A Spot of Tea
A coast-to-coast roundup of the most iconic places to have a cuppa
BY TOBY SALTZMAN
Forget prissy, pinkie-in-the-air tête-a-têtes at upper-crust salons,
afternoon tea is being embraced by a growing number who have come
to relish its civilized, not to mention energizing, cachet. Sharing
a cuppa has gained a new-found popularity, and budding aficionados
are developing their palates with fragrant varieties of oolong,
black or green teas and herbal infusions served up in everything
from fine porcelain to pottery mugs.
There's no doubt that tea can revitalize or soothe, and some studies
have touted its healthful benefits. Whether it's the self-indulgence
of slipping out for a much-needed break, or the relaxation of unwinding
with a warm, aromatic brew, taking afternoon tea - along with delectable
nibbles - blends a lovely therapy with mid-day sustenance. Here
is a sampling of top-tier tearooms (from west to east) to perk you
Holding court over Victoria's Inner Harbour, the venerable Fairmont
Empress Hotel (721 Government Street, Victoria, BC; tel:
has perfected the British tea ritual since 1908. Over the last century,
Queen Elizabeth II, Shirley Temple, Elizabeth Taylor, the King and
Queen of Siam and Rudyard Kipling have partaken of its afternoon
service. The Tea Lobby features classical music, silver service,
fine china and tiered trays of sandwiches and petite pastries.
A favourite among its custom blends produced by the Metropolitan
Tea Company is the Empress 1908, honouring Queen Victoria's "Empress
of India" title. It's a heady, revitalizing concoction of leaves
from Assam, Kenya, Ceylon and China - whose Keemun leaves are dubbed
the Burgundy of teas.
Start with seasonal fruit topped with Chantilly cream, end with
Chef D'Oyen Christie's delectable raisin scones slathered with Jersey
cream from local farms and take away a souvenir cup-and-saucer designed
for King George V. Divine.
Or for something a little breezier, the stately white-clapboard
Gatsby Mansion (309 Belleville Street,
Victoria BC; tel: 800-563-9656 / 250-388-9191; www.bellevillepark.com/Gatsby.html)
has elegant gardens and overlooks the harbour.
Vancouver boasts a host of tearooms where you can linger over a
steaming pot while you're out touring the scenic city. The atmosphere
is decadent romance at the Bacchus Restaurant
in the Wedgewood Hotel (845 Hornby Street, Vancouver,
BC; tel: 800-663-0666 / 604-689-7777; www.wedgewoodhotel.com).
The Fleuri Restaurant in the Sutton
Place Hotel (845 Burrard Street, Vancouver, BC; tel: 604-682-5511;
offers a Japanese tea service. For traditional English tea, you
can stray from your usual picks by sniffing out a new blend among
its vials of tea essence.
After cycling around Stanley Park or walking the seawall, why not
revive yourself in the wild of the park with salmon sandwiches in
the Fish House's (8901 Stanley Park
Drive, Vancouver, BC; tel: 877-681-7275 / 604-681-7275; www.fishousestanleypark.com)
MOUNTAINS OF SCONES
In the Canadian Rockies, tea-time offers a chance to dreamily admire
the views over a brew specially formulated for the fresh mountain
water. The indulgence can begin with a flute of sparkling Okanagan
wine and end with Saskatoon-berry scones. While sipping in the Fairmont
Chateau Lake Louise (111 Lake Louise Drive, Lake Louise,
AB; tel: 403-522-3511; www.fairmont.com/lakelouise),
I witnessed an avalanche over Victoria Glacier in all its powdery
Athletic types who hike up to Lake Agnes or the Plain of Six Glaciers
can enjoy savoury goodies at one of two mountain teahouses, originally
constructed between 1901 and 1927.
At the Fairmont Banff Springs Hotel
(405 Spray Avenue, Banff, AB; tel: 403-762-2211; www.fairmont.com/banffsprings).
