Victorian Tea Tour

I boarded the Victoria Clipper early in the morning on a Saturday from Seattle.  A nice little ride from Seattle to Victoria on a double decker boat.  With some seats being comparable to an airplane with no leg room and people sticking their feet where they don't belong and other seats with tables.  I was lucky enough to see some wales diving not far from the boat on the ride to Victoria.  The captain slowed down so we could see the wales.  Or maybe they are required to slow down in the presence of wales.  Either way, that was a bonus to the ride into Canada.

Once settled into my hotel I made my way out on the western part of Victoria BC in search of the best tea shops in the city.  There were several I came upon in the China Town area.  The first shop I came across was Silk Road.  It had an inviting atmosphere and friendly staff.  It appeared they had other services offered on one area of the store that looked spa related and a poster on the door invited customers to return the following day for a green tea ceremony and book signing.  I was attracted to the retail room where they had tea and accessories for sale in a very nice display.  I purchased a first flush Darjeeling and headed out to the next spot.

Around the corner I saw a sign that read "Just Matcha Tea Shop".  The signage wasn't too enticing but they made up for it with large signs in the shape of ice cream cones.  On a hot day I assumed they would have a line.  To my amazement they had no customers in the store.  They did have a fantastic supply of Matcha products.  The shop itself was very nice and I felt the street it faced just didn't have the foot traffic which may have caused the lack of patronage.  I purchased some matcha infused candies and moved on. 

My daughter who is a big fan of Bubble Tea pointed out a shop called The Bubble Tea Place.  They had an impressive menu of teas but clearly the Bubble Tea was the top seller.  Everyone in the shop ordered the Bubble Tea that was advertised on the sign.  There was a dragon theme and and impressive flooring design of a dragon made of pennies.  I noticed other teas didn't move as quickly in the shop and the tea tins displayed for sale had actual dust on them.  Although they weren't selling much of anything else, they were so far the most occupied shop by customers coming in to get a cool beverage.  We ordered a few and headed back out in the heat.

We walked by several other shops that I peered into in order to see what they were offering and what kind of customers they had.  Venus Sophia was being advertised as a Tea Room & Vegetarian Eatery.   We didn't give ourselves time to go in and order anything from their menu. However, I noticed right away the way their layout was had an inviting space that felt like a living room with a wall of accessories and teas along side the ordering counter.  A very well organized space.  I walked by this shop twice and both times it caught my attention.

A few shops were chains such as Davids Tea and Teavana which had the cookie cutter corporate shop look.  Davids Tea had a corner location and had far more people inside than Teavana that was on a side road with minimal foot traffic. 

Murchies is a chain in Canada but have more of an apothecary look in their retail area and a soda shop style walk up area with a pastry bar and always has a solid line of customers.  Although I didn't enter the shop this trip, I always am impressed by their consistency and they have been around for over 100 years according to the sign on the building.  If true, that is a very impressive business stretch.

At the end of the day I walked by a shop called Special Teas.  It was already closed for the day.  It was on a side street and had an interesting layout.  I will definitely look to visit this shop and Venus Sophia on my next visit.

Sunday was dedicated to High Tea.  We took a taxi to The Teahouse at Abkhazi Garden.  An acre of land landscaped and preserved by it's current caretakers.  It had an interesting romantic history of royal exiled residents who have since passed away. We ordered several options from the menu.  The tea was provided by Silk Road and absolutely delicious.  The presentation of the foods was perfect and the food itself was exquisite.  There was some adorable seating options outside but being an avoider of the sun we chose seating indoors.  Their gift shop was full of delightful hand crafted gift items by local crafters. 

I later walked through the Fairmont Empress Hotel which has one of the most sought after High Tea services in Victoria BC.  Their $75 price tag per plate doesn't fare well for most.  And the typical comment I found speaking with those I chatted with in the bar said it was a "once in a lifetime" experience.  Since it's not something most do on a regular basis the tea room was not full.  The hotel was bustling with workers preparing multiple areas for weddings scheduled for later in the day. 

Sunday was too short to keep exploring.  My biggest miss on my trip was the Terroir Tea Salon that was not open on Sundays.  Another notable tea stop I would like to visit on my next tea tour would be the afternoon tea at Huntingdon Manor.  There were many more tea places whether they were cafe's or retailers that I didn't even come close to seeing or going by.  There are so many choices for Tea in Victoria BC that it helps to plan ahead if you are considering taking your own tea tour.