Victoria's Tea Rooms: Rich in History and Bold in Flavor
By Natasha John
Vancouver Local Expert
Victoria is rich in history and perhaps the most British city in all of Canada, so it’s no wonder that afternoon tea is a popular ritual amongst locals and visitors. Did you know that afternoon tea differs from high tea? High tea is to be had at lunch, while afternoon tea is enjoyed between lunch and dinner. You will see some menus in Victoria offering both high and afternoon tea, but you will notice the dishes for each will likely differ. Many of the tea houses are inside heritage homes that date back over a century and each venue is unique in its own right and offers a different experience. Abkhazi Garden and Tea Room has an incredibly romantic story about a prince and a princess that will lure you in, and the afternoon tea spread will make you want to stay all day. A more rustic experience can be had at Adrienne’s Tea Garden at Mattick’s Farm. Their home style cooking has created a following of regulars that can’t get enough of the homemade goods. Vegetarians will find solace at Venus Sophia Tea Room & Vegetarian Eatery where local and organic produce is used, meaning the menu changes seasonally. History buffs will appreciate a trip to Point Ellice House where you can tour the museum with a self-guided audio tour before sitting down to afternoon tea in the garden. The Fairmont Empress is known for their luxurious atmosphere and posh service that is fit for any queen. It’s definitely a place to splurge!
Venus Sophia Tea Room & Vegetarian Eatery
This independent and vegetarian eatery is a unique venue to enjoy afternoon tea. The atmosphere inside Venus Sophia is absolutely adorable. It's contemporary, yet filled with plenty of character and warm environment to sit back, relax and enjoy some great food. They focus on organic and seasonal ingredients and the menu changes accordingly to reflect this. It's a nice treat to never know exactly what you're going to get! You will find finger sandwiches, baked tarts, shortbread, homemade chocolate, scones served with cream and jam and a variety of fresh seasonal fruit. Venus Sophia also offers afternoon tea just for kids. ((250) 590-3953)
Fairmont Empress Lobby
Afternoon tea at the Empress is the epitome of Victorian class. The turn-of-the-century hotel has been fully restored to its original beauty and elegance, and lustrous wood floors and soft piano music further enhance the mood. Fresh seasonal berries and cream begin the elegant feast, followed by dainty finger sandwiches and a tempting array of house-made pastries. The tea itself is the Empress' own special blend. Be sure to reserve space a week or two in advance, especially during the summer. Afternoon tea at the Empress is a more formal experience than others around Victoria, so make sure to take advantage and put on your fancy clothes if the mood strikes. (250-389-2727)
Murchie's Tea and Coffee
This BC chain has its largest retail space in Victoria. This location also boasts outdoor dining and a 110-seat bar that is perfect for a light lunch or Afternoon Tea. Established in 1894, Murchie's has built its reputation on having the finest teas and coffees available. This Murchie's location serves a delicious selection of baked goods and sandwiches that can be enjoyed with one of their many selections of tea. Murchie's satisfies even the most discerning tea lover and you can take home any tea you try there so you never have to go far for that perfect cup of tea. (250-383-3112, 250-381-5451)
Adrienne's Tea Garden
Mattick's Farm is a delightful farm house set in beautiful Victoria. Bill Mattick built this log cabin to sell his vegetables and flowers, but thought it needed more. So, he decided to add in a restaurant and tea room that quickly became a local favorite for their homestyle cooking and continues to be 20 years later. They serve High Tea, Afternoon Tea, scones, pies, cakes, puddings squares and tarts. The High Tea and Afternoon Tea include a selection of both sweet and savory items that are sure to satisfy. While you're at Mattick's Farm, stock up on produce and enjoy the fruits of a local farmer. (250-658-1535)
The Pacific Restaurant
