After living in London, England for a year while studying at the London School of Economics, I came home with two things: a master’s degree in Gender Studies and a love of all things related to high tea! The latter used to make me feel embarrassed to admit. After all, High Tea is now associated at best with cute little old ladies with blue hair looking for an afternoon out with the Bridge Club. At worst, High Tea comes off as impossibly elitist, a relic of the past associated with the sort of British colonial overlords who never worked a day in their lives, using endless tea parties to fill the time. In short, it’s not exactly a fashionable activity for the urban twenty-something woman to favour. So, why do I love High Tea? It appeals to me, because in our fast-paced world full of even faster food, it’s nice, every once in a while, to put down the Chipotle burrito and take your time with a meal.
Yes, going for High Tea can be a luxury. I would never pretend otherwise. Having said that, sitting down with friends or your great Aunt Mildred and finishing an entire teapot per person over a couple hours’ conversation is just lovely. Therefore, It’s a luxury I try to invest in whenever I can. There is something indulgent but incredibly restorative about eating one’s way through a whole cake stand. All those tiny concoctions might take a while to consume, but for me, that’s the point. I get sick of fast food, and High Tea is meant to move at a snail’s pace – a really elegant snail’s pace.
By this point, I hope I’ve sold you on trying High Tea on your afternoon off from work. Here are my three favourite High Tea picks in Toronto:
Where To Take an Anglophile for Traditional Tea: The Windsor Arms Hotel at 18 St. Thomas Street
At the Windsor Arms in fancy schmancy Yorkville, you can sit in an actual TEA ROOM. Yes, this historic hotel has a room dedicated to tea service. It’s full of gorgeous linens and décor that looks old-timey enough to convince yourself that maybe, just maybe, you aren’t a twenty-something girl with a starter job that requires you to work 16 hours a day for slightly above minimum wage. No, in this room, you can imagine that you’re a Duchess in that British period piece you watched on Netflix one time.
The Windsor Arms offers a selection of 36 teas. The pastries are also top notch. In fact, the last time I went, the deliciously crumbly scones were accompanied by Devonshire Cream that’s flown over from Britain. So while this place may not be great for your Carbon footprint, you are guaranteed a memorable culinary experience. Make sure to call ahead for resos (what I call reservations). The Windsor Arms has 4 sittings for High Tea between 12:30 and 3:30. You can also book a dinner-hour “Twilight Tea” that seats patrons between 5:30 and 6 pm.
Cost: High Tea is $38 during the week; $45 on weekends; Twilight Tea is ALWAYS $45.
Where to take a Club Girl for Tea: MoRoCo Chocolat at 99 Yorkville Ave.
The High Tea at MoRoCo can only be described as Marie Antoinette meets The VIP room at a hot Vegas club. The over-the-top Rococo room exudes luxury, expensive shoes and bandage dresses. In fact, at first you might expect to be served bottle service in your big plush purple velvet chair, not tea. Then the gorgeous floral china teacups arrive, and you realize this place is actually pretty serious about tea.
MoRoCo has a respectable selection of approximately 20 teas. They also boasts some of the best pastry chefs in the city, with macarons to DIE for. While the sweets are some of the best in town, MoRoCo also makes the savoury part of the meal VERY memorable, boasting such treats as mac and cheese in truffle oil. Expect a food coma when you leave! The best part of MoRoCo Chocolat’s High Tea, however, is that you can have it at ANY time the restaurant is open, as long as you call ahead. That means if you have a hankering for tea at any moment between 10 am and midnight, you can do it! Wouldn’t a midnight tea be fun? It’s on my bucket list now.
Cost: $50 with champagne; $40 for tea with no champagne.
Where to Take a Thrifty Hipster for Tea: Tealish at 728 Queen Street West
Do you have friends who don’t like to venture east of Queen and Bathurst? Not entirely sure if a super fancy tea is for you? You can dip your toe in the tea waters by a trip to Tealish on Queen St. West, not far from Trinity Bellwoods Park. The setting might not be over-the-top luxurious, but it’s bright and airy with ample seating and very pleasant staff who know their tea leaves.
This store has over 100 different teas to peruse. In the food department, they have a selection of gourmet popsicles in such delectable flavours as strawberry basil lemonade. No, it’s not a traditional High Tea full of cakes and savouries, but it works as a treat for the girl on a budget. Bring a friend one afternoon, get some steeped tea and take your time with your ice pop. After all, more than anything, High Tea is a state of mind.
Cost: Under $10
Grab a ladylike dress and some gloves (or not) and head out to get your tea on. Grandmas-as-dates encouraged but not required.