Since moving to Victoria, the Empress has become one of my annual stops during the Christmas Season for the Festival of Trees. Although my partner and I heard many good reviews about the Empress’s restaurants as well as high tea, we’d never gotten an opportunity to try any of it until very recently.
About a month and a half ago, I was personally invited to afternoon tea at the Empress by none other than the Empress’s Director of Sales & Marketing, Angela Rafuse-Tahir. I had some idea of what I’d be experiencing, thanks to afternoon tea with Princess Cruises, so I gladly accepted the invite to experience not only the Empress’s claim to fame, but one of Victoria’s as well.
As I walked into the dining room with Angela, I was immediately taken with the antique vintage furniture, tapestries and the most beautiful wing back chairs that I’d ever seen. We were seated in comfortable armchairs next to the picturesque windows with a gorgeous view of the Inner Harbour on a bright sunny day.
The Afternoon Tea menu started with an elegant glass of strawberries and whipped cream and we were treated to a pot of the famous Empress blend of tea. The Empress blend was created exclusively for The Fairmont Empress by the Metropolitan Tea Company. It was a delicious and smooth tea and I discovered later that it contained components of several different estates including Assam (thick malty and full bodied), Kenya (floral-like flavor and a golden coppery infusion), South India (superb fruity and sprightly flavor), Ceylon (airy, almost piquant flavor), and China (burgundy depth with light oaky notes), which explained its complexity and uniqueness in flavor which I’ve never tasted in another tea.
As Angela and I chatted, we were served an array of delicious food, arranged on a beautiful silver three-tier tray. On the bottom tier were various sandwiches, ranging from smoked salmon and cream cheese to egg salad. On the middle tier, were the Empress’s signature scones with jam and cream while the top tier contained various sweet cakes, from vanilla-chocolate cake with marzipan, rose petal shortbread and delectable homemade truffles.
I also learned several interesting facts about tea culture at the Empress. Afternoon Tea was started by the Duchess of Bedford in the 18th century when she had a “sinking” feeling in the afternoon. She had her chef prepare a little meal with tea, and soon it became known as Afternoon Tea. In 1908, the restoration of the hotel’s original floor took place and the wood of the original floor was turned into tea lobby tables, so one may say you’re eating off the floor. Nearly 100,000 guests are served tea annually with an estimated 500,000 cups of tea and several notable guests have attended Afternoon tea including Spencer Tracy, Queen Elizabeth II, Sarah McLachlan and Shirley Temple.
Angela had also been gracious enough to give me a personalized tour of the Fairmont Gold lobby and evening lounge, an exclusive experience available with select packages at the Empress. With Fairmont Gold, guests have access to a private check-in lobby on the second floor, dedicated concierge, an honor bar in the exclusive Fairmont Gold lounge and daily breakfast and evening hors d’ oeuvres. Although I didn’t get a chance to see any of the suites as they were all booked, the lounge and private check-in lobby were indeed the epitome of exquisite luxury and proof that the Fairmont Empress goes above and beyond to ensure that their guests have the best experience possible.
Lilian Sue-In Retrospect Writing Services, Owner & Operator