One of my interests when travelling to big metropolises or medium sized cities with Old World charm (like Victoria BC) is trying out their afternoon tea. Not sure what it is? Picture a variety of tiny sweets on a tiered platter – the image most commonly associated with the tradition – and tea served in sumptuous sets of fine china, and you get it. It will make your wallet lighter, and your belly heavier, but as they say: why the hell not, we only live once.
I’ve acquired this hobby during my 2018 trip to London, where I had my very first afternoon tea. Seems only fitting – after all, England is the birthplace of this tradition, another name of which is high tea, and I’ve since partaken in it in Bangkok, New York, Saint-Petersburg, Paris and Dubai, before coming here to Victoria, where I had afternoon tea 3 times (trying not to think about my waistline; eat first, exercise later).
So here is my rundown of 3 most popular places for afternoon tea in Victoria.
I first tried out the teahouse at Abkhazi Garden. Both the garden and the teahouse are among the smallest in the area, which gives the whole experience a really intimate feel. The atmosphere was quiet and relaxing, and although I didn’t get the table by the window (so, no garden view), I had the cutest teapot ever and probably the best scones in my life. Everything else was good too (including friendly and attentive service), but the scones really stood out. Would come back anytime.
Next on my list was the afternoon tea at the Butchart Gardens. The gardens are quite large and immensely popular with visitors (for good reason), so the atmosphere here was much more lively. I liked the interior of the teahouse, located inside a glass covered terrace with beautiful display of potted flowers throughout. The menu featured absolutely stellar sandwiches. The service was polite and efficient, but had more distant feel (as is always the case with places that deal with large volumes of tourists). But I would definitely come back, if only to experience the gardens at another time of year.
Fairmont Empress Hotel
My last stop for afternoon tea was the Fairmont Empress hotel – probably the most well-known and definitely the most high-end option in Victoria. This is the only place with dress code, so people actually dressed up, which was nice. But the space somewhat lacks ambience – it’s a very big lobby, lots of tables close to each other, and it wasn’t so quiet. But the set was nice, and here the best part of it was the sweets (although the scone was excellent too). I enjoyed my time here, but once is probably enough for me. If I ever find myself in Victoria again, I’ll explore other tea houses or go back to Abkhazi and Butchart.
To sum it up I can say that I was very well pleased with the quality of food in all 3 places (which kind of confirms my general observation that food in BC is overall better than in Washington state). The best part for me is that the desserts are not too sweet. Too much sugar in sweets often ruins the experience for me, but it was not the case in Victoria.