Casually elegant in the best West Coast fashion, The Pacific is an ideal choice if you're looking for fine Canadian dining. However, if you can't make it for dinner, afternoon tea at the Pacific Restaurant is a fabulous experience. The price of afternoon tea here is much more affordable than some other hotels in Victoria, and is equally delicious. The West Coast influence can be seen throughout the menu with fresh flavors and Oceanwise seafood. Should you be in vacation mode and want your tea spiked, they have a number of cocktails that are infused with tea and are dangerously refreshing. (250-380-4458)
White Heather Tea Room
Voted the best place for tea in Victoria, the White Heather Tea Room is justifiably well-loved. The comfortably elegant setting is the perfect complement to the fabulous tea spread, which comes in three sizes. The "Wee Tea," with its assortment of sweets and scones, is actually not so wee. The "Not So Wee Tea" is not wee in even the remotest sense of the word. The "Big Muckle Tea" is an appropriately named event -- tiered trays of finger sandwiches, sweet and savoury tarts, fresh fruits, tiny cakes and cookies, and the required scones with jam and Devonshire cream. The White Heather is the place to go when you're looking to get the most bang for your buck, without sacrificing quality. (250-595-8020)
James Bay Tea Room & Restaurant
If you're looking for a very Victorian experience, step inside James Bay Tea Room & Restaurant. This historic 1907 heritage teahouse offers one of Victoria's most authentic British dining experiences. The walls are scattered with one of a kind antiques that add to the atmosphere inside. They're open for breakfast, lunch and a tea service. The more substantial tea service includes finger sandwiches, crumpets, scones a mini quiche, baked sweets and fresh fruit. Should you not have enough room for the full tea service, you may opt for the light tea that will satisfy with scones, crumpets, sweets and fresh fruit. (250-382-8282)
The Gatsby Mansion is an 1897 Victorian beauty blessed with stained glass windows, detailed paintwork, sparkling chandeliers and dark wood paneling. The opulent mansion is surrounded by the verdant landscape of Belleville Park. Guests can stay over night at Belleville Park Resort, have a leisurely morning and indulge in afternoon tea right on the same property at Gatsby Mansion. It doesn't get more convenient than that. The complete presentation includes steaming tea, warm scones with jam and Devonshire cream, finger sandwiches, fresh fruit, diminutive desserts and decadent chocolate-Pernod mousses. It's the little details at Gatsby Mansion that make this place stand out and an afternoon of tea here will delight you. (250-388-9191, 800-563-9656)
Abkhazi Garden and Tea Room
The beautiful Abkhazi estate has a magical story that began in the 1940s when Prince and Princess Abkazi came to Victoria to settle down after many years of being apart. They created a magical oasis in their backyard and looked after their garden with love and an eye for detail. After the prince and princess passed away, The Land Conservancy purchased the heritage home and garden, and have continued to look after. Within the heritage home is a charming tea room that overlooks this lovely garden. Their afternoon tea treats guests to freshly baked scones, sandwiches, baked goods and other delights that are enjoyed with your choice of tea. Open March 1st through October 31st plus Christmas sales hours in November and December in the Gift Shop. (250-598-8096)
Point Ellice House
Built in 1862, Point Ellice House was the O'Reilly family home until 1977. This Italianate villa overlooks Upper Harbour and the Gorge Waterway. Those that enjoy a little walk, Point Ellice House is only about a mile and a half from downtown Victoria. Another option is to arrive by water taxi that docks right at the house. Tea is served out in the back garden and while there is a tent that covers the area, it's best enjoyed on a warm day. What makes the experience unique at Point Ellice House is that you can enjoy a self-guided audio tour through the museum portion of the house before sitting down to tea. (250-380-6506)
About Natasha John
Natasha is not born and raised in Vancouver, but is pretty certain it's her spirit hometown. After jumping around Canada, Texas, Arkansas and the UK, she has her feet firmly planted in Vancouver's beaches.
When Natasha's not freelance writing and copywriting, she's either cooking up a storm in her kitchen, kicking back with friends over a glass of wine or exploring the North Shore with her fiancé.
Read more about Natasha John here.