What does an island girl know about tea? A whole lot, apparently. The Bahamas was once a British colony and those Brits definitely left their mark on aspects of our Bahamian culture, like drinking tea in large amounts. We all know why the British do it – their climate can be cold and rainy most days; having a hot cup of tea to warm up just makes sense. Why we do it, outside of sheer tradition, is another thing! Enjoying numerous cups of tea throughout the day, despite it being hot and humid outside, is common here. For me, tea is soothing, comforting and gives me a chance to sit still and think.
Afternoon tea takes everything I love about savouring a hot cup of tea goodness and raises it a few notches. It’s more of an experience than a meal. For those who don’t know, Afternoon Tea is a chance to unwind with friends or by yourself as you take in tea and a lovely spread of treats presented on beautiful china. The traditional method offers a pot of tea accompanied by a tray with finger sandwiches on the bottom tier, scones with clotted cream with jam on the middle tier and finally, various desserts on the top tier.
**Sidenote: Tourists would be happy to know that on the last Friday of each month, the Bahamas’ Ministry of Tourism sponsors an Afternoon Tea and Fashion Show free of charge at our Government House (the home of our Governor General, which is hosted by his wife). If you ever visit Nassau, Bahamas and are able to attend, feel free to sign up for it!
My first experience with a traditional Afternoon Tea was in Victoria, BC at the historic Empress Hotel. The price was a bit steep ($55 before gratuity!) but the entire experience was worth it. Despite solo traveling and expecting to dine alone, I quickly made friends and had lovely company for tea. I went on a walking tour of the Empress hotel an hour before tea time and ended up sitting with the women on that tour who befriended me. We had a wonderful view of the gorgeous Victoria Inner Harbour across the road as we talked and laughed and dined. We were treated like queens and afterward, the waitress offered to take group pictures of us.
The Empress served us clotted cream with fresh local strawberries before our tea & treats arrived. I thought that was a nice touch! I also pre-ordered the vegetarian version. Unfortunately that caused my food to not be served on the classic china so the staff could differentiate it from the plates with meat.
My second experience was recently on a rainy day in London, England. I chose ‘Rubens At The Palace’ hotel for my afternoon experience because it was conveniently located across from the Royal Mews and a few hundred feet from Buckingham Palace. This time I dined alone and had the chance to experience Afternoon Tea in a more tranquil setting as I watched the rain fall and the constant activity beyond the gates of the Royal Mews. I was pleasantly surprised to see Nutella served alongside the usual jam and clotted cream destined for my warm scones.
In both cases, I could not finish the food in one sitting. (How much can you eat after you’ve consumed a whole pot of tea? Ha!) This meant that both times I took the remainder with me and had a free evening snack before bed. With two very different but wonderful experiences under my belt, I look forward to starting a new travel tradition of having Afternoon Tea at least once while on vacation, if the city I’m in offers it. It’s a great opportunity to rest the feet after hours of walking and can be very calming after being around hectic crowds/noises in a strange place.