries. Then the three tiered set up of goodies and sandwiches will arrive. It will include things like B.C. smoked salmon pinwheels, cucumber finger sandwiches and tasty mushroom pate crostini. The best part are the baked scones with strawberry preserves and Devonshire cream.
If you can possibly fit any more in there is another tier of sweets including lemon curd tarts, shortbread and several other pastries.
The Afternoon Tea at the Empress will make a large dent in your wallet at currently $50 per person, but most people say it’s worth it. Make the most of the experience, it is not something to be rushed. Although the dress code is smart casual, many people take the opportunity to dress up for the occasion to make it a very special event.
The china used for the service has the Empress Pattern on it. It was originally presented to King George V in 1914. It was first used by the Empress Hotel in 1939 for the royal visit of King George VI and Queen Elizabeth. It is now produced by Royal Doulton exclusively for the Empress Hotel.
Anyone can enjoy tea at the Empress, you do not have to be a guest of the hotel. Reservations are required and must be made directly with the hotel, a week or two in advance (250) 384-8111. There are up to five seatings daily, from 12:00 p.m. until 5:00 p.m.
How Did The Practice Of High Tea Start?
The tradition of High Tea goes back many years to the late 1700’s. In England at that time there were two main meals daily, breakfast and dinner. Dinner was served very late in the evening, so it was a very long time between meals.
The Duchess of Bedford(1788-1861) complained about a “sinking feeling” in the late afternoon. She started to have Afternoon Tea as a way to keep her going until dinner. She would invite friends to join her for tea at 5pm. The practice of inviting friends to take tea soon became popular by people from all levels of society. The food served at tea included finger sandwiches, toasted breads with preserves, scones and crumpets. It soon became a regular way to socialize with your friends.
High Tea is different than Afternoon Tea. It was more like a full meal. It was called named High Tea because it was served on the high table or at the family dining table. It was served to the workers from the fields or working class families for their evening meal. It consisted of meats, gravies, cheese, eggs, bread and butter, cake and tea.
Afternoon Tea or Low Tea is what is common today. It was traditionally served on low tables and, comes in three various forms- Cream Tea, Light Tea and Full Tea and is served about four o’clock. The different types of Afternoon Tea varies as to whether or not you serve the tea with scones, clotted cream, preserves, sandwiches, pastries, and cakes.
Today different versions of Afternoon Tea can be found worldwide especially in commonwealth countries. Many places in Victoria serve afternoon tea.
If you happen to be in Victoria in February you might be able to time your trip with the Annual Victoria Tea Festival.