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Victoria afternoon tea

Afternoon tea in Victoria BC - here is a welcome guide to traditional English high tea in tearooms: an elegant way to spend part of an afternoon. After all, vacations are all about doing things we do not do at home. High tea is a tradition in Victoria drawing upon its British heritage.






History of afternoon tea

It can be traced back to the mid-1700s when the main meals of the day were a hearty breakfast and then dinner between 7.00pm and 8.30pm. Between them was just a light luncheon. At this time afternoon tea first appeared coinciding with the “invention” of the sandwich by John Montagu, fourth Earl of Sandwich, probably in 1762.

Tea, the drink, was served in coffee houses although high rates of duty made it expensive so it was consumed by the wealthy. Anna, the seventh Duchess of Bedford (1788-1861) one of Queen Victoria’s ladies-in-waiting, instructed her butler to bring her tea, bread and butter and cakes at 5.00pm to ward off hunger pains. She turned this into a social event, serving afternoon tea in the Blue Drawing Room at Woburn Abbey amidst conversation, as in Parisian salons.

For the working classes and middle classes afternoon tea performed the role of being the major meal of the day, sometimes called high tea. (Martin well remembers these carbohydrate-dominated meals from his childhood in England and even now, when returning to Britain, he knows what will follow when his aunts say “You must stay for tea”.)

The extent of its role in English life can be surmised from just one of many similar verses from the song “Everything Stops for Tea” (from the 1935 musical “Come Out of the Pantry”:
Oh, a lawyer in the courtroom
In the middle of an alimony plea
Has to stop and help ‘em pour when the clock strikes four
Everything stops for tea

19th century social aspirants in Victoria were later described as being “More English than the English” so it is hardly surprisingly that the custom of Victoria afternoon tea was readily adopted. The Empress Hotel has served traditional afternoon tea since it opened in 1908 at a cost of $1.

Victoria afternoon tea, Butchart Gardens tea
Victoria afternoon tea

Victoria afternoon tea rooms

Abkhazi Garden - tea room at the heritage gardens of Prince and Princess Abkhazi, $13.25. 1964 Fairfield Road (598-8096).

Adrienne's Tea Garden at charming Matticks Farm, Cordova Bay - a short drive from our bed and breakfast: $19.99, or $32.99 for two people.

Butchart Gardens traditional afternoon tea in the elegant dining room overlooking the gardens: $28.95. (1-866 652-4422). 

Point Ellice House - www.pointellicehouse.ca, Italianate heritage house ideally reached on a Victoria Harbour Ferry from the Inner Harbour, $16.95.

The Fairmont Empress Hotel - traditional high tea in an elegant Edwardian setting: $59.95 per person (note the price).

White Heather Tea Room - scrumptious teas served in Oak Bay: from $16.50, or $48.50 for two people. 1885 Oak Bay Avenue (595-8020), www.whiteheathertea.com.

Venus Sophia - in the heart of Chinatown. 540 Fisgard Street (250 590-3953), www.venussophia.com

Glendale Gardens - Sundays 11am - 4pm, July to October, featuring local organic produce. 505 Quayle Road, Victoria. (250 479-6162).

Summary of afternoon teas.
You may wonder which we recommend. One of our innkeepers, Linda, has undertaken the enviable task of taking afternoon tea at most of them. She considered the quality and quality of the food, the ambience of the setting and the value. Her personal recommendations are firstly the Butchart Gardens and then secondly the White Heather. The Empress would be second if they reduced their prices by 50%!

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Victoria afternoon tea

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