Victoria was originally a rough and tumble town. It was settled by gold rush fortune seekers, many of whom weren’t likely unfamiliar with the practice of taking afternoon tea. But as news of the city’s protected harbor and gentle weather spread, it quickly attracted a diverse population – including several wealthy individuals committed to developing culture and beauty.
The result is a city rich with historical architectural and beloved rituals – not the least of which is tea. From afternoon tea to high tea, Victorians and visitors celebrate the indulgent reprieve from the hustle and bustle of life.
What’s the difference between high tea and afternoon tea? Afternoon tea is meant to be a break between lunch and dinner. The menus are often dainty in size, featuring scones and finger sandwiches. High tea is intended to serve as lunch. Dishes are much more substantial, ranging from meat pies and pickled salmon to cheesy casseroles and ham-studded quiche.
Which is better – afternoon tea or high tea? It’s hard to say. Both are worthy of splurging.
Top 10 Places to Drink Tea in Victoria
The Fairmont Empress
Regarded as the most iconic of Victoria’s landmarks, the Fairmont Empress has been serving afternoon tea since 1908. This grand tradition is the epitome of Victorian class. Hosted in the newly renovated Lobby Lounge, the grand space mixes English tradition and modern décor.
The feast includes the signature Empress scones, clotted creams, and dainty finger sandwiches. As for tea, you can select from 21 of the finest loose leaf teas available. However, Empress’ own blend is strongly recommended with its mix if thick malty flavors, oaky notes, and a small hint of fruit. But be sure to pack your fancy clothes for this one. The dress code calls for sophisticated, smart casual attire. Flip flops and bikinis are not welcome.
On the more rustic side of steep leaves and china cups, you’ll find Adrienne’s Restaurant & Tea Garden at Mattick’s Farm. The home-style cooking and selection of homemade goods earned it a loyal following among locals. Serving high tea and afternoon tea, the menus feature both sweet and savory items.
An organic, seasonal menu makes this vegetarian tea room stand out. The Venus Sophia has redefined high tea and afternoon tea as the new brunch. Serving locally sourced, scratch-made food and organic teas, the contemporary restaurant maintains a warm and inviting charm.
Selections range from artichoke and kale quiche to a veggie-loaded quinoa bowl with tahini lemon sauce. Teas include a delectable Mint Chocolate (spiked with real dark chocolate), Royal Darjeeling (considered the champagne of teas), and Victoria Rose (infused with rose petal essence and lemon balm).
Formerly known as the Gatsby Mansion, the historic Pendary Inn and Tea House offers stunning views of Victoria’s Inner Harbour. The elegant mansion’s Tudor style exterior is matched by its rich wood interior and original stained glass windows. From the sparkling chandeliers to the antique furnishings, tea here is like stepping back in time.
The menu includes a selection of freshly made scones (served with housemade local fruit jam), shrimp salad, and chocolate dipped shortbread. They even have a kids menu for the little ones.
A British Columbia chain, Murchie’s has been a staple in the Victoria tea scene since 1894. Though there are two Victoria shops, only the one on Government Street features a café. Having developed a reputation for its delectable selection of baked goods, make sure to save room for cake. The chocolate mousse truffle and the strawberry princess are particularly delightful.
Hotel Grand Pacific
Tucked beside the Inner Harbour, the Hotel Grand Pacific has arguably one of the best views in Victoria. It looks directly upon the Parliament Buildings, Fairmont Empress, and Victoria Seaplane Terminal (our personal favorite).
In addition to stunning views, the hotel’s West Coast Afternoon Tea features a curated tea list and a multi-tiered selection of scones, quiche, and bread pudding. Furthermore, their tea program is heavily influenced by Asian culture. They offer a custom mix of single-estate teas and blends.
The Teahouse at Abkhazi Garden
After being separated by war for 13 years, Prince and Princess Abkazi reunited in Victoria, where they came to settle down. They created a magical oasis for themselves – transforming their one-acre property into an exquisite garden. Today, their heritage home serves as a charming tea room, overlooking the lush manicured landscape that still thrives.
Guests enjoy sandwiches, fresh baked goods, and a selection of teas. Garden tours are also available, for those who want to do a little exploring.
White Heather Tea Room
Voted Victoria’s Best Cup of Tea, the White Heather Tea Room has developed a loyal following among locals. The dining room is elegant, yet comfortable. Menu selections come in three sizes: “Wee Tea,” “Not So Wee Tea,” and the “Bick Muckle Tea.”
Each is appropriately named for their portion size and priced to match. This is definitely a tea house where you’ll get the most bang for your buck. But don’t assume that means your sacrificing flavor. The selection of sweet and savory tarts is every bit as indulgently satisfying as the fare at its sister tea houses.
James Bay Tea Room & Restaurant
For an authentic British tea, look no further than the James Bay Tea Room & Restaurant. The historic 1907 heritage house is livelier than some of the more buttoned blouse and stocking fare you’ll find at Victoria’s other tea houses. The walls are scattered with antiques. The menu includes sausage and potatoes. But the flavors don’t disappoint and the service is warm and friendly.
Point Ellice House
Considered a treasure trove of Victorian history, the Point Ellice House was built in 1862 for the O’Reilly family. Guided tours are offered on weekends, taking you through the extensive gardens and home. But the real delight here is tea. Also available on the weekends, the villa overlooks the Upper Harbour and Gorge Waterway. The menu includes smoked salmon finger sandwiches, French Macaroons, and scones served with strawberry compote.
DISCOVER MORE VICTORIA BC THINGS TO DO
Remarkable architecture, lush gardens, and a plethora of delectable eateries dishing up some of the best eggs Benedict you’ve ever had make Victoria a must-visit destination.
There’s more to Victoria than the Fairmont Empress and Parliament Buildings. While both of these iconic landmarks are certainly deserving of a visit, B.C.’s quaint capitol is loaded with Instagram-worthy destinations.
When you have just a day to soak up the majestic beauty of Victoria, B.C., don’t let a second go to waste. Hit the streets. Immerse yourself in the culture. And, don’t forget your camera. You’ll want it on this photo walk.