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Fairmont Empress Tea Lobby British Columbia Canada
Photo: Fairmont Empress

For almost 100 years, the lobby of the Edwardian landmark Fairmont Empress has hosted its daily afternoon tea – long considered one of Victoria's grand traditions.

 

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Pastry Chef Fairmont Express High Tea
Photo: Fairmont Empress

Fairmont Empress's Pastry Chef,
D'Oyen Christie

Perfect High Tea in BC

Chai, bubble, matcha, mint... Chamomile, earl grey, jasmine dragon tears, and good old orange pekoe... There are many, many ways to enjoy a nice cup of tea.

A good brew is something cozy and warm, rather like good company. You might believe, like the 18th-century English author Henry Fielding, that "Love and scandal are the best sweeteners of tea." Or perhaps you prefer the approach of the Chinese philosopher T'ien Yiheng, who used it to rest, refresh and reflect: "Tea is drunk to forget the din of the world."

Whatever the case, tea can be found in a bag, as loose leaves, in "pearls," or compacted in bricks, and because of the immigrants from around the world who made BC their home, British Columbians can boast that they know how to serve a nice cuppa.

This is a guide to some of the great tearooms around the province.

Some tearooms are stylish, while others are traditional. The Café Fleuri at The Sutton Place Hotel (845 Burrard Street, Vancouver, 604-642-2900, www.suttonplace.com) is definitely a combination of both, with traditional "British" fare and a decidedly chic West Coast clientele.

Entering the salon-like rooms of the Café Fleuri for afternoon tea transports you far away from the bustle of nearby Robson Street; it has elegance and ceremony without being stuffily formal (casual attire and designer clothes are equally welcome). The café is not understaffed so there is old-fashioned, high-quality service that suits the atmosphere. Once seated, the diner is given a small menu outlining the teas and finger foods on offer. An "English Service" high tea costs $22 per person, $27 if you add sparkling wine to the mix.

 

Our waiter brought out a small case, rather like a jewel box, that contained 13 small jars. In them were samples of the special blends on offer — each with a delicious smell. The variety ensures that any visitor should find a tea worth brewing. There are herbal blends as well as caffeinated.

I took my eight-year-old son along as my dining companion. It was his first tea room visit. For thespecial occasion, we selected a Darjeeling oolong with lavender flowers infused throughout. Our waitress promptly brought out our pot and a three-tiered dish of goodies to go with it.

For savories we had that traditional English favourite — cucumber and watercress in tiny sandwiches that seemed more like sculptures than food items. There was also smoked salmon pinwheels on dark pumpernickel and tiny ham and Camembert croissants.

For the sweet end to it all, two chocolate-dipped strawberries sat next to scones, cakes and éclairs. Devonshire clotted cream and a variety of jams were on the table. If the word "exquisite" isn't normally in your vocabulary, the spread on the table provides ample opportunity to use it.

Our tea was wonderful — the Darjeeling and lavender mix had a flowery fragrance and taste that rounded out everything else about our visit beautifully, yet it was strong enough to satisfy my need for a caffeinated refresher. The teapot was refilled with boiling water twice and that power was not lost.

And what did my eight-year-old soccer loving, video game fan think? "This is heaven," he said, sinking into his comfortable chair. He quickly helped himself to another small cake and took a sip of tea from a white porcelain cup.

The city of Victoria is, of course, synonymous with sipping tea, and the epicentre of Vancouver Island's passion for the liquid gold is the Fairmont Empress Hotel (721 Government Street, 250-384-3111, www.fairmont.com), situated near the legislative building and along the city's spectacular inner harbour.

For almost 100 years, the lobby of the Edwardian landmark has hosted its daily afternoon tea — long considered one of Victoria's grand traditions. Award-winning Pastry Chef D'Oyen Christie creates an authentic and memorable experience, with delectable offerings and the hotel's own Tea at the Empress tea blend.  The Tea Lobby, as the eating area is known, was recently renovated and customers are encouraged to dress smart-casual.

For those seeking out a bit more on the art of sipping, a visit to the annual Victoria Tea Festival provides the perfect cup. This one-day event features a tasting of a wide variety of teas from around the world as well as presentations on tea topics. 

Representatives are on location to provide samples, share tea steeping and serving tips, and to discuss the history and health benefits of tea. Local tearooms, bakeries and restaurants display their menus, tea selections, and provide samples of their products. The day marks the signature annual fundraising event for Camosun College Child Care Services, and features a silent and live auction.

Of course, there are many more fine establishments all around British Columbia that can brew a great pot of tea. Sometimes tea refreshes while visiting a new place and sometimes the tea itself provides the reason for the journey. Here are some of the best tea houses:


About the Author...
Cathryn Atkinson

Source... Tourism BC

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