Carol Marcan

Carol Marcan

Afternoon tea helps slow down hectic lifestyles

Afternoon tea – with its tiered treats and delicate finger sandwiches – is seeing a revival.

More tea drinkers are going pinkies up for a British tradition.

Afternoon tea – with its tiered treats and delicate finger sandwiches – is seeing a revival, according to tea master Daniela Cubelic owner of Victoria’s Silk Road Tea.

Whether it’s the tea houses in London or Vancouver Island, more people are taking to the ritual than they used to thanks to the growing popularity of tea and desires for experiences that help slow down hectic lives, she said.

“Everything is becoming so fast-paced in our lives that people are craving an antidote to that and afternoon tea is the ultimate antidote,” Cubelic said. “You sit there, you drink tea, you have scones and various treats. It’s not something you can accomplish quickly.”

The tradition is believed to have started in the early 19th century by the Duchess of Bedford, who had an idea for a snack between lunch and dinner. It became a special occasion and influential on British society, even going as far as to change women’s fashion, according to Cubelic, who says looser tea dresses were created so women could eat without the restraint of corsets.  More than a century later, afternoon teas are still considered a luxurious and special affair.

At Nanaimo’s Grand Hotel – one of the few places in the city that offers afternoon tea – operations manager Susie Sirri has seen parents take children out of school so they can join their grandmother or people in the workforce block off time to enjoy the afternoon tea service.

“It’s an indulgence. It’s an afternoon indulgence. You take time out of your day and say this is for me,” she said.

Sirri waved over a waitress, who rolled an antique tea cart over to a window-side table and opened a chest full of neatly-stacked teas to choose from —all from the same supplier as the Fairmont Empress Hotel, Sirri said as she selected a peach apricot black tea she promised would be delicious.

The table was set with delicate tea cups, plates and small saucers of jam. The house-made black currant scone and Devonshire clotted cream arrived first, followed by a two-tiered tray of small open-faced finger sandwiches, tiny cakes and shortbread.

There is something very charming about being able to take time to sit back, relax and enjoy the indulgence of afternoon tea, Sirri said.

“Sort of like yoga for your mouth,” she said, chuckling. “Everything is better over a cup of tea, right?”

Afternoon tea is offered at the hotel Sunday to Thursday, beginning at 1:30 p.m, and costs $24.95 a person. Reservations are required.