Executive Traveller’s Most Exquisite Awards
Most Exquisite Afternoon Tea Services in Canada
… and the winner is…

I really love the idea and lifestyle of afternoon tea so I could not let my “Exquisite Canadian Affair” pass without a hunt for my top three extremely beautiful and delicate Afternoon tea services in Canada. Continuing the tradition with everything associated with Executive Traveller, our awards go to the most beautiful, elegant and graceful service.

Tea drinking is a pastime closely associated with the English; however, the Afternoon Tea lifestyle has caught on worldwide. For Executive Traveller, Afternoon Tea is not a simple tea drinking “business”. It is an art or a ritual, evolved as a mini meal to stem the hunger and anticipation of an evening meal at 8pm. It is a delicate meal composed of sandwiches (usually cut delicately into 'fingers'), scones with clotted cream and jam, sweet pastries and cakes.

Interestingly, scones were not a common feature of early Afternoon Tea and were only introduced in the twentieth century. The whole process has evolved and the more refined or creative the service provider is, the more exquisite the experience will be. This is why I was particularly impressed with the presentation platter at the Windsor Arms Tea Rooms Toronto. Service should be efficient and attentive with orders being taken and delivered in a reasonable amount of time.

The customer must always be the main priority and staff should check regularly that the customer has sufficient tea, hot water and milk etc and that everything is to their satisfaction.

When guests order a full afternoon tea menu staff should explain precisely what the menu comprises of, the varieties and quantities of food included and the order in which the afternoon tea will be served.

This is particularly important and saves embarassment where guests, being presented with a tiered afternoon tea stand, might be unfamiliar with the afternoon tea concept and may be unsure of the order of service and the order in which it should be eaten.

Tea first arrived in England during Cromwell's protectorate and soon became the national drink, with tea drinking a national pastime for the English. Anna Russell, Duchess of Bedford, is however, credited with the invention of afternoon tea. By 1840, it had spread to other parts of English society. A female manager of London's Aerated Bread Company is attributed with innovating the first commercial public tearoom.

It was initially developed as a private social event for ladies who climbed the echelons of society. It was only when Queen Victoria engaged in the Afternoon Tea ritual that it became a formal occasion on a larger scale, known as 'tea receptions'.

The Canadian ritual is similar to that of the UK where a tea room is a small room or restaurant where beverages and light meals are served. There are no set rules about the content of a traditional Afternoon Tea menu, but it usually consists of sandwiches and a variety of sweet items.

I am not basing my judgment solely on the menu content but particularly to the delicacy and finesse of the service attached to the ritual. For me, going out of your way to have an afternoon tea alone is an effort and this should be rewarded with an exceptional service.

A traditional afternoon tea menu comprises of:
A selection of freshly prepared finger sandwiches
Warm scones with clotted cream and preserves
A variety of homemade cakes and pastries
Your choice from a range of teas

The classic selection of sandwiches served with Afternoon Tea includes:
• cucumber;
• egg mayonnaise with cress;
• smoked salmon with cream cheese;
• Coronation chicken;
• Ham and mustard.

In addition to this most hotels and tea rooms offer set menus that include a glass of Champagne with the Traditional Afternoon Tea, or the option to add a glass of Champagne for an additional charge.

The Executive Traveller verdict:

Third place, The Fairmont Empress Hotel, Victoria:
Had I been basing my judgment simply on location and stature, the Fairmont Empress hotel, Victoria would have leapt way ahead of my first and second choices. The hotel sits majestically at the cornerstone of Victoria’s Inner Harbour and one cannot fail to bow as you are greeted by its grandeur whether you arrive by land or sea...read more

First runner up, the Tea Room at Windsor Arms Hotel:
“Deluxe, compact and bijou” will be my description for the elegant 1920s French styles, tea rooms with cozy fireplaces at Windsor Arms Hotel located at 18 St Thomas Street, on the corner of Bloor Street West, Toronto. The property has been in existence since 1927, however, the tea rooms alongside ...read more

And the Winner is...Why the Urban Tea Merchant in Vancouver BC is the Most Exquisite Afternoon Tea Place in Canada. The tea service at the Urban Tea Merchant comes out trumps in quality, service and finesse to be our choice for the Most Exquisite Tea Place in Canada. The entrance to the Signature Store does not give much away….read more


Executive Traveller 2003