Falling in love with Victoria, British Columbia was easy & it only got better when we visited The Empress Hotel for an afternoon of high tea, a luxury worth every penny & every minute of our time.
Entering the hotel for tea is done via the side door, where you're immediately greeted by the sights, sounds and even the smell of a luxury hotel. From our first steps inside, we knew this was going to be a special afternoon.
As we turned the corner we discovered a tiny mall of sorts, where we could purchase clothing and gifts, tea items and souvenirs. We had so much fun exploring the nooks and crannies. I had the most fun listening to the various employees chat about 'spilling the tea' on the latest Empress romance. People are the same, all over the world!
For those "in the know" there is one shop you must visit to commemorate your visit to the Empress for tea. You'll find timers, tea cozies, shirts and novelty items to keep and remember your time there. We're picture people more than stuff I have to clean and care for. (It's very possible I'm just lazy!)
When it was time for our reservation (made online the day before), we stepped through the door to this. Over the course of our extended tea time, where we were seated just on the other side of the pillar from the grand piano, we enjoyed live music. Hannah's favorite was the theme from Downton Abbey.
The tea menu was one of the most clever I've ever seen. Those are actual teas on the left hand side, stored in little boxes. When you choose a tea, you receive your own pot to enjoy. I chose a Chai. Hannah chose a berry.
So many beautiful moments to enjoy at the Empress during teatime. Scroll through the photos above to see the place setting, 4 types of sugar, complete set up before our tea pots arrived + our favorite item used. the "Perfect Tea Timer." This is, of course, also available in the gift shop!
If you haven't been to a full, high-tea before, you may not realize how full it actually is! Finger sandwiches add up quickly, and these were some of the best we've ever had. Salmon, egg salad, meats, spreads and of course, the obligatory cucumber.
Per their website, here are the actual descriptions of the food we consumed with gusto.
EGG SALAD ON BRIOCHE BOULE
Garnished with shaved radish
COLD SMOKED PACIFIC SOCKEYE SALMON
Chive crème fraîche on a blini
CARROT & GINGER SALAD
Orange & mascarpone served on white bread
GRANDFATHER HAM & GRUYÈRE
Empress honey, dijon & mayonnaisse on cranberry bread
SUN WING'S CUCUMBER ON DARK RYE
Dill whipped cream cheese, fennel pollen & pink peppercorn
SIGNATURE EMPRESS RAISIN SCONES
Served warm with house-made clotted cream & strawberry lavender preserve
CLASSIC SCOTTISH SHORTBREAD
Scented with cream of earl grey tea
Fresh ricotta mousse, citrus ganache
DARK CHOCOLATE & RASPBERRY MACARON
Crunchy almond meringue
SIGNATURE AIYANA MILK CHOCOLATE CRÉMEAUX
Apricot-verbena compote, muscovado sugar streusel
MAPLE PECAN FINANCIER
And here is where the Empress really stood out. Hannah is gluten free & as she is diagnosed with celiac disease, she can't have even the dust float near her food or cross-contamination of the slightest degree (1/64th of a teaspoon, to be exact.) Anyone willing to take this on is a gift, but those who do it with an eye for both good taste and beautiful presentation, they bring me to tears.
Hannah may be 17, but she's still my baby and I love to see her treated special in a positive way, instead of "special" as in special-needs. There is a HUGE difference in her emotional response. Of course!
Per the Empress:
In order to effectively accommodate dietary restrictions, we kindly ask that guests who require a special variation of Tea at the Empress call to notify our reservations team 24 hours in advance of their visit. By calling in advance, guests can rest assured that we will be able to provide a delicious afternoon tea just for them.
A full pot of berry tea & three tiers later......
This is one of the more expensive tea experiences we've had, but we managed to make our entire day in Victoria centered around it and honestly, it replaced two meals for us. We aren't huge eaters and the food was very filling. At least 1/3 of the room was full of men and boys, closer to half. When we go back, we'll bring our men. It was an experience to be shared with those you love, to celebrate life. If you have the chance to enjoy tea at the Empress, DO IT! You won't regret it.