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History of Afternoon Tea

The storied tradition of afternoon tea began in 1840 in England when the seventh Duchess of Bedford found herself peckish around 4pm. Dinner was served fashionably late at 8pm, so she began to order tea with bread, butter and cake to her room. Soon enough, she began to invite her friends to enjoy it with her. By the 1880s, afternoon tea had become a high fashion event served in the drawing room with silver teapots, fine linens, elegant teacups, and world-renowned teas.

As Afternoon Tea hosted in homes became Tea Parties, soon enough Tea Rooms and Tea Gardens quickly spread throughout England. 

High Tea or Afternoon Tea?

Afternoon Tea is what you'll enjoy at Fairmont Empress. High Tea originated during the Industrial Revolution for workers who returned home after a long hard day of physical labor. By that hour, tea was typically served with hot, hearty dishes. Now known as “supper” or “dinner”, this meal was often more filling and accompanied by a pot of strong tea.

As well, afternoon tea is often served on low, comfortable chairs in a parlour or outside while relaxing in the garden. The high tea after work is often served at a table with high-back dining room chairs.

Tea Arrives in Canada

The first tea shipment to arrive in Canada was imported by the Hudson Bay Company in 1716 and took more than a year to arrive! 

Tea at the Empress

The iconic Fairmont Empress opened its doors over 110 years ago. Overlooking the sparkling Inner Harbour, the Empress was designed by Francis Rattenbury for Canadian Pacific Hotels as a terminus hotel for the Canadian Pacific Railway. (Rattenbury also designed the legislature building in Victoria, BC) The building has been designated as a National Historic Site of Canada.

During the summer months, the Fairmont Empress in Victoria, British Columbia, serves Afternoon Tea to more guests than most hotels in London, England. More than 400 people per day come to enjoy a tradition that commenced when the hotel opened on January 20, 1908.