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Thursday, August 27, 2015

Vancouver Island: Tea time at the Empress


I have always been a little bit fascinated with royalty. As a small fairy, I would slip into their gardens and sitting rooms to determine how they dressed, what they were talking about, and especially what they ate and drank. It is therefore no surprise that when I discovered the Fairmont Empress Hotel in Victoria, Canada, served high tea to anyone who was appropriately dressed and could afford the experience, I couldn’t wait to get there.

The Empress has served Afternoon Tea for over 105 years but with the massive fire in downtown Victoria in 1910 and the start of the Great War in 1914, we of the Nether World decided to stay away from the Earth Realm for a time.  And then I just got busy.  You know how it is; life happens.

This August, I finally got to go and I was not disappointed. The hotel is filled with beautiful furnishings and d├ęcor from the Victorian and Edwardian eras. Table cloths and napkins are crisp and white. The china is produced exclusively for the Empress Hotel and was first used in 1939 on the occasion of a visit from King George VI and Queen Elizabeth of England.  Silver teapots, trays, cream pitchers, and sugar bowls are used to pour tea. A piano player tickles the ivories in the background.  I do not see this kind of elegance very often today and it was like I had actually walked into the past.

My companions and I were taken to our table and seated. Our server provided us with the carte du jour listing the delicacies we would be served. We had a choice of teas and my companions opted for the Empress Blend. I chose the Madame Butterfly Jasmine loose leaf tea. Tea was brewed at the table and poured by the server. My tea was a blend of jasmine and green tea from Fuijan province in China. The tea’s aroma reminded me of being in an oriental temple surrounded by trees, little streams, and mountains. How heavenly and serene!

To start, we were served a dish of fresh blueberries with Empress Cream. Empress Cream seems to be a cross between whipped cream and Devonshire cream. I made myself take the time to savor each spoonful. Next came a tiered tray with finger sandwiches, scones, and pastries. My companions are not vegetarians and their sandwiches included smoked salmon with dill cream cheese, honey ham with Dijon mustard, egg salad, Moroccan spiced chicken, cucumber and ginger. Where their sandwiches included meat, the chef replaced the selections to accommodate me.  I got a carrot sandwich, an eggplant with curry, and a tomato. Each sandwich was made with a different kind of bread: croissant, butter brioche, marble rye, and more.  Next came scones with Empress Cream and strawberry preserves. And last, but not least the pastries: chocolate cup with berry mousse, pistachio cream tart, rose petal shortbread and at least two other offerings. We had more food than we could eat. Our server graciously boxed up the extras and also presented us with a souvenir package of Empress Blend tea. What a lovely surprise.

The Afternoon Tea is rather costly but it is a wondrous and unique experience. I recommend you allow a lot of time to fully enjoy the tea and to tour the flower gardens outside. Extraordinary! Don’t you deserve to be an Emperor or Empress for at least one afternoon?
 

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