For those who love the ritual of afternoon tea, four o’clock strikes and one pines for a dainty teacup in the shadow of a silver-plated three-tier stand. Sitting in an overstuffed leather chair while a tea attendant pours hot water into a stout china teapot is a moment of bliss. Here are six iconic places to take afternoon tea across Canada.
Afternoon tea aficionados love the formality of polished silver, crisp linens, and luminous china paired with homey scones and a humble cup of tea. The act of taking tea slows down time in our rushed world. Savoring the moment to lovingly study each delicacy before it’s sampled, usually in one bite, is luxurious.
The History of Afternoon Tea
The Duchess of Bedford started the afternoon ritual in 1840 by accident. It was in-between meals and she was hungry so she started having tea, bread, biscuits and cake at 4 p.m.
And then she invited a few friends to join her. Those friends were also on the royal court and word spread to Queen Victoria, who instantly loved the idea. By the 1880s Queen Victoria had adopted the afternoon meal with official tea receptions at the palaces.
As a quintessential British ritual, Queen Elizabeth II still takes afternoon tea. And according to insider sources, her favorite tea is Earl Grey.
Afternoon Tea in Canada
As part of the Commonwealth, you will find afternoon tea across Canada with more regularity than in the States. It was the Hudson Bay Company that originally brought tea to Canada in 1716.
From the Maritimes to British Columbia, find afternoon tea in homey, chintz-clad tearooms or regal hotel lobbies. And savor the regional differences as flavors meld and cultural influences dot menus across the provinces.
Fairmont Empress in Victoria, British Columbia
The quintessential afternoon tea at the Fairmont Empress in Victoria, BC is so popular that it’s a top destination for visitors. For more than a hundred years, the Lobby Lounge has hosted ladies in hats and attendants in plaid.
In a light and airy lobby with swoopy palms and coffered ceilings, enjoy the refinement of a by-gone era. Find your grandmother’s floral china pattern while a baby grand plays the standards in the background.
Tea stewards circle the lobby dotted with tables and sofa vignettes describing 21 different types of tea. The ever-knowledgeable attendants guide guests through the selection, then meticulously present and pour their tea tableside.
The three-tier stand holds signature savory delights like the heirloom cucumber on rye with fennel pollen, pink peppercorn and whipped dill cream cheese. And the chevre tartlet boasts whipped rosemary goat cheese with quince jelly and blood orange.
Then find the signature Empress raisin scone round and high on its own plate. It is served with house-made clotted cream along with strawberry and lavender preserves.
The desserts offer a nod to British Columbia’s Scottish heritage with shortbread. And the Aiyaha Chocolate Delice is the signature chocolate cake with hints of honey and blackberry.
Open year-round and serving tea from 11 a.m. to 4 p.m., reservations are strongly recommended. Located in the lobby of the Fairmount Empress at 721 Government Street. Adult tea is $78CAN with champagne available.
Fairmont Le Château Frontenac in Quebec City, Quebec
Perched high above Quebec City’s Old Town, the Fairmont Le Château Frontenac is an icon of eastern Canada. Originally built by the Canadian Pacific Railroad in 1893, its green roof and towers are instantly recognizable. What an ideal spot for afternoon tea.
Though Quebec shares its history with France, tea is still served in the Place Dufferin. With views of the St-Lawrence River, guests enjoy afternoon tea on specially-designed china from England.
In a modern twist, tea starts with kombucha, flavored with elderflower. And the Fairmont Le Château Frontenac serves Lot 35 tea, find traditional Earl Grey alongside Japanese green tea and Chinese jasmine tea.
On a contemporary three-tier stand, find cucumber sandwiches sitting next to the jamon open-face brioche sandwiches. The scones are served with house-made Devonshire cream along with preserves.
The mignardises, or small bite-size desserts, vary according to the chef’s delight. You will always find the French favorite—assorted house-made macarons—along with a signature chocolate gâteau. In the background, enjoy the jazz tunes of Mademoiselle Fizz. Champagne is available.
Afternoon tea is served Saturday from 2 p.m. to 4:00 p.m. Find the Fairmont Le Château Frontenac at 1 rue des Carrières in Old Town. Adult tea is $55CAN and children’s tea is $25CAN.
Fairmont The Queen Elizabeth in Montreal, Quebec
Another great place for afternoon tea across Canada is at Fairmont, The Queen Elizabeth, in Montreal. In the iconic downtown hotel, the Roselys Restaurant offers an afternoon tea on floral china blending traditional and modern tea flavors. Enjoy a bold tea like the Grand Bazaar Spice, or make it an event and sample the subtle floral Madame Butterfly tea.
Wearing a jacket for serving, the tea steward presents a traditional silver-plated, three-tier stand. First taste the French influence with a savory foie gras macaron. Then the Japanese make a mark with a maki cucumber sandwich that raises the bar on the quintessential tea time favorite.