Overlooking the expansive Bow Valley, you are ensconced in Scottish
baronial grandeur while choosing from the seasonal blends of invigorating
teas, hearty offerings like prosciutto and asparagus and delightful
sweets like chocolate éclairs.
On the outskirts of Winnipeg, the Tea Room
at the Costume Museum of Canada (Highway 15 at PR 206,
Dugald, MB; tel: 866-853-2166; www.costumemuseum.com/Victorian.htm)
is a uniquely kid-friendly space. Afternoon tea is served in Victorian
style and children can dress up in period costumes while playing
parlour games and indulging in yummy finger sandwiches and treats.
SUCH A TEASE
For afternoon tea with all the pomp, fine china and silver the ritual
deserves, three places in Toronto are iconic choices. The opulent
Café Victoria in Le Royal Meridien King Edward
Hotel (37 King Street East, Toronto, ON; tel: 416-863-4125;
conveys that special-occasion mood, and you'll spot groups happily
celebrating milestones there. The King's Tea Service, which commences
with a chilled Lady Grey Tea Jelly, comes with tiered trays of mouthwatering
bites, like smoked salmon on blinis with horseradish crème fraîche,
duck confit and foie gras mousse with apple chutney, lobster with
tarragon on sweet corn muffins, warm stilton and leek quiches and
molten chocolate truffle cakes. For youngsters, there are grilled
cheese sandwiches, peanut butter-and-jelly pinwheels and chocolate
Celebrity spotting is part of the draw in the Lobby
Bar of the Four Seasons Toronto (21 Avenue Road, Toronto,
ON; tel: 416-964-0411; www.fourseasons.com/toronto).
Roshan, the charming tea server, pours flutes of Champagne or specially
blended loose teas from the Metropolitan Tea Company. The seasonally
inspired blends include hearty blacks for winter, fruitier infusions
blended with oolongs for spring and summer and year-round offerings
of antioxidant-rich green teas. I rarely leave without toting home
a bag of my absolute favourite: the Nobu fruit blend of wild strawberries,
raspberries and blackberries that never fails to soothe me when
I drink it at home.
You could easily make a meal of the sandwiches and sweets offered,
from sliced beef filet, wedges of chilled English cucumber, watercress
and cream cheese, applewood-smoked salmon and dilled cream cheese,
Key lime tarts, raspberry chocolate Sacher torte slices and caramel-coffee
profiteroles. Indulge in a flute of Delamotte Brut NV or Harvey's
Bristol Cream for a gala event.
During school break this month (March 19-27). Kids who tote a teddy
for the Teddy Bear's Tea receive a special treat to take home.
A contemporary enclave in the venerable Fairmont
Royal York Hotel, Epic (100 Front Street West, Toronto,
ON; tel: 416-368-2511; www.fairmont.com/royalyork)
caters to Toronto's high-powered financial and entertainment set,
offering tea brewed in sculptural teapots. Hip imbibers often prefer
the kick of a MAR-Tea-Ni (a fruit-tea infused vodka martini) to
accompany the traditional sandwiches and warm chocolate Lindt tart
drizzled with port syrup and champagne-marinated strawberries. Youngsters
are delighted by tea Popsicles and caffeine-free brews.
A visit to Langdon Hall (1 Langdon
Drive, Cambridge, ON; tel: 800-268-1898 / 519-740-2100; www.langdonhall.ca)
in Cambridge, Ontario is one of the rites of the season during the
Stratford Festival. Traditional afternoon tea is served in the conservatory
or on the veranda overlooking the cloister garden. Add a mimosa
or a glass of Champagne or sherry to the gourmet sandwiches, artisanal
cheeses from Quebec, madeleines and ginger scones, and who needs
Live music muffles the conversations of international movers and
shakers at Zoe's Lounge (1 Rideau
Street, Ottawa, ON; tel: 613-241-1414; www.fairmont.com/laurier)
in Ottawa's Fairmont Chateau Laurier.
