I don’t think I’ve ever felt so uncivilized and brutish in my life. There’s nothing like afternoon tea to make you realize how lacking you are in old-fashioned etiquette. Or is that just me?
Let’s rewind to last December. *cue Taylor Swift’s Back to December* (I forgot to post this way back when and just re-discovered the photos on my memory card. Hush.)
For my twenty-second birthday, I wanted to do something really special. I’d just had my birthday soirée with my friends the prior weekend, but my actual birthday fell on a Tuesday, so I took the day off work to spend with my mum.
When she asked me how I wanted to spend the day, I suggested we go for afternoon tea. It’s something I’d heard of and always wanted to try for myself. Since I love tea, food, English culture, and anything old-fashioned (except values!), it seemed like a perfect fit for me.
She very generously agreed and we made reservations for 3 pm afternoon tea at the Windsor Arms Hotel in Toronto.
The building dates all the way back to 1927, with its neo-Gothic architecture and monogrammed crests.
It was designed to blend in with the University of Toronto’s signature Victorian buildings. To this day, it isn’t known whether the crest “WA” stands for the hotel’s name, Windsor Arms, or for William Arthur Price, the hotelier.
The lobby was beautifully decked out for Christmas (remember, this was in mid-December) with wreathes, fairy lights, poinsettias, and a lavishly decorated Christmas tree.
The centrepiece, though, was the grand crystal chandelier hung from the celling.
We hung up our big winter coats and were ushered to our table.
The gorgeous purple room, which has a slightly quirky Alice in Wonderland-feeling, doesn’t it?
Once seated, we were greeted by a sizeable menu – just of teas!
Conversation came to an abrupt halt as we both set upon it, determined to choose the absolute best tea.
I ended up choosing the “Once Upon a Tea”, with chocolate bits, vanilla, a fruit blend, organic mint, and organic rooibos. The description was very… sweet.
"A fairy tale beginning with a delectable end! Boldly based in rooibos with the mellow flavour of vanilla, the rich texture & presence of chocolate & the defining essence of milk - all blended deliciously ever after."
Mum chose the “Tibetan Tiger”, with chocolate bits, vanilla, organic rooibos, and black tea. I suppose we have similar tastes in tea – we’re tea of a kind, if you will.
Our teapots were swiftly brought over, piping hot and ready to be enjoyed.
Mum was a pro, handling hers with grace and skill.
I, on the other hand, didn’t grasp the function of the tea strainer until it was too late.
It felt like I’d skipped an important day of school where everyone learned tea etiquette, and I was awkwardly struggling to catch up.
I got the hang of it soon enough, though the loose tea leaves in my cup continued to plague me.
I wanted to taste my tea without any milk or sugar at first, to experience the flavours in their truest form. The verdict?
I was perfectly content to just savour my tea, but then the server brought over our tray of bite-sized goodies. I eyed it the way a hungry lioness eyes a gazelle.
There were petits fours, a selection of finger sandwiches, and fresh scones served with preserves and clotted cream.
The three types of sandwiches were smoked salmon with wasabi sour cream and salmon caviar; cucumber with sun-dried tomato paste and dill cream cheese; and grilled chicken with apples, citrus mayonnaise, Greek yogurt, and chives.
We also each got one goat cheese and caramelized shallot tart.
It was warm, creamy, and marvellous. Goat cheese is, in my opinion, one of the yummiest things in the world. It makes just about anything ten times better.
I honed my multitasking skills. Gotta stay sharp!
All three sandwiches were delicious, but I’m a particular sucker for anything with salmon.
After polishing off the last of the finger sandwiches, we set our sights on the scones.
We slathered on a generous helping of clotted cream and jam. (Sorry, “preserves”.)
They were light and fluffy and fulfilled my sweet tooth nicely, but we forced ourselves to save just a tiny bit of room for the actual desserts.
There was a miniature red velvet cupcake, a blueberry macaron, some kind of chocolate cake, and a white chocolate mousse with real gold flakes and a cherry.
We decided to split each one in two so that we could both sample everything.
Even the macaron got the ‘equal division of labour’ treatment.
Of all the desserts, the white chocolate mousse with gold flakes had to be my favorite. Sometimes, that which glitters really is gold. (And tasty!)
After we finished demolishing everything set before us, we saw ourselves out before we were given the boot.
Though I felt a bit out of my element, I had a splendid time. I thought “tea” was just a drink – I didn’t realize it could be such an elegant affair. Definitely a wonderful way to feel like a princess on my birthday. Until next time, Windsor Arms! xx
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