Oh you fancy, huh?
Afternoon tea, often known as high tea, is a meal experience that’s all about the finger sandwiches, pastries, scones, and of course…tea! It’s perfect for special occasions, or just when you want to treat yo’self. Typically, this meal is served (you guessed it) in the afternoon, between lunch and dinner.
Traditional British high tea dates back to the 1700s. You might be wondering why it’s called “high” tea – well, that’s because it used to be served on high tables, sitting on high stools or standing, or even on a “high” dinner table. Now, I’m going to say it’s called high tea because it often gives me a sugar high…
Whether you’re feeling fancy, you’re a high tea conoisseur, or you just like to try new meal experiences, it’s high time you go to high tea! One of my friends and I have made it our mission to go to as many different high tea places as we possibly can, and we have found some gems.
Here are five amazing places to have afternoon tea outside of the city, in no particular order.
The Old Curiosity is a tea shop in Markham that boasts “a truly Victorian tea room experience.” With quirky yet quaint decor and a large window where you can stare, forlorn, onto the main street, the ambiance and food here compliment one another well. This place is pretty cozy! As for the afternoon tea itself, first, you’ll get tiers of freshly made, dainty tea sandwiches, layered with ingredients like fish and fresh veggies. Then, you’ll get a two-tier of warm scones, clotted cream and preserves, and English cookies and cakes. Of course, you’ll also get to choose a pot of loose-leaf tea. Sure, you’ll find your standard green and black teas here, but you’ll also find wine and cocktail-inspired teas if you’re feeling adventurous, like merlot domaine and chocolate martini. And, it’s on the cheaper end of high tea, at $24.75 per person. Go here if you’re looking for a great amount of food, adorable china, and a homely atmosphere.
Did you know that Laudree at Yorkdale serves high tea? I didn’t! But they do, and it’s awesome. It’s a small but quirky and cute space with an epic high tea that you’ll have to explore the mall a little bit to find, but you’ll be glad you did (helpful hint, it’s near Sunglass Hut). For $50, you’re in for a real treat. Laudree’s high tea is complete with two finger sandwiches (typically one is fish and one is chicken or veggie), several French cookies and pastries, a fresh fruit salad, and, of course…macarons! First of all, their pastries are mouthwatering, especially the madeleines, which melt in your mouth and are served with a very whipped cream. Then, there’s the macarons. You can choose from unique and traditional flavours like lemon, coffee, pistachio, and more, and let me tell you – best macarons I’ve ever had. The tea selection is diverse, so make sure you open up the entire tea menu to get a good look at your options. You’ll find your standard assam and oolong, and you’ll also find unique blends like the melange special Laudree, a black tea blend with citrus and florals, spices, and vanilla. Laudree was founded in the 1800s in Paris and they recently expanded to Toronto, so you know you’re in for something special. Browse the tea menu here.
Looking to be pampered? Ste. Anne’s Spa in Grafton is an epic place to go. With its sprawling grounds, hospitable staff, and beautiful site over all, whether you’re taking a day trip here for high tea or you’re planning to really treat yo’self with an overnight experience, this is a great spot for everyone. I won’t babble about the relaxing massages and facials or the lavender steam room, but I will babble about the high tea here! First of all, if you’re here for the spa experience, you can have your high tea…in a white, fluffy robe! How awesome is that? The dining room is spacious and surrounded by windows that let in a lot of light and make the tea experience truly special. You’re guaranteed to leave full, relaxed, and happy after afternoon tea at Ste. Anne’s. Here, you’ll get tiers of savoury treats, sweet treats, and some of the best scones ever. Typically, the finger sandwiches are chicken and cranberry salad sliders, and you’ll get an assortment of other treats like tortilla pinwheels, open faced ham and cheese baguettes, cheese tarts, cheeses, crackers, and raw fruits and veggies. In addition, you’ll get an assortment of fresh sweets from the bakery like cookies and cakes, and Ste. Anne’s signature orange and cranberry scones served with honey butter, house made preserves, and Devonshire cream. And, there’s a selection of vegan items like spicy cucumber and hummus sandwiches, a mushroom and olive tapenade, and scrambled tofu and mustard cress. Vegans should be wary of the scones, because there’s a separate vegan scone. The vegan scones are made with blueberries, and they’re also delicious. Come for the spa, stay for the tea!
1) Old Mill
The Old Mill in Toronto was established in 1914 and it’s been serving high tea ever since, so you know it’s doing something right. First, a portion of proceeds from the $30.95 afternoon tea experience are donated to Women’s Habitat, second, you’ll get a box of Old Mill’s signature black and green blend Centennial Tea with your meal to take home, and third, the space is massive and stunning! When you get to Old Mill, you’ll feel like you’ve gone back in time. There’s a patio space, a large and antique dining area, and a classic tea area where lots of light comes in from the windows. And, the tables are large enough to fit all of your afternoon tea treats. To kick things off, you’ll get a selection of finger sandwiches like smoked salmon and asparagus, egg salad croissants, and cucumber and baby watercress, house made tea pastries like a citrusy and delicious lemon meringue tartlet, Scottish shortbread, and even Battenburg cake, and currant and lemon scones with imported Devonshire cream, and jams and marmalades – yum! As for the tea selection, it’s small but mighty, complete with the signature Centennial tea, a darjeeling, a creme caramel rooibos, and even a subtle Kyoto sencha cherry rose. Old Mill is so beautiful people have weddings and events here, and it’s also a hotel and spa. This is definitely the place to arrive in a large, fancy hat and a pretty dress, and be sure you set aside some time to explore the historic property and maybe book a spa treatment, too. Like I said…treat yo’self!