Afternoon tea is a quintessential capital affair with loose-leaf
blends brewed tableside on tea trolleys. The lavish Canadian high
Tea and Champagne Tea may include Port-marinated peaches with whipped
cream, Nova Scotia lox and bagels, goat cheese and figs, beef tenderloin
and horseradish cream, Yukon gold blinis with Quebec sturgeon caviar,
foie-gras-and-truffle mousse with bleu cheese on a baguette.
Champagne, tawny port or sherry are available to help mark a special
occasion. For a family treat on Sundays, combine tea with a tour
of the haunted nooks of this castle-like property led by guides
dressed in period costume.
If you have time while in the capital region, spend a day communing
with nature in the Gatineau Hills and cycle or hike the recreational
trails to the former estate of William Lyon
Mackenzie King (Gatineau Park, Chelsea, QC; tel: 819-827-3405;
where the quaint Moorside Tearoom overlooks tranquil gardens.
THE FINEST IN THE EAST
Montreal's most iconic afternoon teas are served in hotels. The
new Art Deco-clad Tea Room at the Queen Elizabeth
Hotel (900 Rene-Levesque Boulevard West, Montreal, QC;
tel: 514-861-3511; www.fairmont.com/queenelizabeth)
caters to those who like to linger over custom-brewed teas as well
as javaphiles craving a Viennese-style kaffee klatsch. In either
case, the mouth-watering finger sandwiches include chicken and watercress,
and the pastry selection features delicate chocolate crisps, pistachio
macaroons and strawberry tarts.
The Ritz-Carlton's Café de Paris (1228
Sherbrooke Street West, Montreal, QC; tel: 514-842-4212; www.ritzcarlton.com/hotels/montreal)
is a perennially chic spot for tea. And nothing says spring in Montreal
like an elegant alfresco treat overlooking the duck pond of the
But the most fashionable new spot for a brew is in Old Montreal
at the Hotel le St.-James (355 St.
Jacques Street, Montreal, QC; tel: 514-841-3111; www.hotelstjames.com).
High Tea is served daily under the crystal chandeliers in the double-height
Grand Salon of this opulent 1870 property.
While countless cafés serve fragrant brews in Quebec City, La
Maison de The Camellia Sinensis (624 Saint-Joseph Street
East, Quebec, QC; tel: 418-525-0247; www.camellia-sinensis.com)
is a sweet spot to catch up on the latest happenings in the city.
It's located in the trendy Saint-Roch area which has seen a hip
revitalization in the last decade and makes an interesting departure
from the well-trod tourist trail.
Tea aficionados whose favourite memories include that cheery packet
of Red Rose should head to Saint John, New Brunswick where the historic
Red Rose Mansion (112 mount Pleasant
Avenue, Saint John, NB, NB; tel: 888-7111-5151 / 506-649-0913;
was once home to the former owner of the Red Rose Tea & Bond Company.
Now a full-service B&B, the mansion serves up hot teas upon request.
Come summer, views of sandy beaches and endless seas add romance
to the High Tea for Two at Prince Edward Island's renowned summer
resort, Dalvay-by-the-Sea (Prince
Edward National Park on Dalvay Beach; East Grand Tracadie, PEI;
tel: 902-672-2048; www.dalvaybythesea.com).
Presented on Royal Doulton plates, sandwiches include smoked salmon
with caviar and cream cheese, fresh lobster and asparagus with mascarpone,
English cucumber with mint and cream cheese, and the inn's signature
sticky date pudding served with warm toffee sauce and vanilla ice
In St. John's, Newfoundland, the Bloomin'
Teapot at the MUN Botanical Garden (306 Mt. Scio Road,
St. John's, NL; tel: 709-753-TEAS; www.mun.ca/botgarden)
offers all the charm of a traditional English tearoom, including
an extensive tea list, decadent deserts and fresh baked scones with
clotted cream and jam.
Copyright: Toby Saltzman 2005