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When my family recently took a cruise out of Seattle up to Alaska and Canada, we had a couple of tours in mind before we went. The Empress Victoria high tea wasn't one of them, but we decided to do it on a whim while walking around the city. (read more)
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THE EMPRESS VICTORIA HIGH TEA - GETTING THERE
If you're coming off a cruise ship and don't mind the walk, I'm going to recommend walking into Victoria. It is going to take you about 25 minutes, so prepare for that, but the scenery cannot be beat and the people are super friendly.
You will also likely have options of cruise shuttles (which will run you about $15.00 USD per person), or a taxi, which will run you about $10.00 USD total. That said, taxis from the port are in short supply. We couldn't find any on our way out, but finding one back to the port was super easy.
I'm not sure where the cruise ship shuttle drops you since we walked, but a taxi will take you right there, just tell them you want to go to The Empress.
Walking is also simple. I would recommend pulling up Google Maps on your phone and putting in the address then just following along as it gets you to where you're going.
The Empress is a huge hotel, you cannot miss it. That said, there are two entrances, one will take you to the main restaurant, the other will take you to high tea. You'll know the front entrance because it has the curved drive where cars pull up. You're going to need to head to your right and turn the corner (there's a convenient walkway) to get to the entrance for High Tea.
Let's talk cost.
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THE EMPRESS VICTORIA HIGH TEA - COST
I'm sure we were given a cost when we came into the restaurant, but I can't remember seeing it. I do know that it is a Prix Fixe menu, so you won't be able to order in the traditional manner.
Rather, you can't order your food in a traditional manner, but you definitely can with your tea and any bar drinks you might want.
My check came to just under $200 USD for my mom and I, but that included my tip, which was 20%, so I'm going to say High Tea itself cost around $75 per person USD.
Let's talk about what you get for that money.
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THE EMPRESS VICTORIA HIGH TEA - THE TEA
You get a lot for your money, but it comes in the form of an experience. Don't get me wrong, it's a bunch of food. You're probably going to have to roll yourself out of the restaurant if you eat it all. I wasn't able to eat it all, but I wanted to.
Leaving half that scone haunts me to this day...
The atmosphere is wonderful and opulent. You're lead to your table, which is already set with dishes and tea "fixings", though your waiter will caution you to try your chosen tea without anything added.
You're going to be asked to choose one tea from a variety of six "included" versions, but you can choose from another 15 varieties that will add an additional expense to your meal.
Mom and I went with one of the included six, and we were not disappointed. I had the Orange Pekoe, and she had the Rose Congou Emperor. Both were fantastic.
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Your waiter will take your tea order and return with two tea warmers (ceramic dishes with a tea light in them to keep the tea warm) and a spall ceramic dish used to hold your tea bag once your tea has reached its optimal state.
If you don't know the right amount of time to steep your tea, that's okay. Your waiter will provide you with a tea timer (the exact one pictured below) and will tell you which timer you need to watch for your tea.
Mine was four minutes, Mom's was five minutes.
When your tea reaches it optimal steep, you simply remove the bag from the pot and place it in the provided dish.
It's all very posh.
Here's the tea timer, if you'd like to own one of your very own.
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THE EMPRESS VICTORIA HIGH TEA - THE FOOD
I'm going to try my best to remember all of the specific foods that came with the Prix Fixe menu, but there was a lot, so don't quote me on it. Here's the picture of our trays of food, so we'll start at the bottom and go up.
On the lowest tray we had the signature Empress raisin scones with jam and clotted cream. They were amazing. I am so sad I couldn't finish it, but I had to finish ALL of the desserts up top. Priorities, you know?
On the second level we had egg salad, a ginger carrot sandwich, salmon on a blini, and english cucumber on rye.
On the top level we had a macaron (which was like eating sugary air, it was so good), a shortbread cookie, a chocolate mousse cup, a Meyer lemon tart, and a vanilla caramel muffin.
I'm not a huge fan of fish in any form, so while I did take a bite of the salmon, it was the only thing (aside from half the scone) that didn't get eaten.
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THE EMPRESS VICTORIA HIGH TEA - RESERVATIONS, MENUS, ETC.
I looked at the posted menu to try and match up what we ate, but some of the things we were served are not listed on the menu.
If you'd like to see what The Empress lists as the high tea menu, here it is.
A few other links you might like:
Tea At The Empress
An overview with a link to reserve your table
I do recommend reservations. As I said, Mom and I walked in off the ship without a reservation, and while the hostess was able to seat us, she did look a little concerned when we told her we had no reservation.
Had it not been a random Thursday (and instead been a weekend) I'm not sure we'd have been able to get a table. So definitely book your reservation in advance if you can.
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Having high tea at the Empress was a highlight of our trip, and we did some amazing excursions, so I don't say that lightly.
You could spend hours eating, drinking tea, chatting, and feeling like royalty. There was never any rush for us to leave, the waiter was very attentive, and the food and tea were some of the best bites and drinks I've ever had of the sort.
We liked it so much that we decided when we get back to Victoria (not if) we'll do it again.
I hope you enjoy your high tea as much as we did, and if you have any questions, just ask!
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