Oct 16, 2009

Tea at the Empress

October 16/2009

Last weekend we wanted to create a lasting and fond memory for someone special in our lives, so we went to Victoria for tea.

There are certain places in the world that evoke nostalgia. For instance, when one hears the name of a certain hotel, the imagination is transported to a different time and era, and that folklore and fantasy is sometimes kept alive by the hotel that created it. A few years ago before I left on a trip to Singapore, my father planted a $20 dollar bill in my hand and said, “Have a Singapore Sling at Raffles Hotel, on me.” Raffles is where the Singapore Sling cocktail was invented in 1915, and the hotel has catered to the daily ritual of tourists wishing to partake in the romance of the British colonial era, and the original drink at the Raffles Long Bar, ever since. In fact, hundreds taste the drink every week and many wander around the old hotel building and inner courtyard in awe of the place where writers like Noel Coward and Somerset Maughm wrote many of their stories and novels. Novels my father loved to read.

Tea service at the Fairmont Empress Hotel in Victoria, British Columbia evokes a similar feeling and it’s just as popular. The idea of Tea at the Empress, conjures up old world charm, expensive opulence and train travel across a continent to a far away place. In truth, the Empress is just that sort of place where people journey from around the world to enjoy the experience of afternoon tea and being treated like Royalty. A simple idea lasting over a hundred years, were Royalty, world traveling celebrities and adventurers have congregated since it's inception.

Although much more expensive than a Singapore Sling at Raffles, Tea at the Empress is from the same era. But rather than just a drink, customers are treated to a complete tea service: A continuously filled pot of the special Empress blend tea served in the Empress China tea set that has been around since King George the Fifth, a three tier tray with small sandwiches of BC salmon, cucumber and other delicacies, traditional English scones with strawberry preserves and cream, and an array of little deserts, cakes, fruit tarts and treats of many shapes and tastes. What more could one ask than to be surrounded by the beautiful setting of the charming Victorian front lobby tea room, and a wonderful view of Victoria’s harbour? All this adds up to a magnificent culinary delight and an atmosphere of fond memories. And the extremely courteous servers usually deserve a large tip for the process.

The $20 dollars my father gave me for my drink at the Raffles bar, wouldn’t go very far at the Empress, yet, if you are in the vicinity and have the money, spend it on a memory that will last a lifetime. Memories are important and if you have the inclination or the passion to live with special moments, shared or alone, then Tea service at the Empress is a really good idea. Remember to make a reservation. And if you like it, go again.

“A Proper Tea is much nicer than a Very Nearly Tea, which is one you forget about afterwards.” - A.A. Milne

“Each cup of tea represents an imaginary voyage.”

- Catherine Douzel

“There are few hours in life more agreeable than the hour dedicated to the

ceremony known as afternoon tea.”

- Henry James