Did you know that “Afternoon Tea” was started by the Duchess of Bedford in the 19th century? She had her chef prepare a little meal with tea to lessen a “sinking” feeling she would experience in the afternoon. Soon it became known as the British “Afternoon Tea”.
I was invited to an “Afternoon Tea” at the Empress Hotel in Victoria BC as a thank you for helping a friend. The Empress is a luxury hotel and renown for its “Afternoon Teas” enjoyed by royalty, celebrities and dignitaries.
It was a simple yet elegant menu; a tower of delicate sandwiches, impressive confectionary and a plethora of tea choices. The fresh baked scones with strawberry jam and Empress cream were light, fluffy and delicious.
Considering the Empress was undergoing renovations, the Hotel managed to deliver a relaxed and entertaining afternoon. The setting was beautiful in the upper windowed foyer where every seat had a view of the harbor while an accomplished pianist played relaxing music. The 3hour Afternoon Tea was simply delightful!
I had an experience of a lifetime when I was in grade 10, a trip across Canada to Vancouver BC with our high school volleyball team. It was my first major travel experience. My mother arranged for me to meet her friend and I was invited for lunch. We went to a beautiful hotel in downtown Vancouver. I had never seen so many knives, forks and spoons at a table setting before and everyone was dressed to the nines. I followed Mrs. Bell Irving’s every move during the meal. All went well until the tea service came out.
The gentlemen server with white gloves, silver tray set with ornate tea pot, sugar cubes, brown sugar sticks, a choice of cream, milk in matching silver bowls, lemon wedges on a porcelain dish, fancy demi-tasses and dainty spoons were more than impressive. He approached me first so I dove in. Before he could ask, “Mademoiselle, what do you take in your tea?”, I grabbed a sugar cube, lemon wedge and a spot of milk and stirred everything in my tea. I knew right away I had done something wrong. The server cleared his throat and Mrs. Bell Irving held her laughter by pressing her finger to her lips. I watched the curdling come to the surface of the tea. If I stirred it, it went away. So, I drank the tea while simultaneously stirring with the spoon. And then put it down and replied, “I drink it like this all the time”.
I told this story to my Mom. She immediately picked up pen and paper. I drink my tea black now.