A little girl's tea set
Talking of various kinds of tea parties and events ,I knew there was something called high tea (The Enid Blyton books during my childhood helped here) but afternoon tea ..now, that I did not know .Apparently they are both different .
Afternoon tea ceremonies began back in the mid 1800s, when the Duchess of Bedford started having a tray of tea with bread and butter served to her in the mid-afternoon. In those days, lunch was served at noon but dinner was not eaten until 8 or even 9 o'clock at night. The Duchess found herself hungry during those long afternoon hours. It became a regular occurance and as she began to invite other high-society ladies to join her, having Afternoon Tea became the 'in-thing' for the upper-class women. Along with tea, there would be small pastries with clotted cream or preserves, delicate sandwiches, and scones. Oh, how Lovely and very Lady like,Dont you agree!!
High Tea on the other hand is a term used by many people to describe the event mentioned above, probably because it sounds more elite. But High Tea is a much different thing. It was served later (around six in the evening) and consisted of a full, dinner meal for the common people. Tea was still served, but there would also be meats, fish or eggs, cheese, bread and butter, and cake. It was more of a man's meal, than a ladies social diversion.
Now, that I feel more educated , I have to tell you all about the afternoon tea I had at the Fairmont Empress, BC last week which was not just tea but an experience in itself .The Empress which is an epitome of the British style and grace in the new world has been hosting England's most beloved ritual in its majestic lobby for almost a century.
Afternoon tea , I heard is served at various locations including the harborside room or under the hand painted ceiling of the Library lounge but we chose the very opulent Tea Lobby .I was utterly charmed by the Victorian elegance and grace that permeated the space around me.The dress code is "smart casual" (torn jeans, short shorts, tank tops, sport shoes, etc snottishly looked down at)so we all took care not to dress in typical tourist fare.But, wait ...we made a gaffe, we hadnt made reservations( somehow we were naive enough to think that we would be able to get in at noon .But guess what, that did'nt happen.)So we made reservations for 3:45pm and decided to go have something to eat at Smithy's , go the British Coumbian Museum in the meantime.
The opulent tea lobby at the Empress
We returned again at 3:40pm to be greeted by Pritam who seated us in the tea lobby. We had comfortable,high backed , chairs upholstered in green .The Christmas melodies on the piano provided the perfect backdrop. Our decadent journey then began with a bowl of seasonal fruit topped with a dollop of chantilly cream. Next came the coppery-gold ,signature Empress Blend tea which was poured into our Royal Doulton tea cups. I had my tea with cream and two "lumps" of sugar .Finally, came the porcelain tier ladden with magnificient goodies.Puurfect !!
Here's the sample menu :
- Tea sandwiches filled with cucumber, smoked BC salmon & cream cheese, carrot & ginger with cream cheese, pesto egg salad on foccacia crustini and curry mango chicken salad
- Traditional English raisin scones served with clotted cream and strawberry preserves
- Delicate bite-size pastries, including valhrona caramel chocolate truffles in a chocolate cup, lemon curd tarts with glazed berries, choux pastries filled with green tea white chocolate cream, sour cherry almond pound cakes, and traditional shortbread cookies
Afternoon Tea at the Empress
We also ordered some sparkling wine , a mimosa and a glass of sparkling wine with cranberry liquer(not sure ).
After several cups of tea and these bite sized delights we had to cancel dinner because this can be seemingly light but actually hearty meal .We were full and extremely pleased.When it was time to leave our server promptly delivered the check to our table along with a small box of Empress Blend tea for each of us to take home. What a wonderful surprise.
Happy to have afternoon tea for a day
I left the place with a big smile on my face and tonnes of appreciation for my husband who me and my sister dragged to this event.As for my niece and I , looks like we had ourselves a real tea party at last :-)