The History Of High Tea

[twitter]The highlight of our recent honeymoon to Victoria was high tea at The Empress. Sure, $55 for a couple of sandwiches, scones and tea is a little “steep” (ooh, tea humour), but it’s more than just the snacks you’re buying – it’s the experience.

The service at The Empress was beyond elegant. The staff made a special point to congratulate us on our honeymoon, and took the time to explain the importance of High Tea and the selection of teas available.

Here’s the history of high tea, according to the menu cards at The Empress:

The relaxing and enjoyable tradition of Taking Afternoon Tea has been an unremitting love affair at The Fairmont Empress, since it’s opening in 1908.

In Eighteenth century England, tea mania swept the country. Tea was sipped by all level of society, becoming the beverage of choice for breakfast and after the main meal of the day. Prior to the introduction of tea in Britain, the English had two main meals, breakfast and dinner. Breakfast consisted of ale, bread and beef, while dinner was a substantial meal at the end of the day.

Anna Maria, the 7th Duchess of Bedford, (1788-1861) experienced a “sinking feeling” in the late afternoon. Embracing the European tea service format, she invited friends to join her for additional bread and butter sandwiches, assorted sweets and, of course tea. The summer ritual proved so popular; the Duchess continued it when she returned to London, sending cards to friends to come for “tea and walking of the fields.”

The practice of inviting friends to “take tea in the afternoon,” was soon adopted by other hostesses. A customary pattern of service emerged.

The Empress Tea china was originally presented to King George V in 1914 upon the opening of the Booth factory in Stoke, England. The china was first used by The Empress in 1939 for the Royal visit of King George VI and Queen Elizabeth.

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A visit to Victoria truly isn’t complete without a visit to take tea in the afternoon and walk of the grounds in Victoria’s center. Make sure you make reservations for your tea service to guarantee seating.

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