Afternoon Tea at The Empress

Empress Tea Cup, originally uploaded by andai.

One of the things that I really wanted to do the first time I visited Victoria BC was to do the old afternoon tea… something you really don’t see in Seattle, the land of all things coffee. At that time, we had considered going to the Fairmont Empress Hotel in Victoria in part because they are world famous for their for their afternoon tea tradition. We heard that the afternoon tea there was rather expensive and so we decided that we would to the White Heather Tea Room and have our afternoon tea there instead.

The tea and eats at White Heather Tea Room were great, but on publishing this post about places in Victoria to experience afternoon tea, One of the commentators, Beth, highly recommend that we try the afternoon tea at the Empress. Yes she admitted that it was rather expensive, but it was also one of those things that you should do at least once. And she was not the only one who gave us the same suggestion.

So this time around, finding ourselves in Victoria once again, we decided that we would bite the bullet and actually try out probably the most famous afternoon tea tradition in Canada. The first thing we did was to make reservations to ensure that I would be able to get seating.

During the high tourist season, the place is pretty popular and you may need to make your reservations early, as in days earlier, but in our case we called in the morning and were able to make reservations for the afternoon. I suspect that had we simply walked in without any reservations and asked for seating, we would have gotten in. Late March/early April is certainly not the tourist season, and with the not so great economy, it was pretty easy for us to get in.

Scones, Cream and Preserves, originally uploaded by andai.

I was really excited to try out their tea. The Empress actually uses their own custom blended tea which includes one of my favorite teas, Kenyan tea. The only thing I didn’t like was the fact that they milk they bring (for those of you who like milk with their tea) does not come heated. I prefer adding warm milk to my black tea instead of adding cold milk.

The first thing they brought out was a fresh fruit salad served in glass/crystal goblets. The fruit was great…. and once we were done, they then brought out the three-tier serving trays with the three S’s, the savories, the scones and the sweets.

I loved some of the sandwiches though I was able to confirm once again that truffles can get a little too strong for me. I loved the cake type of sweets. The chocolates were decent but I am not necessarily one who goes too crazy about sweets. But what I really liked were the scones. The scones are pretty awesome and they come with a small jar of fresh preserves and fresh Devonshire cream, which is rather rich and extremely delicious. These are not those scones you get in your ordinary everyday coffee shops here in Seattle, that’s for sure.

Like I said before, the tea was great! They serve a blend of teas that include, Assam, Ceylon, South Indian, Kenya and China teas. This blend, known simply as the Empress Blend, is made specially for the Empress by the Metropolitan Tea Company. It was a pleasant surprise to discover at the end of our tea, we each got a box of this tea to take home with us. I am enjoying that tea on special occasions where I just want to relax in the evening and a nice homemade cup of tea.

What all was said and done, we paid $44 each for our afternoon tea. This did not include tax nor any tips. Like I said before, it was pretty expensive, but it was also a once in a life time splurge. Certainly for many of us, not something that you’d want to do very weekend but at least you can say that you once participated in that time honored Victorian (BC) tradition of the afternoon tea at the Empress Hotel.

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