Tag Archives: Victoria – BC

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.


History of Victoria, British Columbia: A City Possibly Cursed

Because I like to know the past of an area I enter into, I present the following:

In the spring of 1778, as a war was going on 2500 miles away, a little known explorer by the name of Captain James Cook set foot on an island just below the 49th parallel on the west coast of North America. The first European had set foot on what was to become Vancouver island. Cook later died of a stomach ailment a year or so later. Coincidence?

Fur traders created a small hub on the island that became on of the centralized ports to several other locations in the Pacific Northwest. The City of Victoria was founded by the Hudson’s Bay Company on March 14, 1843, as a trading post and fort at the location the native americans called “Camosack” (meaning “Rush of Water).” With the coming of the Oregon Treaty, which created the boundaries of the west between the British and Americans, the company moved their fort of from Vancouver on the Columbia River(The one just north of Portland Oregon) to the southern end of Vancouver Island.

And all of those involved with that move are now dead. Coincidence?

Victoria was incorporated as a City on August 2, 1862. Mr. Thomas Harris was elected (by acclamation) as Victoria’s first Mayor on August 16, 1862, and he presided at the City Council’s first meeting held on August 25, 1862.

Mr. Harris is now dead….Hmmmmm.

Life was tough for the city bustling with a population of over 425 people. There life would take a turn for the interering with the discovery of gold on the British Columbia mainland in 1858. Victoria became the port, supply base, and outfitting center for miners on their way to the Cariboo gold fields. The first ship bringing these modern argonauts, the “Commodore” – a wooden side-wheel American steamer, entered Victoria harbour on Sunday morning, April 25, 1858, just as the townspeople were returning homeward from church. With astonishment, they watched as 450 men disembarked – typical gold-seekers, complete with blankets, miner’s pans and spades and firearms; and it is estimated that within a few weeks, over 20,000 had landed. Overnight, as it were, a city of tents sprang up around the fort and quickly spread out over both sides of James Bay.

And where are these gold-rushers now? Gone, almost without a trace.

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The City of Gardens

Victoria British Columbia
Last minute trips are sometimes the best. That is why I am quite looking forward to this weekend. I haven’t been out of the Puget Sound area since a horrible trip to Dearborn, Michigan back in January. So I am due.

That’s why I’m hopping on the Victoria Clipper for an overnight excursion to Victoria, BC. BC…that’s British Columbia for all of you Americans out there. For all of you south of the Mason Dixon line, and east of the Mississippi…British Columbia is in Canada. Victoria is also British Columbia’s state capital, as opposed to Vancouver, which many of us Yanks would probably think should be.

I have approximately 28 hours in the City of Gardens, so I am not sure what I will be doing. I’m sure I’m heading to the Royal BC Museum to see the Eternal Egypt exhibit. Ads for that show have been on all the buses down here in Seattle, and I have a bit of a jones for all things Egyptian.

I’ll probably look around at some of the local parks as well. They bill themselves as the City of Gardens, so it’s safe to say that I’ll be looking up a few.

But mostly I’ll simply be exploring. Yeah, I’ll head on the more touristy things more than likely, but the entire weekend (room and travel) is only costing me $130 (American), which isn’t too shabby.

I can hardly wait. If anyone has some ideas on what I can do there, fee free to let me know in the comments.