In the late 1700’s Anna, the seventh Duchess of Bedford and one of Queen Victoria’s ladies-in-waiting, experienced a sinking feeling in the late afternoon. Inviting friends to join her for a fortifying additional afternoon meal (small cakes, bread-and-butter sandwiches, assorted sweets and, of course, tea) she unknowingly created the tradition of Afternoon Tea.
When the British immigrated to Victoria British Columbia, they brought the practice of afternoon tea with them and it has been a tradition in the city ever since.
The majestic lobby of the Fairmont Empress Hotel has been serving afternoon tea since 1908 (in the beginning, tea was $1 and a room with a harbour view was $7) and now serves its world-famous tea more than 100,000 times a year. Tea here begins with fresh seasonal berries followed by an offering of delicate tea sandwiches and plump scones with homemade strawberry preserves and thick cream. As guests sip their china cup of Empress blend tea (a mixture of China black, Ceylon and Darjeeling teas) to the sounds of Chopin’s Waltz in A Minor, a tray of light pastries is passed around and guests make their selections.
Afternoon Tea at the Fairmont Empress is the quintessential tea experience; a dress code combined with elegant furnishings, lush colours and attentive staff makes one feel as though they were dining with the Duchess of Bedford herself.
While the Fairmont Empress is the classic, iconic choice for the traditional tea experience, the White Heather is the “homey” choice that offers great food, character and value.
Agnes Campbell, a fiery red-head Scot with a distinctive laugh, dreamt of having her own tearoom. Her personality combined with the light breakfasts, lunches, Sunday brunch and of course afternoon teas made her dream successful, bringing in crowds of both tourists and locals. Everything is made from scratch and the Wee Tea, Not So Wee Tea and The Big Muckle Giant Tea offer excellent value and ensure that guests will be “cuddlier when they leave.”
An alternative experience to traditional afternoon tea is delivered at Silk Road Aromatherapy and Tea Company, providing a new, hip twist on tea in Victoria.
Located in Victoria’s historic Chinatown, the oldest in Canada, Silk Road was created by two women who were taught the Chinese tea tradition and blending techniques by Chinese Tea Masters and Herbalists. The Silk Road art of tea blending ensures that the character of the plant retains its essential harmony and is enhanced by the ingredients with which it is paired. Customers are greeted at the door with a cup of tea to sip as they browse the tea bar, Asian dishes and 100% natural skin, hair and body care products also made by Silk Road. Silk Road also has an in-house spa and offers educational workshops and tea tastings throughout the year.
The Fairmont Empress
721 Government Street Victoria BC Canada V8W 1W5
The White Heather Tea Room
1885 Oak Bay Avenue Victoria, BC Canada V8R 1C6
Silk Road Aromatherapy & Tea Company
1624 Government Street Victoria, BC Canada V8W 1Z3