Eats in Victoria: Afternoon tea at the Fairmont Empress

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Everyone boasts about the beauty of Vancouver and Victoria Island, and that the winters there are “mild”. Thanks to global warming, we no longer have the luxury of going to places and expecting a mild winter. Apparently, we ran into the coldest and snowiest winter British Columbia has had in 10 years! Regardless, apparently Justin Trudeau is our new savior. Therefore, we should all go to Canada to escape from a certain orange man. One of the quieter and quainter cities in British Columbia is Victoria, on Vancouver Island. On this island, the most classic activities is tea at the Fairmont Empress Hotel.

Exterior view of the Fairmont Empress Hotel

Tea at the Fairmont Empress Hotel (Visited December 2016) 

Address: 721 Government Street, Victoria, British Columbia
Hours: 11am – 5pm (multiple seatings)
Price range: 75CAD per set

Interior of the classical tea room

The entire hotel itself is a historical landmark, labelled as a National Historic Site of Canada. First opened in 1908, the hotel has hosted a wide variety of historical figures and celebrities. Initially, the hotel’s purpose was to serve as a terminus hotel for a steamship line. In the 1920s, it became a resort and then a popular tourist spot. Distinguished guests include Shirley Temple, George VI and Queen Elizabeth, the Prince of Wales.

Empress Tea China

The tea lounge is located in the lobby, with the windows facing the harbor. If seated next to a window during light hours, the view is lovely. Outside, there is a porch area with classical lights and a garden. However, portions of the hotel are currently undergoing renovation. If that is a concern, check with the hotel before booking!

Hourglasses for timing tea

All of the china used at the Fairmont Empress, with the pattern dating back to 1914. For history buffs: it was first utilized by George VI and Queen Elizabeth in 1939. A wooden box with individual compartments containing all sorts of tea serves as the tea menu. As of 2017, the tea selection boasts 21 loose-leaf options, especially the famous Empress Blend. Tea is served alongside three hour-glasses. Green = 3 minutes, White = 4 minutes, and Sand = 5 minutes, depending on your preference for the tea brewing. At the Fairmont, there will be none of the re-using tea bag nonsense! The server will swiftly remove the tea bags after the 5 minutes are up. Don’t worry, the pot contains far more water than one would require.

Food set with #asiantakingphotosoffood in the back =)

The food trays contain everything one expects in a tea set. First, raisin scones with clotted cream and jam! Then comes the shortbread, cucumber sandwiches, cakes, mousse, tarts, etc. Food is separated into 3 layers: one savory, one sweet, and one just for the scones. I love scones! Although I still prefer the scones with rose jam at the Mandarin Oriental in Hong Kong, these were definitely above average.

If you enjoy slow afternoons sitting, chatting, and soaking in a historical building and traditions, be sure to add the Empress afternoon tea to the Vancouver Island itinerary!

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