Afternoon Tea has so much going for it. Where else do you get to indulge in copious amounts of tea, sweets, scones and Prosecco for hours on end? And who doesn’t love miniature sandwiches? No one, that’s who.
The first afternoon tea was held by Anna, the seventh Duchess of Bedford in 1840. She found the time between lunch and late socialite dinners to be just too long, and started inviting her girlfriends over for a little afternoon indulgence. I like the way this girl thought, she knows all about the importance of inter-meal snacking! This tea-soaked custom has since permeated British culture and has actually seen a renaissance of the afternoon delight in the past five years. While afternoon tea is still seen has a symbol of high society and luxury in famous hotels like The Ritz, there are many more casual tea rooms across Britain with less traditional ingredients and methods.
The brew’s tradition is prominent across the pond here in Canada, thanks to our Commonwealth roots. One of the most famous afternoon teas is at the Empress Hotel in Victoria B.C., where the tradition has been steeping for 109 years.
My friend Erin took me to my first afternoon tea at the Shangri-La Hotel for my pseudo-bachelorette party before Adam and I eloped. The Lobby Lounge hosts afternoon tea from 2-5pm daily, and be sure to make reservation. The photo sums up how much I loved the experience at the Shangri-La.
Here’s how to afternoon tea like a boss in Toronto.
The basics for a traditional afternoon tea
Customarily, afternoon tea consists of a three-tiered tray with an array of small sandwiches on the bottom, then scones with clotted cream and jam, with pastries and sweets rounding out the top tier. Bone china is a must, and usually teas from India or Ceylon are served.
Afternoon tea at the Shangri-La has a mix of traditional and modern elements. The sandwiches were more traditional with egg-salad, cucumber and chicken salad, along with delicious little lobster rolls! The scones came with the expected clotted cream and the cutest little jars of Bonne Maman jam. The desserts were the most elegant part of the tea, with eclairs, chocolate mousse and the most delicious little citrus bomb with gold leaf.
In more recent times, the addition of a glass of bubbly jazzes up the event (I consider this a must). We had a few glasses of Champagne to celebrate my upcoming nuptials!
Shangri-La tea service
The tea service itself is big part of the experience. The servers at the Shangri-La were knowledgeable about all of the teas, which was impressive because there was a whole book full! I went with the Royal Earl Grey tea (the sweeter sister of Early Grey) and our server poured the tea expertly. This added to the luxe ambiance of the lobby, with elegant furnishings and art; there was even a pianist playing jazz while we dined.
I consider myself to be a forward-thinking person, but when it comes to antiquated traditions like afternoon tea, I am all about it! Despite the entrenched British culture and predilection for copious amounts of tea, this custom isn’t a big thing in Newfoundland. I’m sad I was 30 before I became a lady who does afternoon tea! Now I want to it be my new hobby.
Do you have a favourite place you like to go for high tea? I want to hear all about the best places around the world!