The Great Afternoon Tea Tradition

White Heather Tea Room
White Heather Tea Room Cup, originally uploaded by andai.

I grew up reading lots of British literature. Some of my all time favorite authors for books aimed at children and young teenagers include Enid Blyton, Frank Richards (i.e Charles Hamilton) and C.S. Lewis. I also read a lot of the British comics like Beano, Dandy, Topper, Cor!!, Whoopie etc.

When you read all sort of British literature, one thing you do get to realize really quick is the British do love their tea, or more precisely, their afternoon tea. British literature has always had lots of references to the afternoon tea tradition, going into details describing all the various treats and goodies being eaten by the characters of the book or comic. But growing up in Kenya, though we do drink a lot of tea and we do have the tea and ‘biscuits’ tradition, we don’t really have a proper afternoon tea tradition. This is something that I had always wanted to try out.

Yet, it just so happens that for those of you who live in the Seattle or the Pacific Northwest to be precise, the place to be if you want to try afternoon tea is right across the northern border, the city of Victoria BC Canada.

There are at least three options that the locals will point you to if you ask. These are;

  • The Fairmont Empress Hotel: Simply known as the Empress Hotel, this is the most famous place in the Northwest for afternoon tea. The tradition here goes back just about 100 years. Here is the wording directly from their website, “During the summer months, The Fairmont Empress in Victoria, British Columbia, serves afternoon tea to more guests than most hotels in London, England. More than 800 people per day come to enjoy a tradition that has been part of the hotel since she first opened her doors in 1909”. I opted not to go there at this time because their prices are really high at about $50 per person and we had heard of another place that was much more reasonable yet highly recommended.
  • Murchies Tea & Coffee: This is the other place that we considered having afternoon tea. The main reason we decided against it was because we had been there earlier in the day for coffee and my wife tried out a number of their treats which she really enjoyed. They do have an awesome collection of teas and even though I wasn’t as impressed with their lattes, I have no doubt that their tea offerings would certainly be much better.
  • White Heather Tea Room: This is the place that came highly recommended by the owner of the Bed and Breakfast where we stayed. Of course before we went there we had to do a quick google search to check out what blogs like Wasabe Girl and others were saying about the place. Check out my posting here on the White Heather Tea Room for more about our first real Victoria(n) afternoon tea experience

These three are by no means the only places in Victoria BC to enjoy afternoon tea. From what I understand there are tons of places. One other place that I thought looked really great was The Buchart Gardens afternoon tea in The Dining Room restaurant. By the way, The Dining Room restaurant also does a great lunch picnic out on the beautifully manicured lawn complete with the wicker picnic baskets and blankets. My wife was not with me at that time otherwise I would have certainly ordered for us a picnic basket.

If you happened to be in Victoria BC, do take some time to try out what I think is certainly a great British tradition, the afternoon tea.

8 thoughts on “The Great Afternoon Tea Tradition

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  1. I live in Victoria – thanks for trying out our city! I’ve heard that Point Ellice House does a nice afternoon tea, and I’ve always wanted to try it out. I’ve had afternoon tea at the Gatsby Mansion and it was OK but not great. Also, the Blethering Place in Oak Bay Village is another place that serves it – it’s very ‘fru-fru’ in decor but the delicacies are nice! The Empress Hotel tea is wonderful but yes, it’s quite expensive. Something to try once though, just to say you’ve done it I guess! 🙂

  2. Beth… Thanks for your comments and also for your suggestions of the additional places for high tea. I am actually thinking about coming over, if not December, sometime in March and I will certainly add those to my list of places to check out. And you’re right, the Empress may be nice to check out just to say that I have been there…

    By the way, we really enjoyed Victoria. Everyone there is really friendly and the city is charming 🙂

  3. What you are talking about here is “Full Afternoon Tea” not High Tea. Google –Anna Dutchess of Bedford who started it all and get the whole story. High Tea is what the indudtrial workers had after a long day of factory work. High Tea is a meal and it’s “low brow”. Wealthy folks could just sit around all afternoon and drink tea and eat. The custom of the three “S”s–Savories (sandwiches), scones, and sweets is Afternoon Tea. Afternoon tea is what I had at the Empress.

  4. Have you ever heard of “high tea” referred to as “supper” in northern england or scotland? I think i have but need confirmation.
    Thanks, Jack

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