Steeped in tradition: Sip afternoon tea in Victoria

Afternoon tea dates back to 1840 England; Victoria, with strong historical ties to the British Motherland, upholds this tradition in fine style. But don’t believe it’s all stuffy, prim and proper – afternoon teas are becoming popular as children’s birthday parties. Whether you’re looking for a casual place for a light meal, or a more formal spot to impress your mother-in-law, this list has you covered.

Venus Sophia Tea Room & Vegetarian Eatery

1
540 Fisgard St, Victoria, BC V8W 1R4

Tea at Chinatown’s Venus Sophia is a relaxed affair; the light, airy surroundings have a “shabby chic” vibe. But don’t let the room’s casual complexion belie its commitment to tea – the Venus Sophia serves a range of international organic teas including its own unique blends. And for the younger set, they offer children’s tea, and tea parties. Practicing table manners and the niceties of ritual and conversation – is there an app for that?

The Pacific Restaurant and Terrace

2
463 Belleville St, Victoria, BC V8V 1X3

For something a little different, the Pacific Restaurant offers English Tea with a West Coast twist. Local ingredients with Asian influences are hallmarks. Sake compressed cucumber on okonomi-yaki, for example, replaces the traditional cucumber sandwich. The hotel’s tea program is exceptional – it even partners with a tea master who advises on which teas to serve, and how. Depending on the tea, you may be served a cup or a more traditional gaiwan, a Chinese lidded bowl. Although the restaurant is informal, feel free to dress up for tea.

James Bay Tea Room and Restaurant

3
332 Menzies St, Victoria, BC V8V 2G9

This homey heritage house has been pouring afternoon tea since the mid 1980s. While not as polished as some of the other teas on this list, it’s worth a visit for its cozy charm and delightful meal. James Bay Tea Room presents a light tea option as well as a fairly substantial regular tea. Fans of the monarchy will enjoy the collection of royal memorabilia on the walls, or people watching out the big picture windows overlooking the sidewalk on Menzies Street.

Point Ellice

BC

An oasis in an industrial area, Point Ellice House is a quiet sanctuary in which to sip tea and reflect on Victorian history. It overlooks the Gorge Waterway and holds Canada’s largest collection of Victoriana. Built in 1867 as a family home by Peter O’Reilly (one of BC’s first judges), the house and contents were donated to the BC government in 1975. Take a guided tour of the mansion and grounds, and enjoy tea on the lawn or in the heritage gardens, just as Victoria’s high-society founders did.

White Heather Tea Room

4
1885 Oak Bay Ave, Victoria, BC V8R 1C6

An unassuming storefront on a tree-lined section of the street, the White Heather Tea Room offers an informal Scottish Tea – and the original proprietor’s grandmother’s shortbread recipe. The establishment features several versions of tea to suit your appetite: the Big Muckle Giant Tea (from the Scottish version of the David and Goliath story), the Wee Tea and the Not-So-Wee Tea. There’s also a gluten-free tea option. The tea selection itself is varied, from black teas (Queen Mary) to custom blends (Mad Hatter) to green teas (jasmine).

Huntingdon Manor Hotel

5
330 Quebec St, Victoria, BC V8V 1W3

This restored Victorian mansion hosts a very traditional afternoon tea in elegant surroundings – think chandeliers, stained glass windows and dark wood. Along with the standard issue of warm scones, preserves, sandwiches and pastries, you might also try the local charcuterie and cheese board with a glass of port. The tea menu affords plenty of choice, including the Pendray’s feature tea. Dubbed Lucky Tea, it’s named for William Pendray, the owner of the mansion, whose gold rush days paid off. The black-green tea blend is served with gold leaves – how’s that for decadence?

The Butchart Gardens Ltd

6
800 Benvenuto Ave, Brentwood Bay, BC V8M 1J8

Just outside Victoria proper, you’ll find Butchart Gardens and its more than five hectares of floral show gardens. One of Victoria’s top tourist destinations, a list of afternoon teas must include its seasonal afternoon tea. The elegant dining room, part of the Butchart family’s original residence, features views of two garden areas and Tod Inlet. Vegetarian and children’s teas are also offered. The cost of tea is not included in garden admission, so it’s best to make a day of it, exploring the incredible gardens and breaking for tea.

Business lunch isn’t always about meeting customers. Sometimes it’s about kicking ideas around during a casual lunch with colleagues. And a nicely priced meal in a sociable setting will do wonders for your productivity. Victoria has plenty of office-retreat eatery options. The common denominator in our list is fast, friendly service that gives you plenty of time to refuel and recharge before you’re back to the daily grind.
Victoria earned the unofficial title of Canada’s craft beer capital in 1984, when archaic BC liquor laws were overturned, allowing Spinnakers to become the country’s first brewpub. It was once illegal to serve beer in the same building where it was brewed, but thankfully this is no longer the case. With quality brewpubs and plenty of local taps, Victoria is the place for microbrew aficionados to raise a pint.
Victoria may not have a designated Little Italy (unless the Leonardo da Vinci cultural centre counts), but it’s not lacking an Italian culinary scene. From authentic Old World dining to West Coast-flavoured contemporary Italian, from romantic candlelight meals to family-friendly feasts, this list has got your Italian cravings covered. Buon Appetito!
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