Tag Archives: High Tea

Tea Time at The Empress

tea timeI owe a debt of eternal gratitude to Alan, who suggested that I head over to The Empress to have a spot of tea while I was in Victoria. Well, maybe not eternal gratitude.. after all, I better things to do than thank Alan for the rest of my life (no offence A.), but certainly a pat on the back and a mighty “Thanks!” should do the trick.

The tea is wonderful, and made properly…i.e. not made with tea bags, but with the pot and the kettle. The blend of tea is a custom blend, made almost exclusively for the historic hotel. I say almost, as they are now serving the Empress Blend at a hotel in San Francisco, but the name of the place in San Fran eludes me at the moment.

The Empress blend is a selection of several teas, created by the Metropolitan Tea Company. With components from Assam, Kenya, South India and China, it goes quite nicely with cream and two lumps. It also had a bit of bergamot oil, which gave it a nice fruity subtlety to it. Yum!

The food was simple and elegant. Served on the traditional three-tiered tray, there were tea sandwiches filled with smoked salmon & cream cheese, carrot & ginger, cucumber and egg salad (located on the bottom tier). The mid-tier had an English raisin scone served with Devon-style double Jersey cream and strawberry preserves, and the top? Pastries… tarts, and chocolates and cream puffs….the types of food I would maim for.

A quick word about the scone. I have tasted what is now the benchmark of all scones. It’s not too soft, like the baking-powder tasting fair scone, nor is it too dry, like the scones found at Mimi’s Cafe. And the scones at Starbuck’s? A Blasphemy. No gentle reader, the raisin scone was the scone of the gods. And after tasting it’s delicately warm interior with the cream and jam, I can now mock your scones. Consider your scones mocked! Ha!

As I sat there in the Empress’ lobby, feeling smug and superior as I ate the decadent snacks while reading some Jasper Fforde, the couple next to me was perplexed. The waitress had given them some tea to take home with them (it’s part of the package deal that your $45 Canadian buys you), and they weren’t sure how to make the tea.

“It’s not like a tea bag, where you just place it in hot water. You boil your tea water first, and then pour the water over the tea in a kettle, where you let it sit for a few minutes.”

“But how much tea do I use?” asked the husband.

The waitress, at a loss for some reason, wasn’t able to answer. And they were starting to get on my nerves. I interrupted.

“Pardon me for intruding,” I said. “But I make tea all the time, and usually I find that if you add one tablespoon of tea for each cup you are to make, plus one additional Tablespoon for the pot, that usually works well for me”

The young couple smiled. “Really?… How much water is in a cup?”

“Well, eight ounces is the standard, but you can get away with ten”

The waitress looked relieved. They all thanked me and moved on to their new tea life.

And the waitress? She gave me an additional complimentary box of tea for helping her out. “I could tell you like tea” she said to me. And I do. Even if it means having to stick my nose in other people’s business.

High Tea or not High Tea?

I have a friend who continually corrects my bad english. Most times I accept the correction with grace, as I do think that the ability to speak well affects how people react to you. But there are times that I want to yell at her..”Hey, back off sister! I’m embracing my lower middle-class roots! And if that means that I regress into my background and say ‘Krysta and me went to the mall’, well then that’s what happens.” I then usually visualize myself apologizing profusely at the outburst, and carrying the feelings of vindication and guilt at the same time.
Yeah, my fantasies are what we call “robust”.

At any rate, I now find myself in the position of being much like my friend, correcting people and scoffing at them behind their back. Only it’s not my skill in the Queen’s English that allows me to feel superior…as evidenced by my writing. Rather, it’s the knowledge of the difference between “High Tea” and “Low Tea”.

It started at the B & O Bistro, where I came across their High Tea menu.

“Amateurs”, I thought. “Not one shepard’s pie on the menu.”

Later, I found myself snickering at the high class Sorrento Hotel, who offered a $28 High Tea, including such items as salmon roulades, chicken curry barquettes, celery root salad in cucumber cups, fresh fruit tartlets, madelines, mini cream puffs, petit fours, chocolate pralines, miniature cookies and fresh baked apricot and cherry scones with Devonshire cream and preserves. Again, these items are not part of the traditional British high tea event.

Sorrento has since changed their menu to read the more appropriate “afternoon tea”, but they still only serve Barnes & Watson tea found in tea bags rather than loose leaf. Hard to forgive them for that, especially at $28 a pop. A quick bit of research finds that High Tea is often used when referring to Tea Houses. So let me impart a piece of information.

Tea time in Britain is determined by the height of the table on which the food is served. Low tea is the tea in which crustless sandwiches, petit fors, and salmon roulades are likely to be served. It is a meal of the leisure class, and it takes place between 3-4 p in the afternoon.

High Tea is for the working class of Britain and is akin to our dinner. Meat pies, joints of mutton, and other hearty foods are most likely to be served. Ever hear of Bangers and Mash? Most likely it’s served at High tea. If you want High Tea in Seattle, head to Fado, as it has the menu most like that of high tea.

So next time someone states that they’ve had high tea, respond with “Really? How was the Corned beef and Cabbage?” You can then sit and feel smug with your superior knowledge. And then ask if they used tea bags or loose leaf tea. Respond accordingly. Your friends will most likely look upon you with awe and annoyance.