Tea at the Empress: Experience Canada's iconic afternoon tea service

Dec 23 2022, 5:00 pm

For a place like BC, sometimes “getting fancy” means kicking off those Blundstone boots or changing out of our beloved lululemon leggings and into our nicest pair of jeans.

And just for the record, there’s truly nothing wrong with that.

Coming from a crew that loves a Canadian tuxedo for a night on the town (guilty as charged), we’re fans of the casual vibe that goes hand in hand with our province. Really, it’s what draws a lot of people here in the first place.

But in all honesty, sometimes it’s nice to get a little elegant and indulge in the finer things in life. You know, an activity that requires close-toed shoes and makes you feel exceptional from start to finish.

For many folks who are struck by these moments of wanting, even if they are few and far between, there’s nothing quite like getting gussied up for afternoon tea.

Just like casual vibes are synonymous with BC, afternoon tea is synonymous with the Fairmont brand. It’s pretty tough to think of one without the other.

The global chain of luxury hotels has several properties in BC that are excellent destinations for this longstanding English tradition, we’re looking at you, Fairmont Hotel Vancouver.

But one spot, in particular, is truly the biggest metaphorical jewel in Fairmont’s crown when it comes to this service: the Fairmont Empress.

Located in BC’s capital city of Victoria, the magical harbourfront hotel boasts an incredible place to enjoy tea, the Lobby Lounge, which is dripping in historical relevance.

This destination has been hot and steamy since 1908. There’s hardly a better location to experience the ritual of afternoon tea than the world-renowned Empress.

In fact, in the summer the Empress serves afternoon tea to more guests than most hotels in London, England.

According to the hotel, over 400 people per day come to enjoy the service during the warmer season.

Leila Kwok

While it’s easy to focus on the treats, as we never met a scone we didn’t like, the tea itself is of huge importance in this tradition.

The Empress’s collection features around two dozen tea blends for patrons to choose from. Each tea was created by the Metropolitan Tea Company exclusively as a part of the hotel’s new tea collection, LOT 35.

LOT 35 teas are luxury-grade, seasonal, and hand-picked whole-leaf teas.

As far as standout varieties go, that will likely be different for everyone. For us, it’s a standoff between 1907 Orange Pekoe and Blue Suede Shoes for our favourite.

The former brings brightness while the latter is described as having a smooth sweetness and “finishes with mild noisette notes.”

The Empress’s resident tea sommelier explains these blends are sustainably farmed, ethically sourced, and 100% traceable from tea garden to cup. And yes, they have a tea sommelier.

This is big-time tea stuff, people.

Fairmont Empress

Hanna McLean/Daily Hive

When it comes to culinary offerings to go with afternoon tea, the Empress doesn’t disappoint.

All of the menu items served in the Lobby Lounge are made fresh daily using ingredients from local purveyors.

The details and flavours of the offerings will rotate with the seasons, for instance, currently, the lounge is serving a spread infused with holiday zest.

From a savoury quiche made with free-run egg, heavy cream, roasted mushrooms, gruyĆØre, and thyme, to a classic English cucumber sandwich with dill whipped cream cheese, fennel pollen, and marble rye, every bite is a true delight.

But the fun doesn’t stop at savoury. In the sweet treat department, you can always expect those signature freshly baked Empress raisin scones served warm with house-made clotted cream and strawberry-vanilla preserves. Pro tip: You’re actually meant to start with these.

A collection of delicate tarts, cakes, chocolates, and more await you on the top tier of the tea stand.

Now like most good things in life, bubbles are an option for you here. You can actually take this experience up a notch and opt for Champagne Tea featuring a glass of Veuve Clicquot or Laurent Perrier for an additional cost.

Lucky for folks with common dietary restrictions and allergies, the team here can typically cater to you as well with 24 hours advance notice.

We had mentioned getting primp and proper for this occasion, and it wasn’t just for the introduction’s sake.

The Empress maintains a dress code for tea that includes, but is not limited to, asking guests to refrain from wearing tank tops, beach wear, athleisure, or hats (minus fascinators and fancy tea hats).

Check out more dress code details here.

Creamy Earl Grey (Fairmont)

Now here’s the thing, if we’ve sold you on this tasty engagement and you can’t make it to Victoria anytime soon, the famous tea can actually come to you.

Both LOT 35 tea and the Empress Afternoon Tea china can be ordered and delivered to homes across Canada.

While soaking in the grandeur of the Lobby Lounge during tea is a true bucket list experience for foodies, it’s nice to know you can enjoy a piece of the regal ritual in the comfort of your own home.

But if you can, in fact, make it to this Castle on the Coast for the famous afternoon tea service, don’t hesitate to secure a reservation. We can assure you it will be a majestic and memorable engagement.

Fairmont Empress

Address: 721 Government Street, Victoria
Phone: 250-384-8111


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