Tea has always been my hot drink of choice. Most of the time I have English Breakfast tea in the morning to help me get the day going. There is definitely nothing fancy about my morning cup of tea. On the other hand, taking a proper afternoon tea can be a transforming experience. All at once you sit up a little straighter, you eat and drink a little slower and you savor the entire experience because you realize it is special and not something to be hurried through.
Taking afternoon tea in the Palm Court at The Drake Hotel is just such an experience. I have been to a high tea once before at The Fairmont Empress Hotel in Victoria, B.C. Everything was so lovely and well done that I always knew it was something I wanted to do again. The difference between “high tea” and “afternoon tea” is that you sit at a regular height table for high tea, whereas afternoon tea is generally served at a lower table as was the case for us at The Drake. They did serve it at higher tables as well, but I don’t think anyone is going to parse words on the proper term for the tea service. Well I suppose I might…
After being seated, the first order of business was choosing a tea from the wide selection available. Several of us chose the Tropical Garden blend which consists mainly of pineapple, peach, papaya, mango, rosehip peel, lemongrass and beautiful blue cornflower petals. One of us chose the Montagne Bleue, a floral and fruity black tea blend with cornflower petals. I chose a traditional English black tea blend called Big Ben.
Our teas were brought along with a three tiered tower of sweets and savories. On the savory side we had cucumber and tomato finger sandwiches, lobster and shrimp salad on brioche buns, truffle egg salad, ham and asparagus pinwheels, and chicken curry sandwiches. I liked the way they sliced the cucumber. I will have to try that some time for my own afternoon tea at home.
For sweets we had Dulce De Leche macarons, mini vanilla and strawberry loaves, chocolate raspberry truffles and scones. On the side there were strawberry preserves, lemon curd and English double Devon cream for the scones.
A harpist played near a quaint fountain while we enjoyed our afternoon indulgence. The waiter was very prompt at refilling our treats and bringing more hot water for tea. He was so prompt in fact, that one of my daughters was getting a little worked up because she was trying to use up all the hot water in her tiny teapot but he kept refilling it so she could never finish it. Before this turned into a “challenge accepted” scenario we informed her that she could simply hold her hand over the pot and he would take that as a signal that she didn’t want anymore.
We left the Palm Court feeling surprisingly full and indulged. I would love to return and experience a holiday tea in the future.