Find plain and raisin scones with clotted, or Devonshire cream, both traditional and satisfying to Anglophiles. Although I do think The Queen Elizabeth Hotel’s scones taste like an oil-based scone recipe instead of the butter recipe.
The desserts offer a fusion of classics along with delicately prepared modern flavors. The matcha tea and chocolate cake pops with geometric lines. And the thimble-sized fruit tart garnished with an edible flower is a dainty work of art. Then the chocolate, milk foam, maple plaquette offers a nod to the beloved flavor of Canada.
The Queen Elizabeth Hotel offers a special tea menu for guests under 12.
Afternoon tea is served Thursday through Sunday from 2 p.m. to 4:30 p.m. Find Fairmont Queen Elizabeth Hotel at 900 Boulevard René-Levesque Quest in downtown Montreal. Adult tea is $37CAN and children’s tea is $16CAN.
Prince of Wales Hotel in Waterton Lakes National Park, Alberta
Perched on a hill in the national park hamlet of Waterton Park, Prince of Wales Hotel offers afternoon tea with a Scottish flair. In the lobby, find a wall of windows overlooking Waterton Lake and the beauty of this Western Canadian location.
Originally built in 1927, the Prince of Wales Hotel is one of Canada’s grand railway hotels. The timber-framed building offers soaring ceilings and wood details throughout the property.
Dressed in traditional Royal Stewart tartans, tea attendants cater to guests, some wearing hiking boots.
Find the traditional teatime favorites like scones and cucumber tea sandwiches. Missing are the china teacups. Instead, the Prince of Wales hotel uses more rustic pottery, fitting for a national park setting.
Along with petit fruit tarts, enjoy the house-made Scottish shortbread. The Prince of Wales Hotel serves Tea Forte in assorted flavors and children can substitute lemonade.
Open seasonally from the last week of May until mid-September, find the Prince of Wales Hotel at Alberta 5, Waterton Park, Alberta. Adult tea is $33CAN and children’s tea is $18CAN.
Butchart Gardens in Brentwood Bay, British Columbia
Afternoon tea is bliss and afternoon tea in one of the most beautiful gardens in Canada is nirvana. Tea at Butchart Gardens on Vancouver Island is located in the original family house, where you can take tea while enjoying a view of a white trellis dripping in roses.
A bit less formal than a hotel afternoon tea, The Dining Room at the Butchart Gardens uses white bone china along with a three-tier stand. And the dining room features lots of potted plants with indoor and patio seating.
Start with the traditional English Trifle, a delightful layered dessert of Chantilly cream, sponge cake, and berry compote. Then sample the signature house-made scones with seasonal preserves and Devonshire cream.
The cucumber, pickled ginger, and dill weed tea sandwiches offer a twist on the classic. The wild British Columbia salmon with capers and red onions celebrates the local seafood.
Indulge the sweet side of afternoon tea with a variety of desserts. The bergamot chocolate truffle offers an herby twist on the classic. And the strawberry lemon napoleon is the taste of summer.
Find the tea selection drawing inspiration from the garden as well. The rose congou is a Chinese congou tea with rose petals. And the bachelor button tea is a Chinese black tea with bergamot, rhubarb, and blue cornflowers.
Located north of Victoria at 800 Benvenuto Avenue in Brentwood Bay, British Columbia. It’s open every day, even holidays, with seasonal hours. Adult tea is $41.25CAN and admission to Butchart Gardens is required since the Dining Room is within the garden.
Regent Seven Seas Cuisine
For cruisers departing from Vancouver or Montreal on a Regent Seven Seas cruise, afternoon tea is served onboard at 4 p.m. With fluffy scones and house-made clotted cream, enjoy tea while cruising the west coast’s Inside Passage or the east’s St. Lawrence River.
Depending on itinerary, cruisers can enjoy a variety of tea sandwiches though you'll always find traditional cucumber sandwiches and roast beef brioche. Plain scones are always perfection and find other varieties, like raisin and almond.
On port days, afternoon tea stewards circle the Horizon Lounge with a rolling tea cart. And every afternoon tea offers a pianist.
For sea days, the themed afternoon teas are popular with the Chocolate Tea Time—a Regent must. With an array of chocolate desserts, find a buffet with an impeccability prepared Chocolate Charlotte Russe and Chocolate Torte along with a chocolate fountain.
Another cruise favorite, the Crepe Tea Time offers chef-prepared crepes along with an assortment of fillings.
For the Regent Seven Seas tea time, you'll find white teacups, white linens, and petit silver teapots. Tea Attendants wear white gloves and champagne is always available. In addition to having great afternoon tea across Canada, we offer many more great suggestions for what to do in Canada on Wander.
Note: As is common in the travel industry, the writer was provided with complimentary meals, accommodations, and tours for the purpose of review. While it has not influenced this review, the writer believes in full disclosure of all potential conflicts of interest.