Afternoon Tea (Fairmont Empress, Vancouver BC)

If you come to Vancouver there are 2 things you must do, Butchart Gardens and Afternoon Tea at the Empress Hotel.

The adult ticket to Butchart Gardens was $46CAD which was a lot, but the Gardens never fail to impress me. Lush and exquisitely manicured even in the winter, it presents dozens of photo opportunities and will inspire even the most casual gardener to step up their game, even in the dead of winter. My favorite is the Japanese garden.

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No item is left unembellished, even the trash cans.

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And Vancouver is a beautiful town to spend an afternoon in.

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But I know you’re here for the tea.

The lobby was quite comfortable and we were down to our t-shirts… Making me wish I’d thought out my outfit more carefully. They hung our heavy jackets at the hostess stand.

We enjoyed sampling the 4 kinds of sugar on the table… White sugar crystal, brown sugar crystal, granulated brown sugar, and maple sugar crystal.

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The tea menu, made out of thick wood frames, shows you a little sample of all of the tea leaves on offer. Most of the teas are up charged. The only Jasmine Green Tea was an extra $10 per pot, but was (maybe) worth it as the Jasmine aroma was really outstanding.  Makes me realize ours at home is a bit musty. Ms M, who loves tea, but had never been to high tea before, appreciated the tea selection and accoutrements.

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They brought out two tea trays for the four of us. Unfortunately I thought the items were hit or miss. The forgettable ones: the peppermint macarons (please can this fad be over), the boring square eggnog cake, the even more unimaginative raspberry mousse in white chocolate shell. (The 80s called and wants their dessert back). I know high tea is very traditional but it doesn’t have to be boring.

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But the really great items were excellent. The scone, the clotted cream, and jam were perfect. The smoked salmon on mini blintz with sour cream and dill came with a generous portion of very high quality fish. The fish lovers at the table fought over these. (My new rule is, when in Canada, always order the Salmon. You’ll thank me later.).

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And the biggest surprise – the fruitcake. Rich, nutmeg-y, rum-y, I’ve never, ever had fruitcake this good in the States. If it tasted like this, it would be much more popular.

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If having high tea at the Empress is on your bucket list then go. But it is very expensive ($400 including tip for the 4 of us) and wasn’t that good. It can’t have been an off day because they WERE serving to the menu.  We’ve only had high tea a few times and every time it has been exquisite, and every bite has been delicious, as it should, for the price you will pay. We’ve thoroughly enjoyed our (ridiculously expensive) high teas at the Hong Kong Peninsula, London’s British Museum, and Walt Disney World’s Grand Floridian. So I hate to say don’t go. The Empress is beautiful and high tea is a great companion to viewing Butchart Gardens. It’s just not a good value, sadly.

There’s always Fork’n Pork!

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